The Legal Practice Management Association (LPMA) and the Institute of Barristers’ Clerks (IBC) have today published the results of a workplace culture survey, which employees of barristers’ chambers were invited to participate in over the summer. This was the first Bar wide survey targeted towards employees and the first collaborative project between the LPMA and IBC.

Both the LPMA and IBC exist to provide supportive networks for their members, and they are working together closely to ensure that the Bar provides a workplace environment that is professional, provides good career development, and gives priority to the wellbeing of employees as well as the barristers.

The Bar Council conducts regular Working Lives surveys for barristers, but these surveys do not cover employees and contractors working in chambers. The LPMA and IBC therefore felt it was appropriate to commission a survey for the professionals who support barristers in Chambers. The survey was designed with the aim of broadly aligning with the Working Lives Survey to allow for a level of consistency with the questions that are asked of barristers. The project, undertaken with the support of the Bar Council, was an exercise to capture the experiences of employees across the Bar in their workplace with the aim of using the data to provide valuable benchmarks moving forwards.

The publication of this report coincides with the Bar Council’s recently published report on ‘Bullying, harassment and discrimination at the Bar, 2023’, which shows increasing numbers of barristers have had their professional lives made more difficult because of inappropriate and unacceptable behaviour experienced in the course of their work at the Bar.

Jemma Tagg and Clare Bello of the LPMA said: “Although the bullying, harassment and discrimination figures align closely with national average data across all sectors, we have conducted this exercise because we feel strongly that there are improvements that can be made to the working lives of our colleagues and that nobody should be experiencing these behaviours in their workplace. The Bar can be both a rewarding and a challenging place to work, but creating a more inclusive environment through cultural change will also help us to improve diversity at the Bar, both in terms of barristers and in terms of the professionals who support them.”

Lucy Burrows and Geoff Carr of the IBC said: “It is clear to us through our recent survey, as well as that conducted by the Bar Council, that both employees and barristers face behaviours that have no place in the modern business environment. This is particularly poignant in an industry that is so inextricably linked with the rights of individuals and the rule of law. The IBC is committed to meeting the challenges identified in the results of the two surveys, and to ensure that the Bar provides an environment for all that is professional, provides good career development opportunities, and gives priority to the wellbeing of employees as well as the barristers we support. Direct and urgent action is needed to address the issues faced by those working in our industry, and our Education Committee will focus us on this straightaway, and separately we welcome the Bar Council’s suggestion of commission to start that process as soon as possible.”

The organisations are committed to educating and supporting their members and will also work closely with the Bar Council in developing recommendations for sector-wide improvements including participating in a review being commissioned by the Bar Council to address inappropriate and abusive behaviour.