updated on 07 October 2022
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According to new research undertaken by the Bar Council, government legal panels are “disproportionately White”. As a result, the council is now calling for new measures to be introduced to expand the pool from which panels are recruited.
Around a quarter of the self-employed bar (3,267 barristers) are employed by panels, including the Attorney General’s Civil Panels, Treasury Counsel and CPS Advocate Panels. However, the regulator has found that by matching publicly available lists of panel members with the council's membership records, that more work needs to be done to diversify the panels.
Among its findings, the Bar Council has highlighted an “unmistakable lack of ethnic diversity”, with the makeup of government panels being “disproportionately White”. Meanwhile, general membership of the Bar is largely representative of the ethnic composition of the population in England and Wales.
The regulator also found that just three of the 77 senior council or panel silks were from ethnic minority backgrounds, suggesting that there are higher rates of disproportionate representation at more senior levels. Kings Council (KC) panels were found to have no Black barristers or female Asian barristers and only a few Asian men. Although White women are well represented on panels and represent more than 25% of panel silks, the regulator found that they don’t always get equal access to the best quality work available.
Mark Fenhalls KC, chair of the Bar Council, commented on the findings. He described them “as a stark reminder that work still needs to be done to ensure equality of opportunity at the Bar”, before adding: “Government legal panels have a key role to play to ensure that career advancement is open to all.”