Chambers giving notice on leases in wake of Covid

Entwistle: Change is coming to chambers

Barristers may be keen to get back to work but they are not going back to chambers, and nearly a third of sets have given or are considering giving partial notice on their leases, according to new research.

Some sets may never return to their previous model, said Carolyn Entwistle, head of services at the Bar Council and chair of the Covid-19 working group run by the Bar Council, Legal Practice Management Association and Institute of Barristers’ Clerks.

A recent survey conducted by the latter two found that chambers have seen very little increase in the number of members returning to the office.

However, there is likely to be an increase in attendance and it said many were planning for the staged return of up to 50% of their staff, on a rota system, between now and the end of September.

Writing on the Bar Council website, Ms Entwistle said: “It comes as no surprise that 10% of respondents to the survey said that their chambers had given partial notice on its lease, with a further 21% indicating that they are considering taking similar action in a bid to relieve financial pressure.

“A reduction in the space available to chambers’ members and staff heralds the beginnings of change, with those same sets presumably planning to maximise on the reductions to their square footage and introduce ‘work smart’ policies which offer greater opportunity for flexible working.”

She said that, having adapted to paperless working and a virtual working environment, “some sets may never return to their previous model. What this will look like in reality remains to be seen but, for a multitude of reasons, it is a change that is arguably overdue and one that the Bar Council plans to support wholeheartedly”.

In May, the Covid-19 working group released guidance on managing the return to chambers, and it has now produced a template risk assessment.

The most recent survey by the Bar Council showed that fee income has reduced by an average of 59% across the profession (69% for publicly funded barristers), and three-quarters 74% were already suffering or expected to suffer financial hardship.

The number of hours worked by self-employed barristers has halved: whereas before the pandemic 59% of barristers were working over 50 hours per week and 1% fewer than 18 hours, now 41% are working less than 18 hours a week and only 12% are working over 50 hours per week.

Leave a Comment

By clicking Submit you consent to Legal Futures storing your personal data and confirm you have read our Privacy Policy and section 5 of our Terms & Conditions which deals with user-generated content. All comments will be moderated before posting.

Required fields are marked *
Email address will not be published.

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.


How can law firms adapt to post-pandemic working?

As law firms emerge from the pandemic, they face the challenges of coping with its aftermath while settling on new ways of working in the long-term.

The hot graphic design trends in the legal sector

As we recover from an unprecedented 19 months within our sector, marketing teams and clerks’ rooms are keener than ever to try out something new in the promotion of their businesses.

What challenges will the Bar face in the next five years?

As we look towards the end of 2021 and at how the Bar has adapted to the harsh realities of the pandemic, the question beckons as to what the future holds.

Loading animation