Equality and Diversity
The Bar Council works to ensure the profession is “of all, and for all”. Combar supports that work to ensure that the Commercial Bar is similarly “of all, and for all”. The E&D sub-committee was set up in 2005 to promote equality and diversity and to ensure that Combar members are kept up to date with the latest regulatory requirements.
The E&D sub-Committee is made up of barristers (self-employed and employed) from a range of Combar chambers and individuals. Each member has a portfolio they lead work on. They work closely with Combar’s Executive who also undertake projects aimed at equality and diversity.
In addition to keeping up to date with the latest regulatory requirements, the sub-committee focuses on tackling barriers to access, retention and progression within the profession. In carrying out that work they work with the Bar Council, other Specialist Bar Associations (“SBAs”), FreeBar and other legal organisations.
In relation to access, Combar’s aim is to achieve an ever more diverse range of individuals entering the profession. For this to happen the sub-committee seeks to encourage a wider range of individuals to apply to commercial sets for pupillage. Projects include:
- Combar has joined with the University of Oxford to offer two scholarships for study on the BCL. The Scholarships will be available to graduate students ordinarily resident in the United Kingdom and declaring Black or Mixed Black ethnicity, who are commencing the Bachelor of Civil Law course at the University of Oxford and who indicate a serious interest in commencing a career at the commercial bar following completion of their studies. The scholarships will be awarded on the basis of financial need.
- Combar offers a mentoring scheme to support and encourage individuals from groups which are underrepresented at the Bar of England and Wales (and in particular the Commercial Bar) to pursue careers as barristers. Applications are assessed by reference to need for mentoring and potential to pursue a career at the Bar. Successful applicants are paired practitioners from Combar member sets for a series of one-to-one mentoring sessions. This year’s application window will open at the end of May 2022 when full details of the scheme will be published here.
- Combar provides 20 scholarships of £500 each and work experience at Combar sets to students each year. The scholarships are administered through two separate existing schemes run by Inner Temple and Middle Temple and involve at least a week sitting with barristers at a commercial set of chambers and a continuing relationship with a barrister mentor.
- Combar attends a number of law fairs across the country, in partnership with the Bar Council, the four Inns of Court and other SBAs. These organisations pool resources to ensure that barristers are present at a wide range of law fairs to speak to students. Each year law fairs are chosen to ensure good coverage of universities in all circuits within England & Wales and those where around 10% or more of the students are from low participation neighbourhoods (using HESA data).
- In addition, many Combar sets of chambers participate in the Bar Council’s Bar Placement Scheme (which offers work experience and mentoring to year 12 students), Bridging the Bar (a student-led initiative through which candidates from underrepresented groups are able to apply for mini-pupillages), the 10,000 Black Interns Programme (which offers internships to Black applicants), Pathways to Law (which offers secondary students from non-traditional backgrounds an opportunity to explore options available within the legal services profession), and the Social Mobility Foundation (which helps students from non-traditional backgrounds to focus on thinking about careers and university choices whilst at school).
In relation to retention and progression, Combar’s aim is to help all Combar barristers to have a fulfilling and rewarding career irrespective of age, disability, gender reassignment, marriage and civil partnership, pregnancy and maternity, race, religion or belief, sex and sexual orientation. Projects include:
- COMBAR offers a mentoring scheme for all of its membership. The scheme provides applicants with a mentor with relevant experience, to provide support and assistance on a confidential basis and outside the framework of existing chambers relationships. For further details see The Combar Mentoring Scheme.
- In 2020, COMBAR, ChBA and TECBAR commissioned a working group to explore the representation and experience of “Black” (i.e. of African, Caribbean or mixed African/Caribbean heritage) barristers at the Commercial Bar. The report of the working group is expected to be published in 2022.
- Each year Combar, together with TECBAR and ChBa, host an event “The Silk Application and Life as a Junior Silk – a panel discussion”.
- Working, together with TECBAR & ChBa, with the Bar Council’s Equality & Diversity Consultant on a project looking at women’s retention and career progression.
- Combar supports Freebar, a network aiming to foster inclusion and support for LGBT+ people working as and with barristers.
- Combar, often acting in collaboration with TECBAR and ChBA, collaborates on various initiatives and outreach schemes with special interest groups across the Bar and beyond .
The members of the Combar Equality and Diversity Committee are as follows:
Niamh Cleary (Fountain Court Chambers) and Sid Dhar KC (Essex Court Chambers) –Joint Chairs
Lucy Colter (4-New Square) – Liaison with the Social Mobility Mentoring Committee
Richard Fisher KC (South Square) – 25th Anniversary Scholarship Scheme
Kira King (XXIV Old Buildings) – Liaison with Junior Combar
James MacDonald KC (One Essex Court) – Liaison with Combar Executive Committee
Conall Patton KC (One Essex Court) – Liaison with FreeBar
Georgina Peters (South Square) – Income Disparity
Celia Rooney (Blackstone Chambers) – Law fairs
James McWilliams (3 Verulam Buildings) – Disability