No5 Barristers' Chambers signs up to the Women in Law Pledge

Wed, 30 Sep 2020

No5 Barristers' Chambers are proud signatories of the Women in Law Pledge.

What is the Women in Law Pledge?

The Women in Law Pledge was launched on 30 June 2019 and is a collaboration between the Law Society, the Bar Council and the Chartered Institute of Legal Executives, with the backing of the Ministry of Justice. Law firms, local law societies, barristers' chambers and organisations outside the legal sector have all been invited to sign their names to the pledge, which aims to build a more equal profession for all.

Isn’t the Bar a gender neutral profession?

The launch of the Pledge coincided with 100 years since the Sex Disqualification (Removal) Act 1919 came into force in the UK. This Act opened up the ability for women to be appointed to or hold public office and enter professions, including law, which were previously off limits.

In the 101 years since 1919 there has undoubtedly been a change in the demographic in the legal profession, but there remain obstacles in the profession, particularly at senior levels, for women. It seems relatively clear from the available data that the challenge is in retaining and promoting women, and not in attracting them to the profession in the first instance.  The BSB’s Diversity at the Bar 2019 report records that while females make up 54.8% of pupils, that percentage decreases to 40.2% for practising barristers and just 16.2% for QCs.

Why has No5 Barristers' Chambers taken the decision to sign up to the Pledge?

By signing up to the Pledge Chambers is putting itself in the spotlight for scrutiny. More importantly though, we are holding ourselves accountable for delivering further change within our Chambers community. We are proud to do so.

 By signing up to the Pledge we are saying that we are committed to –

  • Supporting the progression of women into senior roles in the profession by focusing on retention and practice development opportunities;
  • Setting clear plans and targets around gender equality; and
  • Tracking progress towards achieving our goals.

Our Action Plan

Retention has for a long time been a priority for Chambers. Our policies on Parental Leave, Flexible Working, Respect and Well Being are each innovative and hopefully impactful in the long term.

Recently, we have also taken the step of offering menopause training to all our staff and clerks hoping to increase awareness of menopause and its associated symptoms for the benefit of our female barristers and staff (see: https://www.no5.com/media/publications/what-is-the-hidden-impact-of-the-menopause-at-the-bar/).

Moving forward, over the next twelve months, we are also committed to achieving the following –

1. Ensuring that at least one marketing event per quarter is non-traditional and gender neutral, in order to ensure that our female barristers and female professional clients are able to participate as fully as they would like. This means being mindful of the activities offered but also of location and timing. Our Practice Directors will be asked to monitor, by gender breakdown, those invited and those who accept and attend events, so as to monitor the success of this initiative.

2. We have identified that within our senior management, Chambers’ Management Committee, only 19% (approx.) of the membership is female. This is lower than we would like in circumstances where approximately 35% of the members of Chambers are female. Ahead of the next round of elections we will encourage more women to run for a position on the Management Committee by –

  • ensuring there is better publicity indicating a desire to have more women taking up roles; and
  • Offering mentoring or group/individual discussion with those who already have a role in order that potential applicants can better understand the commitment and debunk any myths that may exist.

Our target is to achieve 35% female representation on the Management Committee.

3. Individual members of Chambers have considerable knowledge and insight in relation to applications for judicial positions and/or applications for silk. We will seek to consolidate this knowledge in one space, again with the offer of mentoring and/or group/individual discussions with previous successful applicants, with a view to encouraging more successful applications from female members of Chambers. Our target in the first instance is to break down the wall of secrecy surrounding applications, and particularly failed applications, with a view to increasing the number of applications and thereafter successful appointments in the future.

4. Chambers’ ED officer already reviews unallocated and allocated work on an annual basis to look for trends that might relate to diversity. Moving forwards, the ED officer will also be provided with data relating to the number of cases in which women are led within Chambers and therefore review on an annual basis how led work is allocated.

We recognise that gender diversity is far from the only diversity issue faced by the Bar, and we will strive to apply the commitments set out above to all of the protected characteristics.

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