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Is There A Glass Ceiling For Black Female Barristers?

If you had asked me 20 years ago what I wanted to be when I was older, I wouldn’t have said a barrister; I didn’t even know what one was. Studying law at A level, I learned that solicitors typically work in law firms and have the first contact with clients, whereas barristers are specialist advocates that tend to spend most of their time arguing in court. 

By the time I had finished my law degree, I was one of the few students aspiring to be a barrister. I was constantly being told how fiercely competitive it would be to get a pupillage (the training required before you can start to practice), and never mind that most of the barristers I met would tell me I was crazy for choosing such a career path, but I was determined to reach my goal. 

Having qualified in 2009, I’m too junior to be considering an application for Queen’s Counsel. I wonder though, for black women who have been in the profession for decades, is there anything holding them back from making it to the top? After all, out of the 1,731 QCs in England and Wales, just 7.2% are of a BAME (Black Asian and Minority Ethnic) background according to figures published in the most recent Bar Standards Board report on diversity. The same report suggests “there is an issue in the progression of BAME practitioners at the bar.”