The Bar Council has established a mentoring scheme to help barristers with children return to work, days after the bar regulator published a report highlighting negative attitudes towards women returning from maternity leave.

The maternity mentoring scheme will give barristers access to advice, guidance and information from a more experienced parent who has been through the process and returned to practice.

The council hopes the scheme will be invaluable to those contemplating a career break, who are on parental leave or who are returning to practice.

Chairman Chantal-Aimée Doerries QC (pictured) said the self-employed nature of much of the profession ‘makes it harder to take time out and return to work after becoming a parent. Parenthood should not mean an end to a flourishing career at the bar’.

More than 70% of respondents to the Bar Standards Board’s report, Women at the Bar, said taking parental leave had an impact on their practice or career progression. Common concerns included negative attitudes to those taking or retuning from parental leave and a lack of communication.  

The council said early feedback from members to its scheme had been positive.

One barrister told the council that women at the bar needed support at a time when they are torn between their career and having a baby. ‘I found the experience of having children cut me off from the bar and returning after having a baby made me anxious and stressed,’ the barrister said.

‘I continued working all hours and travelling around the country from court to court, expressing breast milk in toilets, organising last-minute childcare and worrying about failing as a mother as well as a barrister.’

The scheme will be piloted for a year. Acknowledging that the name ‘connotes otherwise’, the council said maternity mentoring will be available to all parents.