“…the set is commended for having ‘done a huge amount in recent years to promote and recruit women, making them one of the most gender-diverse sets at the commercial bar’.”
The Legal 500
Fountain Court Chambers believes in and promotes equal and fair treatment for all.
We are committed to creating an inclusive culture and addressing any inequality in all aspects of our business. We strive to recruit and retain talented individuals from all walks of life and to adopt best practice and to reduce the risk of unconscious bias. We regard it as essential to our standing as a leading commercial set of chambers that we should seek to excel in this regard, as in the rest of our business.
We recognise that the obligation not to discriminate against clients, members, pupils, mini-pupils or staff on grounds of gender, gender re-assignment, pregnancy and maternity, race (including colour, nationality and ethnic or national origins), sexual orientation, age, disability, marriage and civil partnership or religion or belief is a fundamental commitment that is central to how we operate.
We go further than the obligations imposed on us by the Bar Code of Conduct and work to identify and address structural issues which lead to groups being underrepresented within Fountain Court Chambers or at the commercial Bar as a whole.
For more information on any of our equality and diversity initiatives, please see below. You can also find details of our practices within our Equality and Diversity Handbook (more information can be found under “Our Policies” below).
While Fountain Court is strongly committed to achieving equality in all aspects of its business, we recognise that there are challenges, with under representation of certain groups in chambers and at the commercial Bar in general.
We are proud to have joined with nine other sets of chambers to create a mentoring scheme to support and encourage individuals from all underrepresented groups to pursue a career as a barrister.
Those underrepresented groups include women; people from minority ethnic backgrounds; people with disabilities; LGBTQ+ people; people who spent time in care; and people from disadvantaged socio-economic backgrounds.
The scheme has the support of Combar and commenced in 2020. In its first year, 150 mentees were matched with mentors. It is open to all undergraduates and graduates from groups that are underrepresented at the Bar of England and Wales (and in particular the commercial Bar) and who do not yet have a pupillage offer.
Successful applicants to join the scheme will be allocated a mentor, who will be a member of one of the participating sets of chambers.
As part of the scheme, mentees will be offered:
Applications for the 2021-2022 scheme are now closed.
We are seeking to enhance diversity at the commercial Bar by supporting and participating in Bridging the Bar, an initiative through which candidates from underrepresented groups are able to apply for mini-pupillages in chambers. Further details of the scheme can be found here.
Chambers participates in the Combar Scholarship scheme which seeks to promote social mobility and encourage a wider range of candidates to consider a career at the commercial Bar. Further details of the scheme can be found on Combar’s website, here.
Fountain Court regularly partners with universities in equality and diversity initiatives aimed at students: for example sponsoring and participating in the 2020 ‘Diversity at the Bar’ panel discussion held by Bristol University Bar Society and sponsoring events with King’s Women in Law (of King’s College, London).
We are committed to achieving equality of opportunity in all aspects of our recruitment.
We use published and objective selection criteria in recruiting staff, pupils and tenants and we ensure that all those involved in recruitment have up to date equality and diversity training.
We assess applications for mini-pupillage, pupillage and tenancy on merit. We particularly encourage applications from individuals within groups currently underrepresented at the commercial Bar. We actively seek to identify and eliminate unconscious bias through the use of specialist training and techniques such as blind reviews of application forms and assessed work.
We take seriously our obligation to ensure fairness in allocation of work opportunities as between practising barristers and we are continually seeking to improve and enhance our monitoring and analysis of work opportunities for all our barristers. Details of our policy in this regard can be found in our Equality & Diversity Handbook.
We take all reasonable steps to ensure that marketing and business development opportunities are allocated fairly between barristers and continually seek to improve and enhance our monitoring and analysis in this respect. Details of our policy in this regard can be found in our Equality & Diversity Handbook.
We are committed to ensuring equality of opportunity and treatment for all. We wish to foster an inclusive culture in which clients, members, staff, pupils, mini-pupils and applicants from all backgrounds feel welcome, and a treated fairly, without discrimination of any kind.
Our Transitioning at Work Policy can be found in our Equality & Diversity Handbook and addresses the support available to any member or Chambers, staff or pupil who wishes to transition at work.
We promote a healthy work-life balance and an inclusive, family-friendly atmosphere. That commitment is reflected in a generous parental leave and flexible working policy – for further details, see our Equality & Diversity Handbook.
We understand the challenges of balancing work and family life and seek to support our members and staff in achieving that balance. Members of Fountain Court successfully combine practice with other commitments, including caring responsibilities and public service.
We subscribe to “My Family Care” to ensure that those members with familial and other caring responsibilities have additional support in times of need. This service provides our barristers and staff with access to book Bright Horizon’s childcare and elder care related services, as well as free access to an online knowledge centre.
Chambers takes seriously the wellbeing of its members and staff, particularly given the challenges and pressures often present within the legal sector. We recognise that it is important to manage wellbeing and resilience in order to remain happy and fulfilled and to perform effectively.
