Equality and diversity in our pupillage recruitment

Promoting diversity in our recruitment of pupils is an urgent priority for us at Quadrant Chambers. As a result, our members spend a considerable amount of their time and resources each year participating in events and panels that are designed to encourage applications from those currently underrepresented at the Commercial and Chancery Bar. For example 

  • We organise a virtual speed moot for law students and law society members which also features workshops and talks covering pupillage and life at Quadrant and the Commercial and Chancery Bar. We advertise the moot to over 75 different universities and institutions across the United Kingdom, with participants selected on a first come first served basis. We place a limit on the number of participants from each institution to improve access across the various institutions.
  • In 2022, we held our first Women in Law event, which was open to all genders. The event is to encourage those considering a career at the Commercial Bar and for them to hear from our female barristers about their route to the bar, what they have found challenging and rewarding, and how they maintain a work life balance.
  • Our members work with various third-party organisations on events and panels aimed at increasing access to the Commercial and Chancery Bar, in particular, seeking to address the perennial difficulty of a lack of clear and transparent information about access to the Commercial and Chancery Bar. Examples of organisations that our members work with include the Freshfields Stephen Lawrence Trust programme, Cake and Counsel, PRIME, the Social Mobility Fund, and the Gray’s Inn Griffin Scholarship. 
  • In order to assist students in obtaining as much experience as possible to improve their applications, we were one of the first sets of Chambers at the Commercial and Chancery Bar to run virtual mini-pupillages through the COVID-19 lockdowns. 
  • We cover reasonable travel expenses for ‘in person’ mini-pupillages with a view to minimising financial obstacles to participation in our mini-pupillage programme. 
  • Our members attend numerous law fairs across the country, not only those aimed at applicants from Oxford and Cambridge Universities. In particular, our members attend the Bar Standards Board law fair, the Legal Cheek law fair, and have attended law fairs at the Southampton, Essex, University of Sussex, Newcastle, Manchester, York, and various London universities.
  • Mentorship, in particular, of students and aspiring barristers from groups that are underrepresented at the Commercial and Chancery Bar is something a key aspect of the work that our members do towards promoting access to the Bar. Our members mentor students and aspiring barrister through various organisations, including IntoUniversity, Social Mobility Foundation, Young Citizens, the Inns of Court, the COMBAR Mentoring Scheme (which was devised by one of our members), PRIME, and specific university mentorship schemes. Some of our members also mentor aspiring barristers who they have met at networking events and panels aimed at increasing access to the Bar, or who have simply reached out to them individually. 
  • In addition to mentorship, our members also participate in programs through which they assist pupillage applicants with their applications, in particular, by reviewing their applications and CVs and giving them advice on how they can be improved and conducting mock interviews. This has been done through the COMBAR’s and ChBA’s Equality & Diversity Committees and TECBAR’s BAME Network, the Bar Council’s CV clinics, the Social Mobility Foundation, Cake and Counsel, and the Inns of Court. 
  • Our members also attend universities state schools in different parts of the country to give talks to students in the hope of encouraging them to study law and consider a career at the Bar. We appreciate that to achieve long lasting improvements diversity at the Bar, we need to engage as early as possible and increase knowledge about the Bar to as diverse a group as possible. As part of the outreach to state school students, annually we host a selection of young students, in collaboration with PRIME and the firm, HFW, in Chambers, giving them talks on the bar and access to it, as well as a session on advocacy training. 
  • Some of our members also sit and have sat on committees whose work is specifically targeted towards promoting the equality, diversity, and inclusion. For example, one of our members sat on the COMBAR Equality and Diversity Committee for 13 years, including 3 years as its vice chair, and another 3 as its chair. In this position, the member assisted in setting up the Black Inclusion Group, which is a committee that looking into recruitment, retention and progression of black barristers at the Chancery, Commercial and Technology & Construction Bar. Another of our members sits on the committee.

In the context of our annual pupillage competition, we have also implemented several safeguards into the process that are designed to ensure that applicants from non-traditional backgrounds have a fair and effective opportunity to be successful and obtain pupillage with us. In particular, 

  • We use RARE’s contextual recruitment scheme in sifting through the first round of the competition. This scheme enables us to place academic results in context so as to enable us to identify candidates who have exceeded expectations and performed well above average for their secondary school. Accordingly, the RARE system identifies and awards additional scores to candidates who, for example, have got straight As from a school where the average grades might be, say, straight Cs.
  • We blind mark all applications made to us in the first round and the answers to tests sets received in the second round. By this, we mean that at the first round, the Members of Chambers who score candidates’ application forms are not told their gender, school, or any details about the candidates’ backgrounds (save for those that the candidate might reveal in their answers to the specific questions Quadrant include on the application form). In the second round, Members of Chambers scoring the answers to the test sets are given no information at all about the applicants’ backgrounds. The aim of this approach is to minimise the risk of unconscious biases affecting applicants’ prospects of progressing through the competition.
  • We do not award higher marks to applicants from Oxford University or Cambridge University as compared with other well-regarded universities. 
  • We aim to have a diverse range of Members of Chambers involved in the pupillage process, including as scorers and on interview panels with a view, once again, to minimising the manifestation of unconscious bias. We also ensure that the Members of Chambers involved in the process receive specific unconscious bias training before their involvement in the process. 
  • We employ the services of an external, independent, recruitment consultant to advice on the questions posed in our application, to train those in Chambers involved with pupillage selection, to help with the first sift of candidates, to offer pre-interview support to interviewees and to ask them for post-interview feedback which is used as part of the annual review of the pupillage process.

We appreciate that these safeguards do not, of themselves, solve the diversity, equality and inclusion issues that arise in the context of a pupillage competition, and as part of our commitment to promoting equality and diversity within our Chambers, we are constantly reviewing our processes, including with external specialist recruitment firms, to see what improvements and adjustments can be made to them.