New Leeds barrister on mission to improve equality and diversity at the Bar

November 9, 2021

One of Leeds’ newest barristers is on a mission to improve equality and diversity at the Bar.

Charlotte Noddings became a full member at Exchange Chambers in Leeds earlier this year.  In doing so, she became the first Leeds-based pupil to pass through Exchange Chambers’ pupillage academy.

State-educated, and having not studied law at University, Charlotte did not follow a typical route into the profession.

“I studied Social and Political Sciences at York University,” explains Yorkshire-born Charlotte.

“It was while at University that I saw a Mock Trial Competition, run by the University of York Bar Society and Nick Johnson QC.

“I’ve always enjoyed debating so I entered the competition and was fortunate enough to win.  The prize was a mini-pupillage at Exchange Chambers.”

Charlotte was subsequently invited back for a second mini-pupillage with Exchange after which her heart was set on a career in law.

She undertook a law conversion course and successfully applied to Exchange for pupillage, which she has now completed under the supervision of Alex Menary and Sean Smith.

As a criminal practitioner, Charlotte already has a busy caseload appearing in the Crown Court virtually every day – but she is also setting aside time to work on initiatives aimed at increasing access to the Bar for people from all backgrounds.

“One known issue is the lack of opportunity to experience the profession as a young person,” she explained.

“Young people often possess the attributes required to succeed at the Bar: determination in the face of injustice, resilience and versatility, to name a few.  However, if they are not introduced to the profession at an early stage, it could mean few ever realise their potential as a barrister.  This was a problem I encountered.”

Aware of this problem, Charlotte has assisted Exchange Chambers silk Nick Johnson QC in devising an outreach programme and mock trial competition for state school educated A-level students – a programme mirroring her own entry route into the profession.

“The first competition took place at Fulford School, a comprehensive school on the edge of York,” continued Charlotte.

“Set across three sessions, it was attended by 30 A-Level students.  They were presented with an imaginary criminal case on which the mock trial would be based.

“Due to the high standard of the advocacy, Nick and I couldn’t pick just one winner and instead shared the prize between five of the students. Each of them will now have the opportunity to do some work shadowing at Exchange Chambers with a practitioner, followed by further mentoring opportunities, should the students wish to develop their interest.”

Added Charlotte:

“There is a great deal more to be done to increase the diversity of the Bar and these efforts cannot just be concentrated at an entry level.  However, competitions such as these are one positive step to ensure the profession has a bright and inclusive future.”

Ian Spencer, Chambers Director at Exchange in Leeds says everyone at Chambers is proud of Charlotte’s efforts.

“Charlotte has made a hugely positive impression on everyone in Chambers,” said Ian.

“She shares our passion to improve equality and diversity at the Bar and is a wonderful role model.”