Macho culture at barristers’ chambers must change, says new report

updated on 07 June 2019

The “macho culture” at chambers and the overall extent of gender inequality at the Bar “invites a level of wonder”, according to a new report by a specialist discrimination law firm.

The report was co-authored by former barrister Suzanne McKie QC and senior paralegal Ruth Whittaker at Farore Law, a firm specialising in cases involving discrimination, sexual harassment, equal pay and disability discrimination arising from mental illness. It presents a gloomy picture of progress at the Bar, concluding that at the current rate “it will take 30 plus years for the percentage of female practising barristers to rise to 44%... This is because fewer women tend to move from call to practice and have a higher attrition rate once in practice (with the proportion of women falling as seniority increases).”

As Legal Futures reports, the paper recommends measures such as maternity leave loans and changes to make court timetables more accommodating. But the report also takes aim at the “macho culture that can pervade chambers” which demands barristers generate high fees, encourages “presenteeism” and is intolerant of “the personal setbacks that can beset some of even the best practitioners at any time in their lives.”

The report notes that for gender equality among practising barristers to be achieved, the number of women being called to the Bar compared to men would need to be 60/40.