“Byrom Street offers ‘very experienced counsel who are able to advise in relation to all personal injury and clinical negligence matters.’"

 

RACE DIVERSITY EQUALITY INCLUSION ACTION PLAN

BYROM STREET CHAMBERS (BSC)

FEBRUARY 2023 

 

PREAMBLE

1.            Byrom Street Chambers is a small, specialised set of practitioners of 17 barristers, including 12 KCs. Our business model promotes specialism in our practice area. All members are in excess of 15 years call. The majority of members hold or have held judicial roles.

 

2.            We benefit from a low turnover of members and staff. We currently have a team of support staff within Chambers of 7 people.

 

3.            From this position, BSC is committed to promoting race equality, diversity and inclusivity within our organisation and within our workplace.

 

4.            We recognise the particular responsibility to take proactive action to recognise, challenge and address existing and systemic unfairness at the Bar and in the legal system within which we work.

 

5.            As to race and ethnicity, our most recent diversity data (collected 2021 and due to be repeated 2024) demonstrates 12% (2 out of 17) of barristers in BSC identify as from a Black / African / Caribbean / Black British or other ethnic group.

 

6.            The diversity data indicates 100% of clerking / support staff identify as from a White British / English / Welsh / Northern Irish / Scottish ethnic group. This needs some context: the diversity data does not identify who may be from a disadvantaged socioeconomic background, nor does it reflect BSC’s historical record in promoting a woman to the role of Senior Clerk and recruiting junior clerks from a disadvantaged, and Irish background.

 

7.            In terms of other indicators of diversity, the age range of barristers reflects our business model as specialist senior barristers; gender diversity shows some imbalance at silk level; a majority of silks, and all juniors, were part of the first generation of their family to attend university; a majority of silks, and all juniors, went to UK State schools.

 

8.            The size of BSC engenders a close-knit working community. This is an advantage in fostering a collegiate, open, transparent and positive environment where all are welcome and all are able to thrive regardless of any particular protected characteristic.

 

9.            BSC needs to guard against complacency: BSC is cognisant of the fact that its small size and concomitantly close-knit environment may mean that members and support staff are reluctant to raise issues of concern.

 

10.        The diversity data identifies that there are individual(s) who prefer not to disclose information in all of the areas in which information is sought, even though such information-gathering is anonymous. This may reflect many things, but it could reflect a reluctance to disclose for fear of being identified, for fear of prejudice and for fear of being treated less favourably by reason of disclosure or inadvertent identification.

 

11.        This document should be read to include reference to race and under-represented groups such as women, people from minority ethnic backgrounds, the LGBTQ+ community, people with physical disabilities and people who are neurodiverse or with other hidden disabilities.

 

12.        That context having been provided, in view of our most recently obtained diversity data, this Plan seeks to provide genuine support for opportunities and encouragement of access from Black and minority ethnic groups and from other underrepresented groups to a career at the Bar or a career in the Bar’s support services (in particular, clerking, administration, costs / fees clerking etc).

 

13.        This Race & Equality, Diversity and Inclusivity Action Plan is intended to be a living document, the terms and targets of which will be reviewed regularly and at least annually for progress and improvement and amendment as necessary.

 

Next reviews:

·         For interim progress: 31 July 2023.

·         For final outcomes and effectiveness: November 2023.

 

14.        We bear in mind that improving equality for underrepresented groups is likely to improve racial equality, as is improving racial equality likely to have wider benefits. The issues of socioeconomic status, although not currently recognised as a protected characteristic, intersect with race, religion and belief and disability.

 

15.        Our action plan and targets follow a review of existing activities with an aim to build on what we already do, to identify improvement and effectiveness. It also includes new initiatives targeted specifically to areas identified of a lack of diversity within our organisation, specifically race and ethnicity.

 

16.        We focus on four areas for improvement identified by the Bar Council and the terminology adopted is in accordance with Bar Council Guidance: Culture; Access; Retention and Progression.

 

CULTURE

17.        What we mean by culture in this context is an expression of the following values:

 

·         embracing and promoting greater racial and ethnic diversity at BSC regardless of position or role by way of recruitment, promotion and monitoring support.

·         being welcoming of diversity regardless of position or role; historically, can point to a good track record and by focussing on identifying areas in which we are currently less diverse, we can effect change and make BSC more supportive and inclusive of people of different race and ethnicity, disadvantaged and underrepresented groups than is already the case.

