Sexuality at the Bar: An Empirical Exploration into the Experiences of LGBT+ Barristers in England & Wales
12 Pages Posted: 29 Sep 2017
Date Written: September 25, 2017
The Bar of England & Wales is an historic, traditional institution of courtroom advocates and specialist advisers that can trace its origins back to the 13th century. As a field of study, there is comparatively little academic work on barristers. Where work has been done on the Bar, and in relation to diversity at the Bar, this has tended to focus either wholly or primarily on women barristers and suggests patterns of inequality, exclusion and forms of direct and indirect discrimination. Like the other branches of the legal profession in England and Wales, the Bar does not reflect the society it serves. In their world-first research, ‘Sexuality at the Bar’, Mason and Vaughan show a variety of complex practices which govern where (and when and how) LGBT+ members of the Bar feel comfortable being open about their sexuality as well as highlighting a significant number of LGBT+ barristers who have experienced work related bullying and/or discrimination. Their work also suggests an increasing role for Bar-specific LGBT+ networks and the value of LGBT+ role models, both at the Bar and in the judiciary.
The Project: In 2016, Mason and Vaughan launched an online survey to capture the career experiences of LGBT+ members of the Bar. This was completed by 126 practising barristers, Queens Counsel, pupils (barrister trainees), and students taking the pre-vocational Bar Professional Training Course. The survey focused on four main areas: (i) homophobia in the workplace (ii) if (and how and where) barristers were ‘out’ at work; (iii) the potential connections between sexuality and practice; and (iv) the purpose of LGBT+ networks and role models.
Following the survey, Mason and Vaughan used the data they had captured to build a range of questions for semi-structured interviews. 38 of these took place in the latter half of 2016: 2 with pupil barristers; 4 with students; 5 with QCs; and 27 with barristers.
Keywords: Barristers, Lawyers, Legal Profession, Diversity, Diversity and Inclusion, LGBTQ, LGBT, Queer, Equality and Diversity
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