In its latest move to align the chambers model with 21st century employment practices, the Bar Council has revealed that it is making external human resources support available for barristers.
Veale Wasbrough Vizards has been retained to help chambers and barristers manage their concerns.
The future of the chambers model of self-employment has been called into question in recent years with the arrival of new bar ‘entitles’ and alternative business structures. However, according to the Bar Standards Board, while ‘new and innovative’ business models are available, most barristers prefer the status quo.
HR matters in chambers are traditionally dealt with by barristers’ clerks. However, Isabel DiVanna, commercial director at the Bar Council, said chambers often report that they need additional insight on HR matters as ‘it’s easy to get things wrong – and costly when this happens’.
Caitlin Anniss, HR consultant at Veale Wasbrough Vizards, told the Gazette that the bar identified HR as an area where extra support was needed and that dealing with staffing issues could be problematic. However, she added the partnership should not be taken as a sign that the traditional chambers model was under threat.
Anniss said: ‘Although the barristers are self-employed there are also many employed people in chambers – including clerks and support staff. Our service will deal with the types of employment cases that usually arise.’
The firm will carry out investigations, offer support for disciplinary and grievance panels, perform HR audits, prepare contracts and employment manuals, and provide training on other HR topics.
The firm was also appointed, alongside Thrings, to a debt recovery panel set up to help barristers recover money they are owed by ‘professional clients’ – mainly solicitors.