Accentism at the Bar

Braber, N. ORCID: 0000-0003-2611-1190, Ching, J. ORCID: 0000-0002-9815-8804, Jarman, J. ORCID: 0000-0001-5745-0860, Robson, J. and Stevens, O., 2023. Accentism at the Bar. In: 114th Annual Conference of the Society of Legal Scholars, Oxford Brookes University, Oxford, 27-30 June 2023.

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In this paper we will discuss our pilot study into ‘accentism’ amongst barristers.

Accents are a marker of social class and different regional accents have different associations. Differentiating between individuals on the basis of accent amounts to discrimination on the basis of socio-economic background. The issue of accent as a possible barrier to progression at the Bar has been raised before but not studied. Law can only be used to achieve a public good if the legal professions represent the diversity of society. This project (funded by NTU’s Safety and Security of Citizens theme) aimed to collect preliminary data to establish whether this issue requires further investigation.

In the first strand of the project, participants were played a recording of a defence closing speech in a criminal trial delivered by male speakers with different English regional accents and a received pronunciation speaker. In an online survey completed by 99 members of the public, participants were asked to listen to the recordings and rate the speakers according to criteria including ‘professionalism’, ‘intelligence’, ’clarity’ and ‘confidence.’

The findings revealed significant variation in attitudes to speakers based on their accent. This paper will summarise these findings which indicated that certain accents were regarded more favourably than others in respect of the key attributes likely to be seen as positive in a barrister.

In the second part of this study, semi-structured interviews were conducted with seven practitioners and two students. A thematic analysis was conducted of their responses. Common themes emerged from the interviews regarding experiences of their treatment as people with accents and how they had seen the issue of accent treated in practice. The contents of these interviews will be discussed, along with their implications for diversity within the legal professions, implications for practice and directions for future research.

Item Type: Conference contribution
Creators: Braber, N., Ching, J., Jarman, J., Robson, J. and Stevens, O.
Date: June 2023
Divisions: Schools > Nottingham Law School
Schools > School of Arts and Humanities
Record created by: Jonathan Gallacher
Date Added: 04 Jul 2023 12:45
Last Modified: 25 Apr 2024 08:29

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