Inaugural Keating Chambers Scholarship awarded
Date: 17 May 2023
We are pleased to share the news that Omar Jassam is the 2023 and inaugural Keating Chambers Scholar. The Keating Chambers Social Mobility Scholarship was launched in September 2022 in conjunction with Gray’s Inn and is designed to support Bar Course students from backgrounds under-represented at the Bar.
Omar excelled throughout the scholarship process, demonstrating considerable potential to practice at the Bar. The Gray’s Inn interview panel were impressed by Omar’s aptitude for problem solving and the drive he has exhibited in both his academic and professional life to date, underpinned by an impressive advocacy performance.
Omar’s journey to becoming a Keating Chambers Scholar
On receiving the scholarship offer, Omar commented:
“Gray’s Inn felt like a place where I could truly find a home and be welcomed. I gained this impression from other Members, many of whom were either from a similar background or had similar circumstances to myself.
“I was born in Baghdad, Iraq and came to the UK with my family when I was 9 years old. I could not speak English. Throughout my educational career, the perception that someone like me, who was still trying to master English, and with my background would not be of the ilk that could realistically make it in the legal profession.
“Instead I turned to construction. Whilst working as a construction practitioner, I began to gravitate towards the legal aspects of that field, as I continued to find those areas to be the most exciting. This inspired me to take a Master’s degree at King’s College London in Construction Law, and move into legal-related expert witness work.
“It was during this period where I got to witness barristers in action. Seeing the work they do, it quickly became obvious that I would thoroughly enjoy such a job. I also developed relationships with Gray’s Inn Members and through this I came to understand many of them had faced the same trepidations that I did. Having worked to secure their positions, they were so incredibly kind to try and ensure others like them could equally have a chance.
“I am all too aware of how exceptionally competitive a career at the Bar is, as well as the significant cost and time required to pursue such it.
“Receiving the scholarship has therefore given me a much-needed boost of confidence that assures me I have the potential to succeed in such a competitive career, whilst also making it realistic to pursue such a path from a financial perspective. Without this scholarship, it may not have been feasible for me to continue pursuing my ambition of becoming a barrister.
“For that I am endlessly grateful to Keating Chambers for this wonderful initiative, not only giving me this opportunity but for all future candidates from similar circumstances who may equally receive such wonderful and much needed support to enable them to equally pursue a career at the Bar.”
Scholarship in Action.
Omar has recently completed a GDL course and will commence Bar training in September using the financial award provided. It is important to Keating Chambers that our support extends beyond a financial contribution, so Omar has also been offered an unassessed mini-pupillage and mentoring as part of the Scholarship.
We were pleased to welcome Omar to Chambers earlier this month where he had the opportunity to meet several barristers and staff members including Alexander Nissen KC (Head of Chambers), Lucy Garrett KC (Head of Pupillage) and Tom Owen (who has been assigned as Omar’s mentor). Alexander commented: “Keating Chambers takes the issue of access to the profession for underrepresented groups seriously. Our social mobility scholarship is part of our contribution to improving the current position. We were delighted to meet Omar in Chambers and look forward to mentoring him over the next few years as well as seeing him back in chambers for his extended mini-pupillage.”
Background information on the Scholarship
Keating Chambers and Gray’s Inn are committed to supporting aspiring barristers from all backgrounds, promoting social mobility and increasing diversity at the Bar. In 2020, the Inn’s Scholarships Committee initiated a review of its awarding methodology, where new criteria were introduced to change the focus from ‘previous achievement’ towards ‘future potential’. In the same year Keating Chambers carried out a comprehensive fair recruitment review which further improved their pupillage selection criteria and assessment process.
The Keating Chambers Scholarship was established to go even further. In awarding £15,000 to the winning candidate, the Keating Chambers Scholarship supports a Bar Student from a background under-represented at the Bar, who may not have otherwise been able to embark on this journey. Candidates for scholarship were required to meet one or more of the social mobility criteria, such as being the first generation of their family to go to university, being eligible for free school meals, or them or their immediate family being/having been a refugee or asylum seeker.