School Academic Calls for Participants for 'Equality, Diversity and Inclusion at the Bar' Research Project

Alex Batesmith, Lecturer and Director of Employability, aims to improve the experience of aspiring and practising barristers who self-identify as belonging to an an under-represented group at the Bar.

The research project Equality, Diversity and Inclusion at the Bar: Perceptions, Experiences and Reflections explores the issues of equality, diversity and inclusion (‘EDI’) at the North-Eastern Circuit (‘NEC’) of the Bar of England and Wales insofar as they affect the careers of barristers, pupil barristers and undergraduate / postgraduate students considering a career at the Bar who self-identify as belonging to minoritized groups or those who are under-represented in the profession.  

The project is part of the Michael Beverley Innovation Fellowship, funded through a £1 million donation from Michael Beverley, a Leeds alumnus and Yorkshire business leader.


The Bar, and the NEC, has long had a strategy to encourage greater diversity in the profession. However, the Bar Standards Board’s own statistics from 2022 reveal that the percentage both of practising barristers and student applicants for the Barrister Training Course of non-White or other minoritized groups has remained consistently below the national population average, with minimal change over the previous five years.  

There is also evidence that social mobility remains a persistent and increasing challenge for aspiring barristers from lower income groups. Achieving greater equality, diversity and inclusion in the profession therefore remains an important and ongoing issue.  

Aims of the research 

This research in particular seeks to record the perceptions, experiences and reflections of barristers and aspiring barristers in order to inform future strategies and initiatives that will build on the good work already being done on EDI in the NEC.

Who can take part in the research project? 

We are looking to recruit anyone who falls into one of the following three categories: 

  1. pupil barristers and barristers on the NEC;  

  1. undergraduate students in Leeds who are interested in pursuing a career at the Bar; and  

  1. postgraduate students in Leeds undertaking the Barrister Training Course.  

The single stipulation for all three groups is that they self-identify as under-represented in the profession. 

What would participation involve? 

We are looking for participants to join focus groups of between 5–10 people, with others at a similar stage in their professional development. The focus groups will be conducted face-to-face on University of Leeds premises in February or March 2024, and will last between 60–90 minutes, facilitated by Alex Batesmith as the Principal Investigator and assisted by a postgraduate researcher. Refreshments will be provided.  

During the focus groups, participants will be invited to share their perceptions, experiences and reflections of the challenges and barriers to entering and/or progressing at the Bar. These conversations will be audio-recorded, transcribed and anonymised. 

Participants will be given an information sheet to keep, and will be asked to sign a consent form. No expenses and / or payments will be made to participants participating in this research. 

What will the results of the research project be? 

The research will initially form the basis of a discussion at a roundtable event in Spring–Summer 2024 involving relevant stakeholders from the North-Eastern Circuit, regulators and the higher education institutions whose students participated in the research to identify common themes and explore strategies and initiatives for reducing or removing barriers to greater equality, diversity and inclusion at the Bar. The anonymised data findings may also be presented at academic / practitioner conferences and used as the basis of academic / practitioner journals, publications, blogs etc.   

How can I participate? 

If you are interested in participating, please email the Principal Investigator, Mr Alex Batesmith, School of Law, the University of Leeds, by email as soon as possible and in any event by 9 February 2024. 

Six academics from our School, including Alex, have been recently awarded this Fellowship. Read more about their projects here.