How Many Black British Female Queen’s Counsel Barristers are there in England and Wales?
Five. No, that isn’t a typo. There are five black British female Queen’s Counsel barristers in England and Wales. Countable on one hand.
This is just one of many startling revelations in the recently issued Bar Council’s Race Working Group Report. The report provides a data summary of the ethnic profile of the profession with respect to (a) access (who is getting in), (b) retention (who is staying in) and (c) progression (who is getting on). It was commissioned with a view to producing a set of recommendations aimed at tackling race inequality at the Bar. We highlighted a similar report on the legal profession as a whole here .
In summary, the report found:
- Barristers from ethnic minority backgrounds face systemic obstacles to building and progressing a career at the Bar.
- Candidates from ethnic minority backgrounds are less likely to obtain pupillage than candidates from white backgrounds, even when controlling for educational attainment.
- Black and Asian women at the Bar are 4 times more likely to experience bullying and harassment at work than White men.
- Even when factoring in practice area, work volume, region and seniority, women earn on average less than men; black men earn less than white men; and black and Asian women earn less than black and Asian men; and Black women earn the least.
- Black and Asian barristers are under-represented in taking Silk (i.e. becoming a QC). There are just 5 black British / black female barristers in the Queen’s Counsel and 17 male black British / black QCs in England and Wales. This compares to 1,303 white men and 286 white women.
This is undeniably unfair and reflective of a racist industry. So, what to do? The report makes plenty of recommendations. In terms of addressing access, they suggest:
- Setting targets for recruitment of barristers from ethnic minority backgrounds.
- Financial support by way of means tested scholarships and grants for pupils.
- Application form weighting, whereby extra weight is given to candidates who have overcome adversity.
To address retention:
- Setting targets for retention of barristers from ethnic minority backgrounds.
- Monitoring of barristers’ income by ethnicity and using this data to support practice management.
- Improving ethnic diversity in clerks’ rooms.
To address progression:
- Setting targets for black and ethnic minority representations in leadership at the Bar.
- Implementation of race-based support networks for barristers.
- Zero tolerance to approach to bullying, harassment, and discrimination.
The Bar Council say they will work with all Bar stakeholders and that real change will require all stakeholders to play a role. They will report annually on the progress of racial inequality in regards to the Queen’s Counsel barristers, and we will keep you posted.
This post was written by Jack Dooley, Paralegal at didlaw.