As 2019 draws to a close, Sam Mercer (Head of D&I and CSR) and Rose Malleson (Policy Analyst: Education, D&I and CSR) share their highlights from this year and a preview of what's coming up next year.

This year in education and training policy, we have been focused on the changes to bar training, and how to communicate these changes to prospective barristers. We have updated the careers section of the website and our careers materialsto ensure they are accurate and helpful to those looking to join the profession.

The Bar Standards Board also consulted on a compulsory recruitment timetable and written agreements for pupillage. We gathered the views of pupillage providers, both who recruit through the Pupillage Gateway and who recruit through their own means. This fed into the responsefrom the Bar Council's Education and Training Committee. The results of this consultation will be announced early in 2020.

In October, we ran the Pupillage Fair at King's College London, and it was our biggest event yet with approximately 800 students in attendance and 80 chambers, employed bar organisations, and Bar-affiliated organisations. Thank you to our partners - the Chancery Bar Association, COMBAR, the Criminal Bar Association, the Employment Law Bar Association, the Family Law Bar Association, the Inns of Court, and TECBAR - for supporting this event.

We also ran Bar Placement Week North (in February) and South (in July), with over 70 placements for students aged 16-18(hear from one participant here). This is a key social mobility programme to give students from non-traditional backgrounds an insight into a career at the Bar. Thank you to all those who hosted a student, as well as the Inns of Court College of Advocacy and the Inns of Court.

More generally on access to the profession, #IamtheBar is going from strength to strength with another group of Social Mobility Advocates recruited, complimenting well-established access programmes like the Pupillage Fair, e-mentoring and of course Bar Placement Weeks.

On retention, the focus on women in 2019 has enabled us to secure the resources to establish a major programme of work ( The Next Hundred Years) designed to help women to survive and thrive at the Bar. This multi-faceted programme of work considers and will go on to consider everything from briefing practices to innovative flexible working to mentoring and sponsorship and who gets into the key Directories.  

October 2019 saw the launch of TalktoSpot (the anonymous recording and reporting platform) which compliments new training and other support, now in place for those across the bar facing bullying, harassment and other types of inappropriate behaviour. We're grateful to everyone across the Bar for supporting these interventions and our work on this issue. We're also seeing that the Bar is finding the Assistance Programme launched in late 2018 useful - month on month those accessing the confidential helpline and counselling increases.

In relation to progression, the  Pre-Application Judicial Education Programme was launched last Easter and involves online resources exploring the skills required for effective judgecraft, as well as positive action judge-led workshops targeted at those under-represented in the judiciary. The first tranche of workshops kicked off in September, and we have our first 80+ graduates; the next set of courses start in January 2020, and our focus is on building the resources and fine tuning the workshops over 2020 to make sure they provide the best possible support for those interested in a judicial career.  

Also coming up in 2020...

  • Three major pieces of research: Wellbeing (5 years on); Working Lives (3 years on) and a Snapshot of Life at the Young Bar

  • More work on TalktoSpot, hopefully adapting the anonymised reports to improve training on bullying behaviours (the judiciary) and harassment (across the profession);

  • A celebration of all things Employed Bar, with the Biennial Employed Bar Awards (Summer 2020);

  • The launch of a major new programme of work supporting barristers with practical steps on social responsibility, and in particular the environment;

  • Justice Week (February 2020) profiling our own justice league, and the power of law to protect and defend freedoms, democracy and our planet; and

  • And finally, The Bar Council's Leadership Programme - watch this space.