Richard Frost joined the Inn in 2015 as the Education Services Assistant, before becoming the Bench Events Co-ordinator in 2016. In 2019, Richard became the Inn’s first Outreach Officer and is now responsible for co-ordinating the Inn’s Equality Diversity and Social Mobility programme; Access to the Bar Scheme; Open Days; disabled access and support; and mental health first aid.
In early 2019, I joined the Inn’s Education Team as its first Outreach Officer. This might suggest that the Inn’s outreach programme only began a few months ago, but in reality, Middle Temple has been working to promote the profession to those from non-traditional backgrounds for many years. Events like our Open Day, which welcomes hundreds of students into Hall to network with our members or the Access to the Bar scheme, launched by Master David Bean and Master Andrew Hochhauser, which enables undergraduate students from families with limited family history in higher education to gain some vital work experience in chambers and with judges. This is not to mention either the commitment the Inn’s members have to making Middle Temple a welcoming place for students from all backgrounds, or the helpful and supportive efforts of the Inn’s staff.
What having a dedicated Outreach Officer has allowed the Inn to do is widen its commitment to activities promoting the profession across the country. A good deal of this is done in co-operation with the Bar Council and the other Inns. In the last year Middle Temple was represented at University Law Fairs and in joint presentations with the other Inns in Liverpool, Warwick, Wolverhampton, University of East Anglia, University of Essex, Brighton & Sussex, Cambridge, Oxford and Bristol, along with other insight events at Queen Mary University and the Bar Council’s Pupillage Fair.
We have also introduced the University Ambassadors project to promote greater connection between academia and the Bar, and create opportunities for undergraduate students to connect with Barristers and gain insight into the profession. The ambassadors will be tasked with helping at insight events like law fairs and presentations and helping to facilitate work experience and court visits.
Meanwhile, closer to home, we have been able to welcome hundreds of students to tour the Inn as individuals or in groups with their university, presenting opportunities to learn about the profession, what the Inn has to offer, and to sit down for lunch with members in Hall.
Utilising social media to spread the word, I found myself very busy indeed with virtual tours, talking to students about the Inn and giving advice on next steps and sharing information on our Scholarships and Access awards.
What is no doubt apparent from the above is that the Inn’s outreach thrives on face to face interaction and in bringing individuals into the physical spaces of the profession, allowing students to visualise themselves in the role and feel a sense of belonging. This meant that Covid-19 posed a challenge; how could we cultivate relationships with prospective students without the opportunity
to meet? Part of the solution was the same that many have found useful during lockdown; connecting instead via video conference apps or telephone.
Utilising social media to spread the word, I found myself very busy indeed with virtual tours, talking to students about the Inn and giving advice on next steps and sharing information on our Scholarships and Access awards. An unexpected benefit has been how much this exercise has extended the Inn’s reach. Even as we move out of London our efforts are still focused around major metropolitan areas and always within England and Wales. During lockdown I have been speaking to students engaged in distance learning, part-time students and even some from different jurisdictions and time zones – from New York to Hyderabad. Students
I would not ordinarily get to speak to, and the added comfort of being at home allowed us to discuss their personal stories in far more detail. Feedback from these calls was very positive and they will be a tool I plan to make greater use of even after lockdown has ended.
Technology allowed us to carry out the interviews for our Access to the Bar Award, although when the 35 recipients are able to complete their placements in a chambers and with a judge will depend on how the Government’s advice changes. One way members could assist the Inn though would be to offer to provide an award winner with their mini- pupillage or marshalling opportunity, in particular those members based outside of London. With the potential difficulties involving travel and accommodation, a greater pool of chambers that students could travel to from home would be of tremendous help.
If you are interested in the Inn’s Outreach programme, and would like to get involved, please contact Richard via email@example.com