>>Thanks for the replies guys, very much appreciated
I wanted to give you the viewpoint of an asian female barristers experience since the BVC so i hope that has helped. If you do embark on the bar, i seriously would go off and work before coming to the BVC. I was advised the same but didnt want time out from education!
>>Does the BVC have a 5 year 'expiry' date?
This was the case as far as i knew it up until i got pupillage in 2005. You may want to check with the bar council.
>>What exactly does this mean...do you have to get a pupillage/be a practising barrister by then?
As i understood it back then one has to have secured a pupillage within the 5 year period.
>>What exactly is a tenancy? Is it like "belonging to an Inn of Court?"
Tenancy is what one gets post pupillage. Pupillage is typically 12 months, though if you have experience which is relevant it can be reduced (mine was by 6 months). After pupillage you apply to become a tenant in a chambers. This is akin to renting a property! You then pay a percentage of your earnings as rent to chambers and you are a tenant. The earnings go to cover costs of running chambers such as stationary, the clerks wages, photocopiers, admin stuff etc. The rent you pay usually increases with the years of experience as you are expected to earn more the longer you remain in practise.
>>When you get a pupillage, will it be with a barrister at the same Inn of Court that you're in?
No, it is in a chambers. You can apply to chambers anywhere in England and Wales, and members in chambers will be from differing inns of court.
I am a white middle class, male barrister.
I feel, from that limited perspective, that the bar is extremely open and competitive and that race and background count for nothing. Indeed most commercial chambers are keen to improve their ethnic profile. A high proportion of barristers are left wing and/or believe strongly in social justice, even though they may come across to an outsider as old school middle class types.
No doubt there is an element of indirect or unintended racism but at least the bar is aware of this risk and is doing what it can to eradicate it.
There is no question but that the bar puts great weight on university results. Many chambers will only be interested in Oxbridge graduates, or those from universities just outside Oxbridge.
Considerable research has been done into why people from ethnic minorities do proportionately worse at BVC (and LPC) than caucasians. If you get a competent at BVC you will not get into good chambers.
Chambers are not very good at measuring distance travelled, as opposed to the point arrived at. That can work against candidates from some ethnic backgrounds.
It is also tempting to take the most finished article even if someone else has greater potential. Hence the emphasis on results, which I personally don't like but which is an argument that I regard as lost.
The other difficulty is that Chambers is not an organisation of employers and employees but a loose association. Therefore members are legitimately allowed to ask the question of how well they would get on with the new arrival and how well they would fit in. This has advantages - there is a collegiate feel to many sets and there is an enormous amount of help given by everyone to everyone - all without cost and without the need for a billing target to be a concern, whilst you have a coffee with someone who needs assistance.
However the downside is that 'fit in' can be reduced to 'like me'. The two things are, of course, different but it can difficult to persuade people of that. Whereas the 'magic circle' sets may wish to improve their 'profile' they seem to find it difficult. Look to the provinces where people are, perhaps, less focussed on the limited assistance that even the finest academic results provide as a guide to future success.
I am not qualified to comment on Asian females particularly. Having read what Sadie has said, I have been left with the impression that she was not willing to make an adjustment to fit in to Chambers. Most people have to make such adjustments and they frequently encounter attitudes which they find difficult. These can be the product of inter-generational conflict - unlike virtually every other organisation this is an issue at the Bar where all are notionally equal: in most organisations the people who are older are either the bosses or are obviously sidelined. Or it can be down to individual characters. It is a part of working with other people that you don't like some of them and that some have attitudes you would rather they didn't. There is no intrinsic merit in refusing to budge - getting on with people demands a little more flexibility, understanding and nuance than that.
On the other hand, I have met members of my profession whose attitudes are simply so unreflective and unpleasant (often the people themselves are nice enough; simply unimaginative and lacking in empathy) that fitting in with them means a degree of compromise which is unacceptable. I am happy to say that, in my experience, there will be not many such people left in 10 years time. Where you draw the line is a personal matter and I would be hesitant to criticise Sadie in the way in which it has been done here. Certainly not without knowing a good deal more about her and her set.
PS: I ought to say that I didn't watch the programme. In my experience I end up wanting to hurl stuff at the TV and shout impotently that it isn't like that. But I will try and give it a go next week.
I think a lot of the problem is that the Bar is treated as a singular entity, or alternatively split into separate categories such as commercial chambers, criminal chambers and so on, in which Chambers within such categories are in turn viewed in a similar way. This is very misleading. Chambers vary significantly (and shockingly so) in atmosphere, culture, and the type of personalities which thrive within them, something you sadly rarely get to realise to its full extent during the short space of a mini-pupillage. What SadieZ attributes to her Chambers at least in attitude and culture (although not financially) might not apply to a set doing the same type of work next door