During the course of a barrister’s or chambers professional’s working life, many useful skills will be acquired and connections made with the professional world which are invaluable to charities. Recognising this, Bar in the Community, or ‘BIC’ for short, was set up in 2000 and launched at the Bar Conference of the same year. Aiming to create a system allowing barristers to volunteer their time in the voluntary sector, the scheme is overseen by Advocate, the Bar’s national pro bono charity.

The scheme was originally created to find barristers to serve on the management committees of local voluntary organisations. Since then, it has expanded the breadth of volunteering it seeks to facilitate, and now works to find barristers and chambers professionals to fill a variety of voluntary roles across a range of local and national organisations. The scheme does not advertise for roles which involve providing legal advice or representation, as any such need can be addressed through Advocate’s core work.

Bar in the Community advertises roles from a range of charities working towards many different causes. Some of the most popular organisations currently advertising are the Schools Consent Project, a charity which sends lawyers into schools to teach students the legal definition of consent, and Lawyers Against Poverty, a membership network of lawyers who are passionate about fighting the injustice of poverty. Prospective volunteers can become trustees, governors, mentors, workshop facilitators, resource creators and much more.

The initiative is an invaluable resource for charities looking for the support of volunteers from the legal world. However, it is also an invaluable resource for barristers and chambers professionals themselves. Bar in the Community is a fantastic opportunity for those from the legal world to give back to the community – at a time when the cost-of-living crisis is exacerbating social inequalities and driving many Britons into poverty, volunteers can offer vital support to organisations working towards causes close to their heart.

Crucially, voluntary work also provides barristers and chambers professionals a unique opportunity to advance their careers by building professional networks, developing key skills and gaining important experience. Through many opportunities available on Bar in the Community, volunteering can be a valuable opportunity to develop an understanding of issues faced by marginalised communities. Opportunities are available for every skillset and every level, so these benefits can be found whether volunteers are just starting out in their career, looking to progress to a more senior level, or even when retired.

The benefits can be attested to by Nicholas Griffin KC, who has recently started volunteering though Bar in the Community:

‘Earlier this year I received an email from Holly at BIC with a selection of their current volunteering opportunities. One of them was for a trustee of a peacebuilding charity called Conciliation Resources. It sounded really interesting and I felt drawn to this opportunity to be part of an organisation that had an important impact in communities riven by discord. Their work involves international human rights and working with people in conflict across the world, looking at key themes such as climate change in driving conflict and the essential role played by women and young people in achieving sustainable peace. The time commitment of around 10 days a year seemed doable to me. I applied for the role and, happily, was successful.

‘Our work as barristers – our independence and objectivity, an understanding of governance issues and strategy, and our experience as advocates – is highly transferable to charity trustee and similar roles. This is what makes BIC such an inspired idea. It gives us the opportunity to use the skills we have honed at the Bar in a new, exciting and very worthwhile way.’

To find out more, click here, sign up to our mailing list, or email us at bicenquiries@weareadvocate.org.uk