Equality and Diversity
Fountain Court is committed to equality and diversity in all aspects of our business. We strive to recruit and retain talented individuals from all walks of life and frequently review our policies in order 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 believe in and promote equal and fair treatment for all. We recognise that the obligation not to discriminate against clients, members, 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 obligation and not simply because it is imposed on us by legislation and the Bar Code of Conduct. We seek to go further and to identify and seek to address structural issues which might lead to individuals from any of these groups being underrepresented within Fountain Court Chambers or at the commercial Bar as a whole.
Mentoring for Underrepresented Groups: A scheme run by Commercial Barristers’ Chambers
We are proud to have joined with five other commercial sets to create a mentoring scheme to support and encourage individuals from all underrepresented groups to pursue a career as a barrister. Further details of the scheme are available here.
Bridging the Bar: Mini-Pupillage Programme
We are also 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.
Combar Scholarship Scheme
Chambers also 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 also 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).
Equal Opportunities in Recruitment
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 recent equality and diversity training.
We assess applications for mini-pupillage, pupillage and tenancy on merit, but 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.
Equal Opportunities in Work Allocation
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 barristers in chambers.
We are committed to increasing the representation of women at Fountain Court and at the commercial Bar generally. To this end, 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 held 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 to be held by Bristol University Bar Society and sponsoring events with King’s Women in Law (of King’s College, London).
We also 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 were women. We are also delighted that our successes in this respect were recognised in 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 have a number of LGBT+ members.
Fountain Court is committed to ensuring equality of opportunity and treatment for all applicants, regardless of race or ethnicity. We are proud to be a racially diverse set of chambers at all levels of seniority.
However we also recognise that Chambers and the commercial Bar more generally would benefit from greater diversity. 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 set out above, this includes participating in the mini-pupillage programme developed by Bridging the Bar (see here), and the commercial sets’ mentoring scheme (see here), both of which provide specific mentoring and mini-pupillage opportunities to underrepresented groups.
Disability and Accessibility
At Fountain Court, 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 members. Our members include a number of individuals with disabilities, including wheelchair users who can work from chambers as a result of the adaptations and improvements we have been able to make to our grade II listed historic buildings.
Any specific requests for reasonable adjustments to assist disabled 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. 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 (see below). You can read about some of their experiences here. We support and participate in a number of initiatives which seek to address social mobility issues, including:
- A targeted mentoring scheme with other leading commercial sets (see here)
- Bridging the Bar (see here)
- The Combar scholarship (see here)
- The Pathways to Law scheme run by Oxford University, through which students who take part in that scheme are able to spend time with members of Fountain Court (see here).
- Work experience programmes with a number of inner London schools, where participating students gain experience of clerking and, from time to time, shadow members of chambers at court.
In addition, individual members of chambers frequently deliver talks to state schools in less affluent areas, with a view to promoting a career at the Bar.
For more information on our Equality and Diversity policies, please click here.