Supreme Court

Senior judges – an elite unlike any other

There needs to be “significantly more progress” to break the hold of Britain’s elite on the legal profession, the Legal Services Board (LSB) has claimed.

It followed a report published last week that found fewer senior judges went to comprehensive schools than any other group of top professionals.

The LSB also found justification for its controversial policy of diversity data collection from lawyers in the report, entitled Elitist Britain?, from the Social Mobility and Child Poverty Commission.

The commission said that only 4% of around 150 senior judges went to comprehensive school – the lowest figure for any group it studied.

In contrast, 40% of MPs went to comprehensives, 45% of cabinet members and members of the English cricket team, and 72% of pop stars.

A higher proportion of senior armed forces officers (7%) and senior diplomats (11%) came from comprehensive schools than senior judges.

The commission, an advisory body sponsored by the Department of Education, found that 71% of top judges went to private schools, 23% to grammar schools and those who didn’t go to comprehensives were at international schools.

It also found that senior judges were far more likely to come from Oxford or Cambridge universities than any other group.

Exactly three-quarters were from Oxbridge, compared to 59% of cabinet members and only half of senior diplomats.

Some 38% of peers and 24% of MPs studied at Oxford or Cambridge. Almost half of newspaper columnists came from the two universities, along with 45% of top 100 media professionals.

The commission called for a “national effort” to break Britain’s elite.

Among the measures it recommended were that employers should publish data on the background of their staff and widen their “talent pool” with “university-blind applications, non-graduate entry routes and contextual evaluation of academic achievements”.

Welcoming the report, an LSB spokesman said: “The LSB has long emphasised the importance of data collection and transparency, along with widening access to the professions, and has through our statutory guidance on diversity and education and training, provided decisive leadership to the approved regulators on this.

“A number of the steps the report calls for have begun to be taken in the legal sector – such as the collection and publication of data on social background, the use of CV blind application processes by some law firms and the development of more flexible routes into the professions.

“But we agree with the report’s assessment that a collective effort is needed to break open Britain’s elite and although headway is being made in our sector significantly more progress must still be made.”

 

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