Barristers from ethnic minority backgrounds, especially black and Asian women, ‘face systemic obstacles to building and progressing a sustainable and rewarding career at the bar’, according to a report by the representative body. 

Candidates from ethnic minority backgrounds are less likely to obtain pupillage, underrepresented in becoming QCs and less successful than white candidates in achieving judicial appointments, the report by the Bar Council’s Race Working Group found. It recommends that chambers set targets for the recruitment and retention of barristers from different ethnic minority backgrounds, monitor barristers’ income by ethnicity and improve diversity among clerks as ‘a priority’.

It also suggests that the bar should campaign for targets to be considered for the appointment of QCs and judges, as well as calling for the profession to adopt a ‘zero tolerance approach to bullying, harassment or discrimination with effective sanctions’.

In the foreword, Barbara Mills QC and Simon Regis, co-chairs of the Bar Council’s Race Working Group, say the bar ‘needs to move from good intentions and an “ad hoc” approach to more strategic, properly funded and measurable action’.

Barristers ‘have expressed frustration over the amount of talk about race inequality at the Bar and the lack of action and failure to bring about change’, they said. ‘More research can always be commissioned to further explore the barriers faced by aspiring and practising barristers from different ethnic backgrounds. But it is time to acknowledge there is already enough evidence available to make the case for action now,’ they added.

Bar chair Derek Sweeting QC said: ‘There is a moral and practical imperative for the profession to urgently promote diversity and to be more reflective of the society it serves. We must now work together to make the bar more inclusive and accessible for every aspiring and practicing barrister irrespective of their background.’