·         seeking to promote and maintain transparency and inclusivity, and to challenge non-inclusive behaviour in a constructive and educative manner.

·         maintaining a zero-tolerance policy towards discriminatory behaviour of any kind; we have an effective complaints system in respect of such behaviour.

 

18.        We aim to promote our values by participation and example.

 

19.         ACTION / TARGET 1:

·         Action: Identify relevant groups on Circuit or more widely and add links to the appropriate page on our website.

·         Target: To provide such information by first review.

 

20.        ACTION / TARGET 2:

·         Action: All staff and members will have training on racism / equality, diversity and inclusivity.

·         Target: Training to be undertaken as soon as practicable and by first review.

 

21.        ACTION / TARGET 3:

·         Action:

o   To include relevant wording in BSC Statements, reinforced by appropriate policies

o   Statement and policies to be reviewed.

o   To support Inn initiatives in relation to diversity and culture.

o   To support / sponsor Charity events relating to disability.

 

·         Target:

o   Review of statements and policies by next review of this REDI Plan.

o   Support for Gray’s Inn legal / cultural event.

o   Support / sponsor at least one Charity event relating to disability or the promotion of equality per year.

 

22.        ACTION / TARGET 4:

·         Action:

o   Winston Hunter KC is chair of the Northern Circuit Race Working Group and a member of the Bar Council Race Working Group.

o   MoC to be requested by email to identify whether they want to take on a "championing” role at the Bar in relation to Race, Equality, Diversity and Inclusivity and are prepared to take on such a role.

 

·         Target:

o   Winston Hunter KC to continue in post in 2022 – 2023.

o   BSC to support at least one other MoC in such a “championing” / leadership role in the next 5 years.

 

ACCESS TO THE PROFESSION AND SUPPORT ROLES

23.        Cognisant of our small size, specialist practice area, seniority of members and high retention rate for members and support staff, our action plan and targets focus on:

 

·         Access and recruitment to the profession as a whole and its support staff (clerking, administration, human resources, etc).

·         Access and recruitment to BSC regardless of position or role.

·         Access to the judiciary.

 

24.        Target setting and evaluation:We currently indicate our encouragement of applications from people from different minority ethnic backgrounds and under-represented groups via our published statements and recruitment policies.

 

25.        Chambers has historically recruited support staff from a minority ethnic background by providing work experience via the Apprentice Academy. Given the success of this approach in the past, this will be repeated. We will expand our reach to include 10000BlackInterns.

 

26.        Given our low turnover of members and staff, we will create opportunities for change and set long-term targets over the next 5 years.

 

27.        ACTION / TARGET 5:

·         Action:

o   We will review statements and policies to ensure robust compliance.

o   We will include a statement of encouragement in all advertisements for support staff.

o   For support staff: we will participate in internship programmes such as the Apprentice Academy and 10000BlackInterns to provide one internship a year.

o   For barristers: we will provide one 6–week internship with 10000BlackInterns, partnering with Lincoln House Chambers and / or a firm of solicitors and / or opportunity for marshalling to provide a relevant breadth of experience for the intern.

 

·         Target:

o   For support staff: to provide one internship per year specifically into the team of support staff either from the Apprenticeship Academy or 10000BlackInterns.

o   For barristers: to provide one 6-week paid internship through 10000BlackInterns commencing in the 2023 / 2024 round.

o   To increase the diversity of support staff by 15% (one person) over the next 5 years, assuming a recruitment opportunity arises.

o   To increase the diversity of barristers over the next 5 years.

 

28.        Mentoring and collaboration:BSC has historically implemented a formal mentoring system. It was taken up by one person only, albeit that person now successfully practices in PI / clinical negligence.

 

29.        Collaboration with and support for Northern Circuit Initiatives is likely to have a wider reach but this assumption will remain under review.

 

30.        ACTION / TARGET 6:

·         Action:

o   We will identify MoC willing to participate in Circuit mentoring / network initiatives.

o   We will indicate our support for Circuit initiatives via the Circuit ESDM officer and administration.

o   We will indicate our willingness to participate in those initiatives.

o   If no relevant initiatives are being undertaken by the Northern Circuit in 2023, we will consider hosting a relevant initiative in 2024.