Our Wellbeing Committee considers and actions work streams to maintain and improve the wellbeing of our members and staff. Examples of our recent work in this respect includes:
We are committed to increasing the representation of women at Fountain Court and at the commercial Bar generally. To this end, Fountain Court is a signatory to the Women in Law Pledge. Created by The Bar Council, The Law Society and the Chartered Institute of Legal Executives, the Women in Law Pledge seeks to help tackle the issue of gender equality within the legal profession, including by supporting the progression of women into senior roles by focusing on retention and development opportunities. To read Fountain Court’s Pledge, please click here.
We are working with the other leading commercial sets on a recruitment initiative aimed at encouraging women to apply for pupillage at the commercial Bar. The initiative has already seen two successful events at universities with speaker panels including female members of Fountain Court (see here or here for more information). Further events are planned in the near future.
In January 2020, Fountain Court sponsored a reception at Middle Temple to celebrate the centenary of women being able to enter the legal profession for the first time. We are also actively partnering with university societies to help promote the commercial Bar as a potential career option for women, including sponsoring and participating in the ‘Diversity at the Bar’ panel discussion held by Bristol University Bar Society and sponsoring events with King’s Women in Law (of King’s College, London).
We recognise the importance of retaining female members and have sought to implement policies to ensure that Fountain Court supports female members as they progress through their careers. We are proud that two of our silk appointments for 2020 and our only 2021 appointment were women. We are also delighted that our successes in this respect were recognised in The Legal 500 2021, where Fountain Court was described as being “commended for having ‘done a huge amount in recent years to promote and recruit women, making them one of the most gender-diverse sets at the commercial Bar’.”
Fountain Court welcomes LGBTQ+ applicants and is proud to foster an inclusive and supportive environment. Chambers is proud to have a number of LGBTQ+ members.
Fountain Court is committed to ensuring equality of opportunity and treatment for all, regardless of race or ethnicity. We wish to foster an inclusive culture in which clients, members, staff, pupils, mini-pupils and applicants from all backgrounds feel welcome, and are treated fairly, without discrimination.
We also recognise that Chambers and the commercial Bar more generally is not as diverse as it should be. To this end Fountain Court Chambers is participating in a number of initiatives specifically designed to help widen the pool of potential applicants and to encourage those from more diverse backgrounds to consider the commercial Bar as a career. As above, this includes participating in the mini-pupillage programme developed by Bridging the Bar, and the commercial sets’ mentoring scheme, both of which provide specific mentoring and mini-pupillage opportunities to underrepresented groups.
Further details of these initiatives and the actions we are taking around race equality can be found in our anti-racist statement here.
We are committed to ensuring that talented applicants, and our members and staff, are able to succeed and we believe that disability should not be a barrier to that success.
We have taken steps to ensure that where possible our facilities are accessible and that our working practices accommodate disabled people and people with health conditions or impairments.
Any specific requests for reasonable adjustments to assist applicants, members, employees or clients which we may not reasonably be able to foresee, should be made to our Head of Administration, Julie Parker.
We are conscious of long-held perceptions of the commercial Bar as being only for those from affluent or privileged backgrounds. We are striving to change those perceptions and to address any structural issues which may be discouraging individuals from less privileged backgrounds from considering the Bar as a career. We encourage talented individuals from any walk of life to apply for a mini-pupillage in order to experience first-hand what life at Fountain Court is like and seek to provide financial assistance to those undertaking the vocational stage of training by allowing a portion of the pupillage award to be drawn down. The backgrounds of our members shows that there is no single route to the Bar, and a significant proportion of them were educated at state schools.
You can read about some of their experiences by clicking on the names below:
However, we recognise that there are still serious challenges with respect to social mobility and we therefore support and participate in a number of initiatives which aim to address such issues, including:
In addition, individual members of chambers are frequently involved with outreach initiatives and careers events in state schools.
As part of our ongoing efforts to encourage those from non-traditional backgrounds to consider a career at the Bar, we offer work experience opportunities to year 10, year 11 and sixth form or college students. Students will have the opportunity to try out a range of roles within administration, business development, clerking, finance, IT and marketing. Candidates do not need to know anything about the law or barristers’ chambers and will be given the opportunity to learn about life at the Bar.
Generally, we accept placements in July, October and November. For further details, including how to apply, please view our flyer here.
Our comprehensive Equality and Diversity Handbook sets out the policies we have adopted to ensure compliance with our legal and regulatory obligations and the Attorney General’s Equality and Diversity Expectations Statement.
The handbook sets out our policies in relation to:
We also have a rolling annual Equality and Diversity Action Plan which sets out time-tabled steps towards meeting identified goals.
Our Equality and Diversity Committee includes members at all levels of seniority, a Deputy Senior Clerk and our Head of Administration, and is responsible for promoting equality and diversity within chambers as regards both members and employees. We also have a dedicated Wellbeing Committee.
Our diversity data, which we are required to publish in accordance with the requirements of the Bar Standards Board, can be found here.