High debt levels hit push for diversity at the Bar

An eight-year freeze in fees paid to legal aid barristers is threatening diversity at the Bar as many struggle with heavy debts.

Justin Kitson, chairman of the Young Barrister’s Committee and Sophie Shotton, a criminal barrister, are to meet today with the Lord Chancellor to warn that the pay freeze amounts to a 23% cut in wages since 1997.

Kitson told the Times newspaper the “massive debt burden” coming from completing university and qualifying as a lawyer was having an effect on “the social profile of new entrants to the Bar”.

“There has been much good news over recent years in this area – 20% of those coming to the Bar are from ethnic minorities,” he said. “However, the government’s retrograde policy on legal aid policy will turn the clock back.”

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