Mentoring Scheme

Essex Court Chambers is participating in the COMBAR Mentoring Scheme for Under-Represented Groups, which is now open for applications.

Following the success of last year’s inaugural scheme, COMBAR is delighted to announce that its mentoring scheme for applicants from groups who are under-represented at the Bar (and the Commercial Bar in particular) is now open for applications for the 2023 – 2024 cycle.  The scheme is an important part of COMBAR’s commitment to improving access and diversity in the legal profession.

The scheme 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 January 2024.  An equivalent event for this year’s scheme was held in January 2023 at Gray’s Inn, with over 170 mentees attending in person and remotely, and a keynote introductory speech by Mr Justice Foxton, the Judge in Charge of the Commercial Court.

There has been an excellent uptake of the scheme by COMBAR member sets.  23 sets have agreed to provide mentors and it is expected that there will be places for about 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

The scheme was founded in 2020 by six sets of Chambers, including Essex Court Chambers, and expanded to ten sets in 2021. In the first two years of the scheme over 350 prospective applicants to the Bar were matched with mentors. The scheme has been taken forward by COMBAR from 2022 onwards.

In order to ensure that as diverse a pool of potential applicants is reached as possible, COMBAR will advertise the scheme through the careers departments of all English and Welsh universities with a law department, together with a number of universities in Scotland and Ireland, third sector organisations such as HerBar, the Social Mobility Foundation and Sutton Trust, and publications such as Counsel Magazine.  COMBAR is also pleased to have renewed its arrangement with Legal Cheek, which remains the official partner for the scheme.

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.

How to Apply

  • Applicants wishing to participate in the scheme are requested to complete the online application form.
  • Application forms must be received by Friday 22 September 2023.
  • COMBAR hopes that applicants will be informed as to whether or not they have been accepted onto the scheme within October 2023.
  • Full details of the scheme can be found at the Scheme Guidelines.
  • Any other questions should be directed to the following email address:

Philippa Hopkins QC, who was a member of the committee that worked to set up the original mentoring scheme and now sits on the COMBAR sub-committee running the new scheme, says, “We are delighted that the mentoring scheme is continuing through COMBAR.  This reflects the commitment of the founder sets, including Essex Court, and the commercial Bar as a whole, to increasing diversity in the profession.  In its first two years, the scheme has helped many mentees from groups under-represented at the Commercial Bar in their progress to a career at the Bar.  Here at Essex Court, we are looking forward greatly to working with COMBAR and with this year’s mentors and mentees.”

David Joseph QC, Chair of COMBAR says, “The promotion of diversity at the Commercial Bar is 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.  This Mentoring Scheme will allow applicants from those backgrounds access to one-to-one mentoring with practitioners from 20 participating sets and is an important further step in promoting access and demonstrating that the Commercial Bar is open to all with the ability to succeed.  I am delighted at its launch and I want to thank all those involved volunteering their time to make this happen.