Future Lawyer Blog

COMBAR – Mentoring scheme for under-represented groups – deadline 20th Sep 2024

The Commercial Bar Association (COMBAR) have their own scheme to encourage people from groups of people who are under-represented at the English Bar and in particular the Commercial Bar to pursue careers as barristers. Note however, that this is scheme is NOT confined to those simply interested in the Commercial Bar.

The promotion of diversity at the Commercial Bar continues to be one of COMBAR’s core aims.  It is vital that the Commercial Bar recruits from the most talented future practitioners, including, in particular, those from backgrounds that have traditionally been under-represented. 

The Mentoring Scheme is now moving into its third year.  This initiative allows applicants from under-representative backgrounds, who meet the requisite standards, to access one-to-one mentoring with practitioners from 25 participating sets.  It is an important way of promoting access and demonstrating that the Commercial Bar is open to applicants from all backgrounds.  I am delighted that this year’s Scheme can build on the success of previous years and I want to thank all those involved for volunteering their time to make this happen.

Alexander Gunning KC, Chair of COMBAR

The scheme is now open for applications for the 2024 – 2025 cycle and is an important part of COMBAR’s commitment to improving access and diversity in the legal profession.  

How does it work?

It pairs successful eligible candidates with practitioners from COMBAR member sets for a series of one-to-one mentoring sessions.  Mentees and their mentors are also invited to a pupillage interview and application workshop and social event, which is planned for 14 January 2025.  An equivalent event for this year’s scheme was held in January 2024 at Gray’s Inn, with over 130 mentees attending in person and remotely, and a keynote introductory speech by Mr Justice Foxton, the Judge in Charge of the Commercial Court.

How many places are on offer?

There has been an excellent uptake of the scheme by COMBAR member sets.  A record 25 sets have agreed to provide mentors and it is expected that there will be places for at least 250 mentees on the scheme across those participating sets.  All participating sets have also agreed to cover reasonable travel expenses for mentees allocated to them.

How are applicants assessed?

Applicants who are considered to have realistic prospects of obtaining a pupillage at the Commercial Bar will be assessed by reference to their need for mentoring and their potential to pursue a career at the Bar.  A deliberate decision has been taken to give equal weighting to both of these criteria to help ensure that the scheme reaches talented applicants from the most under-represented communities who would benefit most from mentoring and guidance.  

Who is it open to?

Prospective mentees may apply for the Scheme at any time from their first year of undergraduate study (whether in law or any other discipline).  Applicants may be of any age and any background, but they should not have already been awarded a pupillage, or have commenced pupillage. Experience suggests that applicants are likely to get the most out of the scheme if they apply earlier in their university career but the scheme can be worthwhile at other times.

Prospective mentees may be from any group(s) which is/are under-represented at the English Bar or the Commercial Bar.  For instance, such groups may (non-exhaustively) include:

  • people with disabilities;
  • Black people;
  • people who attended state schools, in particular non-selective state schools, for the majority of their secondary education (i.e. between the ages of 11 and 18 years);
  • people who were in the first generation in their family to attend university;
  • people from less advantaged socio-economic backgrounds (as indicated, e.g., if an applicant was eligible for free school meals, or comes from a family on income support);
  • LGBTQ+ people;
  • people who spent time in care;
  • people from minority ethnic backgrounds (other than Black, which is separately listed above);
  • women

OK, what do I do next…?

Applicants wishing to participate in the scheme are requested to download and complete the application form available from the scheme’s website. Completed application forms must be saved as a PDF with the naming convention “First Name – Surname” and emailed to socialmobility@combar.com by Friday 20 September 2024.  COMBAR hopes that applicants will be informed as to whether or not they have been accepted onto the scheme within October 2024.  Due to the number of applicants applying for the scheme, it will unfortunately not be possible to give individual feedback as to why an application may have been unsuccessful, though unsuccessful applicants are welcome to re-apply in subsequent years.

Full details of the scheme can be found at the Scheme Guidelines which can also be found on the website (see link to Guidance).  

Still have questions?

Any questions should be directed to the following email address: socialmobility@combar.com

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