Thinking Outside of the Tick Box

Wed, 15 Jul 2020

Thinking Outside of the Tick Box: actively promoting diversity and inclusion from application to tenancy

  1. Equality and Diversity oversight and management at No5 Barristers' Chambers
  2. How does No5 Barristers' Chambers seek to ensure that applications are received from a diverse group of applicants?
  3. If I apply to No5 Barristers' Chambers, will I be treated fairly?
  4. If I am offered a tenancy at No5 Barristers' Chambers, what will be done to ensure that I thrive?
  5. Is there more to do?

1. Equality and Diversity oversight and management at No5 Barristers' Chambers

No5 Barristers' Chambers, as required, has an Equality and Diversity Officer. We have gone one step further though. In recognition that the job is too big and too important for one person alone, we have an Equality and Diversity Committee.

Again, as required, Chambers has an ED Action Plan. The Committee use the Action Plan as a working document with which they are engaged on a week to week or month to month basis. We do not view the Action Plan as a box-ticking exercise but rather as a means of collating ideas, making plans and effecting actual change.

In common with all other Chambers we are required to, and do, carry out diversity surveys every three years to monitor our progress. Unlike many other Chambers, we publish our results in full on Chambers’ website. We believe that visibility is important and that public scrutiny can only be a positive thing.

2. How does No5 Barristers' Chambers seek to ensure that applications are received from a diverse group of applicants?

We discuss and promote our ED work on Chambers’ website. We regularly publish articles detailing our work in this area in the hope to deliver the message that we are a Chambers that are invested in issues of equality, diversity and inclusion.

Many of our barristers are individually engaged in educational outreach projects with schools and universities in their local areas. This might involve school visits, attendance at careers fairs, judging moots or mentoring (see for example: https://www.birmingham.ac.uk/facilities/CEPLER/index.aspx)

No5 Barristers' Chambers offer mini-pupillages. Applications are assessed against an objective marking scheme by members of Chambers’ pupillage committee who have undertaken fair recruitment training. We also make provision for additional mini-pupillages in conjunction with the Circuits and the Inns of Court with a view to improving access to the Bar from those coming from “non-traditional” backgrounds (see for example: https://www.innertemple.org.uk/becoming-a-barrister/how-to-get-involved/pass/).

3. If I apply to No5 Barristers' Chambers, will I be treated fairly?

Yes.

On application by prospective pupils, all applications are blind sifted by members of the pupillage committee who have all undertaken fair recruitment training. Those invited to first and second round interview are interviewed by volunteers from across Chambers who are also required to have attended fair recruitment training. We seek to ensure that our interview panels are as diverse and representative as possible.

In addition, individual members of Chambers are engaged with schemes through Specialist Bar Associations and the Circuits; for example, by offering mock interviews to those that are perceived as disadvantaged in an attempt to level the playing field.

No5 Barristers' Chambers monitors recruitment of staff, barristers and pupils across all of the protected characteristics. The ED Officer prepares an annual report which is delivered to Chambers’ Management Committee for their deliberation.

4. If I am offered a tenancy at No5 Barristers' Chambers, what will be done to ensure that I thrive?

Over the last two years, we have completely overhauled all of our ED policies to better reflect our commitment in this area. In particular, our Parental Leave, Flexible Working, Respect and Wellbeing policies are bold and innovative. They show a genuine commitment, with financial backing, to seek to remove disadvantages across the board. Summaries of the policies are available on the ED landing page on Chambers’ website (see: https://www.no5.com/about-us/equality-and-diversity/).

If anyone in Chambers is concerned about discrimination, victimisation or harassment across any of the protected characteristics they are encouraged to access the Respect Policy. Respect has an anonymous webtool which is for people to get advice on a completely anonymous and confidential basis. Respect also has numerous counsellors, in every practice group, every office and at every level of call, who are trained to talk to people about any of these types of concerns sympathetically and confidentially, and offer advice and support, informally. In addition, Chambers’ Wellbeing Officer is available to provide support and advice and help people navigate the practical difficulties of managing a health condition whilst practising at the Bar, including difficult conversations with clerks.

Chambers monitors unassigned and assigned work across each practice group and across each of the protected characteristics. The ED Officer prepares an annual report where any issues identified are discussed with Practice Managers and Heads of Group.

All our staff and clerks are ED trained. We are taking steps to improve the diversity of our staff in response to certain suboptimal findings following our most recent diversity report. For instance, we are in dialogue with the recruitment agents we use and have offered the time of our staff and members of chambers to assist them in diversifying the pool of applicants they recommend to us.

We regularly disseminate in house training to all our staff and senior members of Chambers; that is, anyone that might have an impact on your career. Recent training has included Respect, flexible working and menopause awareness training (see: https://www.no5.com/media/publications/what-is-the-hidden-impact-of-the-menopause-at-the-bar/.

5. Is there more to do?

No5 Barristers' Chambers recognises that issues of equality, diversity and inclusion are wide-ranging and far from straightforward. We hope that by continuing to take small incremental actions and monitoring their impact, we will deliver real and lasting change.

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15 July 2020

YASMIN YASSERI (Barrister and Equality and Diversity Officer)

LOUISE CORFIELD (Barrister and member of the Equality and Diversity Committee)

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