The Bar Council’s Young Barristers’ Committee (YBC) represents self-employed and employed barristers in their first seven years of practice. This is more than 3,500 barristers in England and Wales.

2021 has been another challenging year for the Young Bar. For many practitioners, this has provided an opportunity to reflect on the realities of practice and reset their approach, from developing a paperless practice to reassessing long-term goals.

At the time of writing, a report on life at the Young Bar is in its final draft. The research has provided valuable insights into the needs of junior practitioners and the challenges facing them. There is evidence of progress, particularly with respect to diversity, but the profession must work to protect that progress, and to ensure all new practitioners survive and thrive.

A survey of pupil barristers conducted during the pandemic noted that although pupils felt supported by their training providers and supervisors, there was a lack of opportunity to meet fellow pupils. This issue was also identified in the Bar Council’s Barristers’ Working Lives survey in Spring 2021 and in focus groups with young barristers during the summer.

While digital platforms continue to provide immeasurable assistance for many barristers, particularly for those for whom travel is difficult or balancing their work with other commitments, there have also been negative consequences for the Young Bar. In a profession in which a large number of people work in a solitary manner, reduced social interaction and the resulting lack of in-person support has a wide-ranging impact. Opportunities to speak to colleagues in robing rooms and workplaces are limited and it is the most junior in the profession, particularly those newly ‘on their feet’, who are most affected by this, as peer learning and sharing experiences are important aspects of pupillage and early years of practice. Remote working has also reduced opportunities to meet clients in person.

Recognition must be given to Specialist Bar Associations and the Circuits, alongside the Bar Council, for their ongoing work in supporting young practitioners. Recently, the Family Law Bar Association established an invaluable buddy scheme for pupils seeking a mentor. Creative solutions such as these are key to ensuring the Bar maintains its collegiate approach and should be commended.

The wellbeing of young barristers remains a priority for the YBC. We have been working with Wellness in Law to develop an online resource tailored to the needs of the Young Bar. The new platform will be launched shortly, and we encourage all young practitioners and pupils to access it, and to take every opportunity to develop their networks for both their own wellbeing and the strength of the Bar as a whole.

The Young Bar is the most diverse sector of our profession. The Bar Council’s recent research into our experiences suggests that incidents of bullying and harassment are too common. We all have a responsibility to challenge such incidents and to work with those in a position to effect change. Support is available to challenge this behaviour. For example, Talk to Spot, the Bar Council’s anonymous reporting platform. These reports are used to inform ongoing work to tackle bullying, harassment and discrimination.

All young barristers should read the recently launched Race at the Bar report and engage with its key findings and recommendations. All members of the profession need to play an active role in tackling race discrimination and inequality.

Working as a junior barrister is demanding, but it is also rewarding. Young barristers are the future of the profession. The Young Bar is committed to promoting wellbeing, safeguarding equal opportunities, and seeking proper remuneration and working conditions, particularly for those in publicly funded practice. The rest of the profession needs to support us by continuing to listen to our concerns and working to improve the profession for all. 

Young practitioners are encouraged to read The Inside Guide to Life at the Bar for help in navigating the profession as a junior practitioner. We welcome your feedback on the guide and you can contact us via email: