One in ten barristers’ chambers in England and Wales has given partial notice on its lease in a bid to relieve financial pressure, according to a survey.
The Gazette of England and Wales says the survey, carried out by the Legal Practice Management Association and the Institute of Barristers’ Clerks, backs up a prediction by the Bar Council of England and Wales of a profession-wide move to flexible working.
‘Very little increase’
Carolyn Entwistle, head of services at the Bar Council and chair of the COVID-19 working group, said chambers had seen “very little increase” in the number of members returning to the office and “some sets may never return to their previous model”.
10% of survey respondents said that their chambers had given partial notice on their lease, with a further 21% indicating that they were considering similar action in a bid to relieve financial pressure.
‘Work smart’ policies
Writing on the Bar Council’s website, Ms Entwistle said: “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 it was clear that many chambers were not planning to return to work now and that, having adapted to paperless working and a virtual working environment, some sets may never return to their previous model.
Physical chambers’ role
Amanda Pinto QC, chair of the Bar Council, has previously said the “immediate advantages” to downsizing need to be weighed against the “very important role a physical chambers plays in all barristers’ careers”.
She said this was especially so for those at the junior end and pupils, where chambers’ help was essential to establishing and developing a practice.