One in 10 chambers has given partial notice on its lease in a bid to relieve financial pressure, according to a survey which backs up the Bar Council's prediction of a profession-wide move to flexible working.

Carolyn Entwistle, head of services at the Bar Council and chair of the Covid-19 working group, said chambers have seen ‘very little increase’ in the number of members returning to the office and ‘some sets may never return to their previous model’.

In a survey conducted by the Legal Practice Management Association and the Institute of Barristers’ Clerks, 10% of respondents said that their chambers had given partial notice on its lease, with a further 21% indicating that they are considering taking similar action in a bid to relieve financial pressure.

Writing on the Bar Council’s website, Entwistle said: 'A reduction in the space available to chambers’ members and staff heralds the beginnings of change, with those same sets presumably planning to maximise on the reductions to their square footage and introduce "work smart" policies which offer greater opportunity for flexible working.'

She added: ‘It’s clear that many chambers are not planning to return to work now and that, having adapted to paperless working and a virtual working environment, some sets may never return to their previous model. What this will look like in reality remains to be seen but, for a multitude of reasons, it is a change that is arguably overdue and one that the Bar Council plans to support wholeheartedly.’

However, Amanda Pinto QC, chair of the Bar Council, has previously said the ‘immediate advantages’ to downsizing need to be weighed against the ‘very important role a physical chambers plays in all barristers’ careers’.

‘This is especially so for those at the junior end and pupils, where chambers’ help is essential to establishing and developing a practice. Chambers is a great support for barristers not just by sharing professional expertise and friendship, but with wellbeing and mental health issues too. None of these advantages should be compromised in any moves towards alternative ways of working,’ Pinto said.