 

·         Target:

o   Identify and indicate support for Circuit initiatives by review date.

o   Participation by at least 20% of Members of Chambers (4 people or more) in Circuit initiatives relating to mentoring / networking in 2022 – 2023.

 

31.        Targeted financial support:BSC recognises the financially advantageous position of being a successful set of Chambers undertaking civil work. Targeted financial support via the Northern Circuit can support aspiring barristers.

 

32.        In the event that a relevant initiative can be identified, financial support can be expanded to initiatives for the development of support staff to the Bar.

 

33.        ACTION / TARGET 7:

·         Action:

o   We will devote funds to Northern Circuit Grants and Scholarships.

o   We will identify and devote funds to initiatives directed towards support staff entering the legal profession.

 

·         Target:

o   BSC will spend up to £50,000 on such initiatives.

 

34.        Literature and messaging: Chambers has published an Anti-Racist Statement and an Equality, Diversity and Inclusivity Statement, each of which includes a statement of commitment.

 

35.        Chambers’ documentation contains statements of encouragement regarding applications from people from a minority ethnic background and under-represented groups.

 

36.        ACTION / TARGET 8:

·         Action:

o   Criteria for recruitment of Established Practitioners to be reviewed for statement of authentic commitment.

o   Criteria for recruitment of support staff to be reviewed for statement of authentic commitment.

o   To ensure that recruitment policies are visible on our website.

 

·         Target:

o   For relevant publications to reflect an authentic commitment to race, equality, diversity and inclusion and to be visible on our website.

 

37.        Improved Recruitment processes:BSC recognises that 11% of its barristers identify as being from a minority ethnic group, and 100% of support staff identify as being from a White British / English / Welsh / Northern Irish / Scottish ethnic group.

 

38.        During the most recent recruitment of support staff (April 2021), all applications received were from White British / English / Welsh / Northern Irish / Scottish ethnic groups.

 

39.        The problem is in finding ways to encourage applications in the first place. BSC does not take pupils. To address the culture within the workforce of BSC and the Northwest more generally, and to encourage applications from minority ethnic and under-represented groups, we are committed to undertaking under ACCESS actions set out above.

 

40.        BSC has historically recruited staff from a minority ethnic background into the clerking team by providing work experience via contact with the Apprentice Academy. This successful approach should be repeated.

 

41.        This approach can be repeated with new and different initiatives, in particular, 10000BlackInterns. The existence of other initiatives needs to be actively investigated.

 

42.        ACTION / TARGET 9:

·         Action:

o   Ensure all open advertisements for applicants / staff include statement of encouragement and welcome of applications from minority ethnic and under-represented groups.

o   Implement audit process: review who applies and who gets interviewed in response to advertisements.

o   Identify other initiatives.

 

·         Target:

o   To be implemented in advance of next recruitment opportunity.

 

43.        As BSC does not take pupils, it is not relevant to research reasons why candidates from under-represented groups have not been shortlisted / selected for pupillage. However, BSC will ensure that its applications for mini-pupillages, work experience and internships are reviewed, albeit as yet none have been unsuccessful, all have been offered a place.

 

44.        Career development outreach:Currently BSC does not conduct outreach to schools and colleges. Instead, BSC supports the Social Mobility Foundation and Bar Placement Scheme and provides mini-pupillages.

 

45.        BSC has undertaken in-Chambers events to enable young people to meet the local judiciary and to facilitate marshalling with a judge.

 

46.        In the light of the Racial Bias and the Bench Report by Manchester University and given its particular make-up of senior barristers who hold judicial roles, we consider we should provide a bespoke initiative, targeting access to the judiciary which other Chambers may be less able to provide.

 

47.        ACTION / TARGET 10:

·         Action:

o   To continue participation in the Bar Placement Scheme and Social Mobility Foundation offering places for people from underrepresented groups / disadvantaged backgrounds to mini-pupillages; applications not through SMF are made available with a robust applications process in place.

o   To implement an audit of places offered by reference to diversity measures.

o   To hold an in-Chambers event directed towards sharing the experience of people within Chambers of applying for and undertaking judicial roles in conjunction with the local judiciary.

 

·         Target:

o   To provide a minimum of (not limited) to 5 mini-pupillages a year through the Bar Placement Scheme or Social Mobility Foundation or in accordance with our applications criteria.

o   To hold one in-Chambers “Access the Judiciary” event in 2023.

