Diversity & Inclusion

At 1 Chancery Lane we are committed to reaching out to those from under-represented and disadvantaged backgrounds. We undertake a range of mentoring and outreach initiatives, aiming to inspire, support and encourage all those considering a career at the Bar, regardless of their ethnicity, gender, age, disability, sexual orientation or social background.

Mentoring and Outreach

Some of the mentoring and outreach initiatives in which Chambers and our Members are involved in include:

  • Supporting the Inner Temple Pegasus Access and Support Scheme (PASS) which aims to improve access to the profession and support high achieving students from under-represented backgrounds by securing mini pupillages in chambers.
  • Supporting the Middle Temple Access to the Bar Scheme which offers able undergraduates from backgrounds which do not traditionally encourage aspirations for a career at the Bar a week in chambers, helping them to make an informed choice about their opportunities.
  • Supporting the Bridging the Bar mini pupillage scheme which offers mini pupillages to under-represented groups at the Bar.
  • Supporting the Bridging the Bar Mentorship Network through which candidates will benefit from a broad network of mentors, who represent a cross section of the Bar.
  • Mentoring through Inner Temple’s Mentoring Scheme which pairs BPTC students with barristers.
  • Mentoring through Gray’s Inn Mentoring Scheme which matches students with a local barrister practising in the area of law in which the student is seeking pupillage.
  • Mentoring through the Chancery Bar Association.
  • Participating in online panels organised by Let’s Chat Law.
  • Volunteering for Inner Temple’s Schools Day.
  • Hosting a Virtual Open Day for aspiring barristers when the Covid-19 pandemic meant we were unable to run any mini pupillages in 2020.
  • Participating in outreach initiatives in schools organised through Inspiring the Future.
  • Participating in outreach initiatives in schools organised by Lewisham Council.
  • Informal mentoring and support for students at various levels of their legal studies.

Diversity

A quick glance down our barristers’ photos and you may think that we have little diversity amongst our members at 1 Chancery Lane. Indeed, it is something that we are working to improve. However, dig a little deeper and you’ll see that we are more diverse than you may initially think.

Our members come from a wide variety of backgrounds and here a few of them share their stories about how they came to the Bar.

Neither of my parents had the chance of higher education or to go to university. That I was able to do both is because my parents were determined to give me the opportunities which were denied to them. I am the only member of my immediate family to have gone to university. I chose law because my father always wanted to be a lawyer and it is what he would have wanted for me. He died in my first year at university. I chose the Bar because at university I met a judge who pushed me in that direction. Since then others have always reached down to pull me up to the next level. When I started I was told that if you work hard, have the courage to ask questions and choose wisely from the answers things will work out. It was good advice.

I grew up on a small farm in a rural part of Northern Ireland. I attended the local state comprehensive school, where I was entitled to free school meals. Apart from an aunt who was a teacher, none of my family had been to university and no one was a lawyer. In the school holidays I stacked shelves in a local supermarket.

I first became interested in being a barrister when my mum encouraged me to watch some legal dramas on the television – she thought it might be a good career for me as l liked to win an argument! An uncle who was in the police took me along to see a few trials and I was hooked. The teaching at the school was excellent and I secured a place to read law at Cambridge. In the holidays I continued to do a mixture of working in the supermarket and also working as a receptionist for a local solicitors’ firm to have spending money at university. One summer I obtained a work permit through the British Universities North America Club and waited tables in Virginia, travelling around the USA afterwards using the money I earned. At Cambridge I joined the Inner Temple Students Association and was later fortunate enough to win a scholarship from the same Inn to undertake the Bar Vocational Course in London. I obtained a pupillage at 1 Chancery Lane (then known as 1 Serjeants Inn) in 1993 after which I was offered a tenancy. I have been here happily ever since, becoming a QC in 2012 and a part time judge in 2019.

My father was born in Kirkaldy, Fife to a Scottish mother and Iraqi father. He was raised in Baghdad and in Leith, Edinburgh. My mother trained as a midwife. My parents were ambitious for my brother and myself but as a family we had no experience of law or the legal world.

I attended a secondary-modern state school and my achievements in O & A-levels (as they were then) were modest, not least because of misspent afternoons playing snooker with my grand-father. Indeed, I had to re-take A-levels at Technical College whilst working.

Despite my under-achievement, I somehow managed to get a place in further education. Not Oxbridge, not red-brick, not even a university, my alma-mater was Middlesex Polytechnic. There, my eyes were opened not to the practical application of law but to its conceptualisation. This was due in no small measure to my lecturers being Professors Costas Douzinas and Alan Hunt who were significant figures in philosophical jurisprudence. These years of study were happy but I was completely oblivious to the elite and rather more traditional route to the Bar. There was no lawyer in practice to guide me. I had no family contacts I could call on.

At the end of my degree I needed money and I decided to work as a paralegal for various solicitors in London. This focussed my decision of aspiring to the independence and intellectual rigour of the Bar. I was one of the last applicants to obtain a grant from my Local Education Authority to pay my bar school fees. Whilst at the ICSL I entered the weird and wonderful world of wood-panelled dining, mooting and meeting privately educated fellow students from Bayswater and Kensington, while I lived in rather more dingy digs on the Old Kent Road and held down two part-time jobs as a paralegal and a van-delivery driver.

My pupillage was staggered. My first-six was unpaid and I needed to earn and save before I embarked on a second-six. I started in criminal law but was soon practising in civil litigation, being instructed by friends I made at the solicitors’ office I had worked at. I realised pretty quickly that the true currency that mattered, and still matters, was not the privileged background, but hard work, tenacity and the ‘real-world’ contacts that you bring to the table.

