England: Ageing bar poses access to justice threat

England: Ageing bar poses access to justice threat

The average age of barristers has risen substantially in the past three decades, according to a study by the Bar Standards Board.

The average age of a barrister in 1990-91 was 38.5 but stood at 46.5 in 2019-20.

Almost 40 per cent of barristers are now also over 50 – compared with just 13 per cent in 1990.

The regulator stated: “Compared to the distribution of the UK working population aged over 25, in 1990/91 the bar could generally be said to be younger, whereas in 2019/20 the opposite appears to be the case.”

Pupils are also getting older. Their average age is now 28.5 while the age of those in their first year of practice has risen from around 27 to 30.

Furthermore, the number of pupils recruited has also plummeted from the 1993 peak of 882 to an average of 450 throughout the 2010s.

The English bar – with 17,351 barristers – is almost double the size it was 30 years ago. The proportion of female and ethnic minority barristers has almost doubled over this period.

BSB director of strategy and policy, Ewen MacLeod, said: “We are…concerned about the possible implications for access to justice of the ageing of the profession brought about by strong retention, and much lower recruitment to pupillage than in the 1990s. This, too, we expect, will be a major theme of our future work.”

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