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20 Essex Street Adopts Revolutionary Technology to Find Barristers


Leading barristers’ chambers, 20 Essex Street, has become the first chambers in the country to take decisive action to help open the doors of the profession by adopting the Contextual Recruitment System (CRS), a unique data driven approach to unearthing talent from diverse backgrounds.

The CRS, run by Rare, a diversity recruitment specialist, is helping to attract talented graduates and apprentices from disadvantaged backgrounds into the legal sector.

20 Essex Street joins a collection of more than 70 City firms who have been using the software to great effect including Allen & Overy, Clifford Chance, Deloitte and Boston Consulting Group. More than 90% of graduate applicants to top law firms are now processed through the software.

Commenting on the news Michael Coburn QC, Head of Pupillage at 20 Essex Street, said:

“We are delighted to be using Rare’s Contextual Recruitment System in our selection process at 20 Essex Street. We are committed to improving access to the Bar. Our aim is to recruit candidates of the highest standard by giving fair and equal opportunity to everyone. We believe the CRS will be invaluable in helping us achieve these objectives. Its technology and data will allow us to put a candidate’s achievements into their wider context, so that we can identify real talent that might otherwise have been overlooked.”

As the first technology and data-driven tool of its kind in the UK, Rare’s CRS hardwires social mobility metrics into companies’ existing graduate recruitment databases. It allows firms to see, at a glance, not just the achievements of candidates, but the context in which those achievements were gained, taking into consideration several factors, including postcode, school quality, eligibility for free school meals, refugee status and time spent in care.

Inspired by Big Data processes, and the selection techniques used by the UK’s leading universities, which make differential offers to students based on ‘contextual data’, the CRS was based on a two-year research project conducted by Rare, and sponsored by international law firm (and founding partner of the CRS project), Clifford Chance. Rare has found that 50 per cent more disadvantaged candidates are hired when organisations adopt the CRS.

Raph Mokades, Founder and Managing Director of Rare, said:

“The business case for diversity has been made numerous times and its merits are undisputed. Employers frequently comment that Rare’s candidates are more robust than those sourced from conventional backgrounds – they can be better at handling the challenges of demanding jobs, and less likely to drop out. Candidates once seen as ‘unconventional’ often make the best hires.”


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