UK Supreme Court eyes future barristers by offering paid internships
UK's Top Court plans to encourage aspiring lawyers from BAME groups for greater ethnic diversity at Bar
The UK Supreme Court wants to minimise the skewed ethnic and gender diversity at the Bar by launching paid internship for aspiring lawyers to groom future barristers.
Under the plan, eight law students will be picked up for five days of intensive training and placed in the Supreme Court during which they would closely observe the court proceedings, interact with judges and gain hands-on experience.
The paid internship programme will be launched in collaboration with Bridging the Bar, a charity that works to improve equal opportunities and diversity at the Bar.
UK's Top Court is concerned with lack of representation from black, Asian and minority ethnic (BAME) groups as at present all existing judges are white while only two of them are women. From High Court and above, their representation is confined to just four per cent in the senior judiciary.
The same trend is more or less visible at the Bar also. As of 2020, only 14.4 per cent of barristers were drawn from BAME groups and only eight per cent of silks. According to UK's 2011 census figures, 14 per cent of the UK's population were from the BAME groups.
Those selected for the internship would be students who have either completed their vocational studies, the Bar Professional Training Course (BTPC) or have been offered a place to study the BTPC. The application process to select them is to run from June to July, with internships taking place from October to December 2021.
According to Vicky Fox, UK SC's chief executive, the launch of the scheme is part of the court's judicial diversity and inclusion strategy that would allow participants the chance to gain hands-on experience working at the court. "For five days, interns will observe cases, discuss legal arguments with justices and work closely with our judicial assistants," Fox said.
Giving details, she said that Bridging the Bar would initially run two days of preparatory coaching before the placement to ensure candidates are ready for their time at the court.
Bridging the Bar provides mentoring and work experience for groups underrepresented at the bar through disability, ethnicity, or disadvantaged backgrounds. Over 70 chambers and 400 barristers are supporting the charity, which has so far arranged more than 130 mini-pupillages and 75 mentorships.
"We sought to aim high, by going for the biggest and the best, and thought if we could get the Supreme Court, every other court would be willing to help too," the charity's founder Mass Ndow-Njie, a government lawyer, said in a media interview.