Bar Council to step up support for chambers

Chambers: Guidance and policies coming their way

The Bar Council is to produce a set of template policies for chambers and may even set up a jobs board, it has emerged.

Carolyn Entwistle, director of services at the Bar Council said that, whether or not chambers needed greater regulation, the Bar Council “can and will improve its support for chambers”.

She said a chambers management working group, set up in March this year, had made eight recommendations, approved last month by the Bar Council’s general management committee.

This committed the Bar Council to publish, along with a complete list of the documents relevant to chambers management, “a comprehensive set of template policies and complementary guidance”.

The chambers management working group, which has now become a ‘panel’, is made up of 12 members of the Bar, with members of the Legal Practice Management Association and the Institute of Barristers’ Clerks.

It is chaired by Nicola Rushton KC, deputy head of Hailsham Chambers, and Paul Newhall, chief executive of Landmark Chambers.

Writing on the Bar Council website, Ms Entwistle said other recommendations included the “possible creation of a commercial jobs board” for barristers and/or a new mini-pupillage gateway.

An email-based chambers management enquiry service would be created and the Bar Council ethics and practice hub would be rebranded and relaunched.

The chambers management panel would also be responsible for responding to the Bar Standard Board (BSB) consultation on the regulation of barristers in chambers, published last month.

The BSB said in the consultation that the Bar Council website could help by providing examples of good practice and supporting guidance, but the regulator wanted to “avoid a state of affairs in which chambers could simply take template policies off the shelf with little or no active consideration or discussion”.

In a paper for last month’s Bar Council general management committee meeting, the panel divided the planned templates into six groups.

The first is made up of grievance and disciplinary policies, together with acceptable behaviour, transitioning at work and whistleblowing.

This is followed by business continuity and cybersecurity, with acceptable use of email and the internet, policies on complaints and conflicts of interest and a pupillage policy.

The last two groups of policies are employment, including performance review, flexible working, maternity and paternity, travel and expenses, and anti-bribery and corruption, including anti-money laundering.

The panel said the Bar Council should aim to produce templates for two groups every year.

The panel proposed that, before the end of the 2024/25 financial year, a new ‘Insider Guide to Chambers Management’ should be published, dealing with the establishment of chambers’ constitutions or articles of association, and committees, in broad terms.

A comprehensive chambers governance principles guide should then be published the following financial year.

Ms Entwistle commented: “Whether chambers need greater regulation is a question that the Bar Council will deal with in its forthcoming response to the BSB consultation.

“Regardless of our position, one of the things on which we are clear is that the Bar Council can and will improve its support for chambers and demonstrate, through effective thought leadership, the ways in which the profession can adopt the right cultural and behavioural standards through its business practices.”

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