Mukhtiar Singh and Danielle Manson of Garden Court talk diversity on BBC Radio 4 Law in Action

Wednesday 12 June 2019

On 11 June Mukhtiar Singh and Danielle Manson of Garden Court Joshua spoke to Joshua Rozenberg on BBC Radio 4 'Law in Action' on 'Raising the Bar?'

They share their own non-traditional routes to the legal profession and advocate for more chambers to run diversity schemes in order to recruit the brightest and best to the Bar.

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Danielle Manson, who recently joined the Garden Court Crime team as a pupil, shares part of her own non-traditional route to the law. Danielle spoke about growing up on a Council Estate in Nottingham in a single-parent family. 

"My dad was in prison for most of my childhood", she says, before going on to explain that when she was about 10 years old her mother, a woman of previous good character, was also charged with a serious criminal offence and arrested. Danielle then spent a period of time living with her grandparents when both of her parents were in prison. "I think that whole experience stayed with me", she reflects, before talking about the position she was in before she went on to study law. She said:

" I didn't know any barristers. I didn't know any judges. I didn't really know what the training would entail." 

"It is hard when you are first starting out to find your place and to know how much of yourself to give... even though we are all self-employed chambers are collegiate and people within chambers have to see your worth and value you. There are so many advocates out there with very different styles. Some people place more value on academic ability. Some people place higher value on your advocacy when  you're in court. There are a lot of different things at play here."

"The Bar needs to recognise that talent comes in all shapes and sizes. Clients want different things in different advocates."

Mukhtiar Singh, who enjoys a broad employment and commerical practice as a tenant at Garden Court, also shares his own path to the law. His father came to the UK in the 1950s, and worked as a labourer until he retired. Mukhtiar, himself, had various part-time jobs during primary and secondary education and enjoyed nearly 25 years' full-time employment after leaving school at the age of 16. Mukhtiar completed his Law degree and Bar qualifications whilst working full-time and raising his children. He was called to the Bar in 2011 and completed pupillage in October 2013. 

"I only realised what I wanted to do for a living when I was in my mid thirties... I'm now 48 and I've been practicing as a barrister for about 6 years...

"I didn't have any A-levels [when I started studying to be a lawyer]. I was very fortunate that the University of London permitted me due to professional exams I'd done at work to actually do the degree in the first place. I was putting in around 20-30 hours a week [of work] on top of at least 40 hours a week of full-time study and having two young children.

"I came very close [to pupillage] many times but it was the third year of applying that I obtained [it]. Around 50 applications. Around 20 interviews. I was on a reserve list half-a-dozen times and eventually it happened... There are a number of people in [the legal] profession who have come from privileged backgrounds .It seems to me that they continue to enjoy that privilege, albeit working very hard. There are others who have to fight that little bit harder."

Founded upon a commitment to social justice, Garden Court Chambers runs a pioneering, award-winning mentoring scheme, 'Access to the Bar for All' which encourages students from minority and disadvantaged groups to consider a career as a barrister. It mentors students from A-level age through to the end of university, and provides them with paid-internships within Chambers and a £7000 per year scholarship to assist with living expenses at university if they go on to study a law degree. Mukhtiar says: 

"[The Law] is a profession which has selected from the few. It will only get better if it selects from everyone."

Mukhtiar has a particular interest in social mobility at the Bar and has set up the Guru Nanak Social Mobility Scholarship scheme. He is also a Social Mobility Advocate, as part of the Bar Council’s “#IamtheBar” Social Mobility campaign.

Listen to the full episode, 'Raising the Bar?' on BBC Radio 4's Law in Action. 

Find out more about Garden Court's 'Access to the Bar for All' scheme.

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