Bridging the Bar
Bridging the Bar (BTB) is a charity aiming to support aspiring barristers from underrepresented groups at the Bar.
BTB recognises the challenges faced by non-traditional candidates when trying to enter the profession including barriers due to race, gender, ethnicity, socio-economic background, and/or caring responsibilities.
The following reflects my overall experience of the BTB Academy as a recent graduate and the positive impact that it has had on me.
Introduction – A Candidate’s Journey
I grew up in a working-class family and attended a state school. I worked from the age of 13 due to financial instability. I was the first person in my family to attend university and did not have any professional role models growing up. During university, I worked two part-time jobs, obtained legal work experience, and studied to achieve a first-class law degree.
I was determined not to allow my background or financial position to hinder my success. However, as I learnt more about the profession, I recognised the hard work required to make this viable as a woman from a working-class background.
I am now a future pupil barrister at Mountford Chambers and currently work at the Metropolitan Police Service as a Civilian Disclosure Advisor. I was recently awarded a Lord Denning Major Scholarship from Lincoln’s Inn and a Scholarship for Academic Excellence from City Law School.
Personal Experience of the BTB Academy
The BTB Academy stood out to me as an excellent programme designed to aid candidates from disadvantaged backgrounds on their journey to the Bar. I was one of 100 candidates successfully selected for the programme which would provide exposure to mentoring, personal development workshops, internships, mini-pupillages, and advocacy training.
The academy was empowering and transformative, enabling me to develop my confidence and courage whilst building a strong community of like-minded individuals from varied backgrounds. I believe the personal and professional support from BTB greatly impacted both my success as a first-time pupillage applicant and my development as an individual.
I was initially assigned a mentor who was a criminal barrister. It was inspiring to see her achievements despite hailing from a non-traditional background. She supported me throughout the process of applying for pupillage by providing multiple application reviews and mock interviews.
Personal Development Workshops
The personal development workshops were in the form of small ‘pods’ of candidates with a ‘pod leader’. They covered identity, confidence, embracing our stories, and collective success. A session which particularly stood out to me focused on ‘imposter syndrome’. The discussion enabled me to reframe my background as a selling point which was invaluable to the self-acknowledgement that I built throughout the programme. It also enabled me to form a strong bond with my pod group and share mutual experiences.
Supreme Court Internship
I was one of eight candidates selected for the paid UK Supreme Court Internship, in partnership with BTB. Three of my key highlights included participating in a roundtable discussion on diversity with the Justices, having a post-hearing discussion with Lord Reed, and delivering a presentation to 30 members of the Bar and Judiciary about my background. Engaging in open conversations and showing vulnerability was encouraged during the week. This provided me with opportunities for self-development and recognition of my ability as a future advocate.
Another highlight of the academy was completing a mini-pupillage at Mountford Chambers. I gained further insight into criminal practice and learnt about Chambers’ strong commitment to equality and inclusion which was evident by their support of BTB. Additionally, I later learnt about the large number of other Chambers who had participated in the BTB mini-pupillage scheme.
At the start of the pupillage interview period, I completed a four-week advocacy training course hosted by QEB Hollis Whiteman. The training focused on common interview exercises including plea in mitigations and bail applications. Due to my limited formal advocacy experience, the programme really helped me to hone material skills and bolster my confidence during pupillage interviews.
I recently attended the BTB Graduation at Middle Temple Hall. We celebrated our collective achievements on the programme and listened to talks and workshops delivered by various practitioners. The ceremony highlighted the success of the first academy and the overwhelming sense of community at BTB.
BTB is paving the way for positive change within the profession and the academy has shown the difference that can be made to peoples’ lives. Championing diversity and inclusion practices ensures a wide amount of talent and different perspectives at the Bar. Thus, it is important that the Bar remains accessible to all and inclusive of society.
The views expressed in this blog belong solely to the original author and do not represent the views of the LSB.