The Bar Standards Board (BSB) is set to introduce a series of measures to improve diversity reporting among barristers after the vast majority refused to answer many of the questions posed about their backgrounds.
Though the BSB has robust figures in relation to the gender, race and age of barristers, fewer than 15% disclosed information about any disabilities, their religion or belief, sexual orientation, and caring responsibilities – and that represented a marked increase since barristers were last asked in 2012.
The BSB’s most recent main board meeting was told that it is likely the low disclosure rate was caused by “the ability to delegate responsibility for completing the monitoring form to clerks or practice managers, coupled with issues barristers faced in locating the monitoring form and submitting it”.
Among various changes being introduced this year to improve completion rates are that barristers will no longer be able to delegate responsibility for filling in the form, it will be more prominent on the BSB’s Barrister Connect portal, and the regulator will increase efforts to explain the benefits of completing the form.
From the data it has, the BSB will shortly publish aggregated diversity data about the Bar in line with the requirements laid down by the Legal Services Board.
It shows that 37% of practising barristers are women, although the figure for QCs collapses to 13%. In relation to ethnicity, 89.8% are white and 10.2% black or minority ethnic (BME). However, while 13.6% of pupils are from a BME background, only 5.3% of QCs are.
The low response rates mean that the figures for the other characteristics surveyed are not strong enough to draw “reliable statistical conclusions”, the board was told.
The findings the BSB has showed that half of the practising Bar considers themselves Christian, with 39% claiming no religion; 3% are gay men, 2% bisexual and 1.1% gay women; and 56% of practising barristers attended a state school, compared to 44% who went to fee-paying schools, figures that are 61/39 among pupils.
Yesterday it emerged that 21% of law firms have failed to meet the deadline for making their diversity disclosures to the Solicitors Regulation Authority.