 

RETENTION OF MEMBERS AND SUPPORT STAFF

48.        Given our small number and low turnover of members and support staff, retention within BSC is not identified as an area of concern. In fact, the lack of movement away from BSC both by barristers and support staff poses a problem in itself, as opportunities for recruitment are few and far between.

 

49.        However, our focus on access and recruitment is important as it will have wider benefits for the profession as well as provide opportunities for recruitment when they occur.

 

50.        BSC supports Circuit Initiatives on retention by providing training on Stress and Resilience.

 

51.        BSC does not currently undertake any formal analysis of income or work distribution within BSC by reference to race or other protected characteristic such as gender or disability.

 

52.        To that extent, BSC is ignorant of the existence of any such inequality, either within the distribution of work within BSC or in the receipt of instructions from our clients.

 

53.        The fact that MoC are senior and largely independent in the management of their practices probably means that the risk of such inequality is low, but it cannot be excluded.

 

54.        As to which, although no action is recommended at this point in time, the need for action and targets will be kept under review.

 

55.        Practice management and development.BSC supports ongoing CPD and training for its barristers and support staff which facilitates retention, practice management and development.

 

56.        All members are required to maintain their own CPD requirement and Chambers supports them in the administration of this.

 

57.        All members have a Practice Management review with the Senior Clerk upon request.

 

58.        Staff members are trained in their clerking role by senior staff. Retention of staff is maintained and facilitated by development of skills and abilities within their role.

 

59.        ACTION / TARGET 11:

·         Action:

o   Training for Staff and Members on Race and Equality, Diversity and Inclusion.

o   Supportive training for all staff in the development of their skills and abilities in their clerking / administration roles.

 

·         Target:

o   Training on Race and Equality, Diversity and Inclusion to be completed by interim review date.

o   Supportive training for development of staff confidence and ancillary skills to be identified.

 

60.        Support for retention in the wider profession / nurturing of new practitionersBSC already provides training to the Northern Circuit pupils as part of the Practice Development and Resilience 2-day compulsory training.

 

61.        It includes training on Race issues and access to resources targeted to those barristers from a black and minority ethnic background. BSC supports the provision of this training by assisting with any admin needs.

 

62.        ACTION / TARGET 12:

·         Action:

o   Support for ongoing training initiatives by BSC Development in the provision of Stress and Resilience training to pupils on Northern Circuit.

 

·         Target:

o   To provide training session as part of the “Practice Management and Resilience” two-day course (January 2023).

 

PROGRESSION OF MEMBERS AND SUPPORT STAFF

63.        In terms of target setting and evaluation of career progression of barristers, this is not identified as a current priority for BSC, but it is under review.

 

64.        It is recognised that the size of BSC does not obviate BSC’s responsibility for ensuring fairness of opportunity within Chambers and in the facilitation of the progression of careers at the Bar, into Silk and into the judiciary.

 

65.        BSC should guard against complacency; even with the best of intentions, unfairness can arise in such areas as the allocation of work, fee income and the presentation of opportunities.

 

66.        BSC should be cognisant of the fact that its small size and concomitantly close-knit environment many mean that members and support staff are reluctant to raise issues of concern or to complain.

 

67.        It is therefore necessary to provide equality of opportunity in the allocation of work. Currently, this is provided by all members having the opportunity to discuss their careers with the Senior Clerk.

 

68.        It is necessary to provide equality in the presentation of opportunities for preferment within the profession. Currently, BSC does this by calling for volunteers from MoC as a whole for initiatives and roles which will further applications for Silk or the judiciary and will continue to do so.

 

69.        Career development within the support staff team is kept under review by the Senior Clerk. Opportunities for career development, continuing training, and skill-development should be provided by BSC for its staff.

 

70.        ACTION / TARGET 13:

·         Action:

o   Opportunities for participation in opportunities that form the basis for applications for preferment / progression to be offered to all MoC, giving all an opportunity to volunteer.

 

·         Target:

o   As opportunities become available, all MoC to be asked to volunteer for a role that would support an application for preferment / progression.

 

71.        ACTION / TARGET 14:

·         Action:

o   Identification of career development, continuing training and skills development training opportunities for staff with funding provided by BSC.

 

·         Target:

o   Staff to be afforded the opportunity at least once per year of attending continuing training.

 

 

 

RACE DIVERSITY EQUALITY INCLUSION GROUP

BYROM STREET CHAMBERS

2023

 

 

 

 

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