Barristers’ chambers are considering downsizing their offices in the wake of coronavirus to cut costs and encourage more remote working. However, the Bar Council has stressed the importance of physical space for career support and wellbeing.
The Gazette understands that at least two London sets are in discussions about scaling back their premises. Individual offices are expected to be replaced by communal hot desks and barristers will be encouraged to work from home. More space may also be allocated for client meetings.
Amanda Pinto QC, chair of the Bar Council, said there may be ‘immediate advantages’ to downsizing, such as lower costs and greater flexibility for barristers with caring responsibilities.
‘However, those advantages will need to be balanced against the very important role a physical chambers plays in all barristers’ careers: chambers provides training, support and career development, all of which are harder to foster at a distance,’ she said.
‘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.’
The pandemic has placed severe pressure on some barristers’ sets and the Bar Council has urged the Treasury to extend business rates exemption relief to cover chambers. Counsel have also been asked to lobby their local MP’s for greater financial support.