Maternity mentoring scheme launched by Bar Council

18 July 2016

A new Maternity Mentoring Scheme has been launched by the Bar Council to help barristers with children return to work.

With concerns that the Bar is losing top talent, especially amongst women, because of a lack of provision for barristers who are parents, the Bar Council has added the new initiative to its  existing support programmes for women and parents. 

The Maternity Mentoring Scheme is an opportunity for barristers to have access to advice, guidance and information from a more experienced parent who has been through the whole process, and has returned to a flourishing practice. It is hoped that Maternity Mentoring will prove invaluable to barristers who are either contemplating a career break, are currently on parental leave, or are returning to practice.

Chairman of the Bar, Chantal-Aimée Doerries QC, said: "The self-employed nature of much of our profession makes it harder to take time out and return to work after becoming a parent. Equally, many employed barristers will look to their representative body, the Bar Council, for support. Parenthood should not mean an end to a flourishing career at the Bar. We know many women in particular leave the Bar because of the challenges they face in their careers on becoming a parent. To support those women as well as men who become parents, and to avoid the leak of talent, we have added this new scheme to the Bar Council's growing suite of support initiatives for the Bar. We hope to announce another new initiative aimed at helping chambers develop a family friendly work environment imminently."

Early feedback from the Bar Council's members has been positive. One barrister said: "I wholeheartedly support the Bar's new Maternity Mentoring Scheme.  Women at the Bar need this support at a time when they are torn between their career and having a baby.  They need to know that they are not alone, that they can maintain a career and a family if that is what they want and that the world will not end if a child develops chicken pox on the morning of an important hearing.

"I wish there had been a dedicated Maternity Mentoring Scheme available when I took Maternity Leave.  I found the experience of having children cut me off from the Bar and returning after having a baby made me anxious and stressed.  I didn't know how I would feel or how I would cope and I decided to pretend that nothing had changed.  I continued working all hours and travelling around the country from court to court, expressing breast milk in toilets, organising last minute childcare and worrying about failing as a mother as well as a barrister." 

Although the name connotes otherwise, Maternity Mentoring will be available to all parents/carers at the Bar, irrespective of gender. The Bar Council will pilot the scheme for a year. 

Maternity Mentoring is based on 'spot mentoring': a mentor will share her (or his) experience in a particular matter in order to assist the mentee in dealing with a one-off or specific situation. It is the latest scheme to be added to the  Bar Mentoring Service, which provides mentoring for barristers at different points in their careers.    

For further information about Maternity Mentoring, to apply to become a mentor or mentee, please visit the Maternity Mentoring page on the Bar Council website or contact the Bar Mentoring Service via email on Mentoring@BarCouncil.org.uk 

Outside the Bar Council, there are a number of available mentoring schemes available for barristers considering or currently on parental leave. These include:

Chancery Bar Association Mentoring Scheme 

Western Circuit Women's Forum

Doughty Street Chambers

                                                                      ENDS

Notes to Editors 

  1. Further information on Bar Council equality initiatives is available  here. 

  1. Further information is available from the Bar Council Press Office on 020 7222 2525 and Press@BarCouncil.org.uk.

  2. The Bar Council represents barristers in England and Wales. It promotes: 

  • The Bar's high quality specialist advocacy and advisory services

  • Fair access to justice for all

  • The highest standards of ethics, equality and diversity across the profession, and

  • The development of business opportunities for barristers at home and abroad.

The General Council of the Bar is the Approved Regulator of the Bar of England and Wales. It discharges its regulatory functions through the independent Bar Standards Board