Paul StaggI went to a state school where the careers ‘advice’ consisted of a bored history teacher who listened to my wholly unrealistic and utterly vague aspirations for my life (not, at that time, involving law) for two minutes and then handed me a couple of leaflets to read. I went on to Warwick University to study law for no better reason than because I thought I might be good at it and it might be interesting. I was and it was, but there was an almost complete dearth of careers advice available. This may well still be the case, as I’ve been making offers for years to go back and speak to the law students about the Bar every time that the university rings me up asking for money and they have never got back to me.

I finally decided on the Bar as I couldn’t really imagine doing the preparation work while others stood up and did the advocacy in court. But how to get into it? There were no lawyers in my family to give me advice, no internet to pore over for information and help, and the Inns of Court School of Law completed an infamous hat-trick of educational institutions which provided little concrete careers guidance. I had no idea how to perform well in an interview and was chronically anxious in most of them. Incidents such as expressing critical views of defamation lawyers at a chambers where the head of chambers was a defamation specialist, and being barely able to contain my anger at an interviewer who insisted that a 2:1 from Oxbridge trumped a first from any other university, didn’t help. I floundered around aimlessly looking for pupillage for two years before I turned up late for an interview at No 1 Serjeants’ Inn due to confusion about the time of my fifth interview that Saturday, assumed I’d blown it and relaxed and was able to be myself for the first time. To my astonishment I got a phone call from Ed Bishop on the following day to offer me pupillage (that was allowed in those less-regulated days). I’ve stayed ever since, through the move to 1 Chancery Lane and over a quarter of a century later, cannot imagine myself doing anything else or doing this job anywhere else.

Sarah PragerNo one in my family has any connections in the legal profession. No one in my family had been to university, until I went to the University of Nottingham. Quite why I ever thought I could become a barrister, without the advantages of background or connections, I still don’t know. With a 2:1 from Nottingham and no idea what I was doing, it’s perhaps unsurprising that I didn’t get pupillage first time around; I ended up working as a paralegal for what was then Fladgate Fielder solicitors (now Fladgate LLP). At the second time of trying, though, I was accepted as a pupil at 5 Pump Court, and entered the completely unfamiliar world of the Bar.

It was intimidating, and I was an outsider. There were a lot of middle-aged white men with posh accents. There were a number of equally terrifying women. None of them seemed to be like me. But they were kind to me. My pupilmaster and, later, my head of chambers gave me a huge amount of encouragement. When I moved to 1 Chancery Lane the head of my practice group took me under his wing and helped me to build a practice, to the extent that I’m now the head of the travel team and a member of chambers’ Board of Directors. Even more importantly, the clerking team supported me through maternity leave and combining self-employment with motherhood.

Then the wheels came off.

When my daughter was two I got divorced. For a while I slept on the floor of my best friend’s spare room (my daughter got the bed. She was very wriggly. Sharing didn’t work). It’s hard to describe what it’s like to come home from a bruising day at court to a house that isn’t yours and a child who deserves your full attention but can’t have it, because you’re preparing for the next day’s work. With a huge amount of support from my clerks and colleagues, I managed it, but it wasn’t plain sailing.

So although it’s true to say that I have no personal experience of the struggles that people coming to the Bar now go through, it’s also true that we all have our own stories, and knowing that I’m only still at the Bar because of the kindness of the people around me gives me a great incentive to pay that kindness forward. Although the challenges you face may be different to mine, my eyes and ears are open to them.

I wanted to be a barrister from a young age, even before I knew what a barrister was.  My first Headmaster suggested it since he thought (correctly) that I was already interested in helping others achieve justice!  He encouraged me to think of the Law when I got older. My parents were NHS doctors who worked long hours to ensure I could study Law.

Many people along the way were not so supportive but since I knew little else I persevered.  Before my Masters I spent some time with a NGO and at the ECtHR and these places helped me whilst I trained to become a barrister.  Finally I found a set of Chambers that had not only very good barristers but, more importantly, kind people.  So that is where I practice from, now heading up our Public Sector and Human Rights practice group.

My route to the bar from University onwards was a traditional one. I read law at Cambridge before doing my BVC in Nottingham and getting pupillage in London. However, prior to university I went to a local state school. My parents divorced when I was a baby and I grew up with my mother and step father in rural North Norfolk. I did not know any barristers and it was never part of any grand career plan. It was really just my interest in the law – and an argumentative personality which needed channelling – which pushed me towards the Bar.   There is no reason that anyone from a state-school background should not flourish in the profession. It is a rewarding career and 1 Chancery Lane is full of great people of all backgrounds who will become your good friends as well as your colleagues.

Pursuing a career at the Bar was never something I had envisaged. I had actually always dreamed of being a doctor. My parents hadn’t been to university, but they supported me and encouraged me to pursue my ambitions.

I attended a state school and worked at Tesco whilst completing my A-levels. I managed to get into medical school, which I attended for a short period of time. I soon realised it was entirely the wrong career for me! I left my studies and began working in a theme park to earn some money. I spent a lot of time trying to figure out what I wanted to do as a career. Later that year, I started a law degree at the University of Surrey and decided that I wanted to become a barrister.

I made a conscious effort during my law degree to find out as much as I could about what a career at the Bar entailed. I didn’t know anyone in the profession to ask those questions, so I attended law fairs and Inn events to chat to as many barristers as possible. At times, I felt like I didn’t have any chance of getting in. When I started my Bar training, I remember being asked on my first day by another student what college I went to. When I said “Garth Hill”, it soon dawned on me by their puzzled face that they meant colleges at Oxford or Cambridge. It was at that point I realised my journey to the Bar was far from conventional.

There were multiple rejections along the way, moments of doubt, and nights spent fretting about applications. What I learnt is that regardless of your background or your circumstances, you can get there. I couldn’t imagine doing anything else!

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