• Robert Spicer

Qualification as a barrister by accident of birth

Qualification as a barrister by accident of birth

In July 2009 it was reported that Prince William had been made an honorary barrister. He is the sixth member of the royal family to be made a Royal Bencher. Others include Princess Diana and the Queen Mother.

300 guests dined in the Middle Temple Hall for the ceremony. William was admitted as a member of the Inn, and called to the Bar, before dinner. He promised not to practise as a barrister except for the odd speeding ticket.

Meanwhile, most of those who struggle to qualify as barristers by studying for law degrees and professional examinations find themselves deep in debt by the time they are qualified. Their chances of finding pupillage, and practising in the profession, are limited in the extreme. Recently, one set of provincial barristers’ chambers received 500 applications for one pupillage vacancy.

On the one hand, the Bar is seen to be making serious efforts to encourage the disadvantaged to join the profession, and to dispel its image as a club for the wealthy and privileged. For example, in February 2008 Ladders2Law was launched by the Social Mobility Foundation, a registered charity which aims to give bright students from financially disadvantaged backgrounds insight into the leading professions through internships and mentoring.

Ladders2Law is a mentoring scheme which links students with a practising barrister or solicitor. This has been described as a hugely important way of reaching bright young people who would not normally have access to relevant information about the legal profession.

On the other hand, the profession is seen to accept qualification by accident of birth.

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