I spoke to the 6th form at a school yesterday – something I regard as important, as you know, and which I wish all barristers would do. Unfortunately it isn’t possible to have 6th formers in Chambers – the logistics are just too complicated and there are too many applicants for mini-pupillages. So going to schools and speaking is the only possibility if one wants to ensure that careers advice for the Bar reaches as diverse an audience as possible.
This was a big school and there were about 40 people at the talk. Of those, a staggering 4 already wanted to be barristers and had done an impressive amount of research. They were also quite keen to hear the stories about cases, Judges and murderers, which suggests that the Bar still retains an aura of romance which is quite absent from the normal daily grind.
It was also a Comprehensive, although the 6th Form was a local Centre of Excellence. When I mentioned Cambridge there was an audible reaction, followed by an immediate chorus of ‘the job’s not for me then’. I did try to point out firstly that you didn’t have to go to Oxbridge and secondly that, providing they could get the grades, my audience had as good a chance as anyone else. I hope it worked: I fear it didn’t entirely.
If you are reading this and you are a barrister from a state school then the least you could do is offer to go back there and tell them how you did it. Lots of barristers are involved in diversity, but it’s like the parable of the ham and eggs – the chicken’s involved, but the pig’s committed.