Why do we need an Employed Bar Steering Group (EBSG)?

Employed barristers represent over 20% of the Bar. A sizeable minority. We therefore wanted to find out how employed barristers engage with the Inn. Our starting point was a survey in May 2020.

An example of the questions posed:

Q: How do you rate the Inn’s current provision of events and services for employed barristers? 35% responded as ’poor’.

Q: How frequently do you use other services provided by the Inn? 40% rarely and 26% never.

So, we thought that something needed to be done…

What are our objectives?

The EBSG was created out of the Inn’s Membership Committee and its principal objective is to ensure that the Inn is of relevance to members who practise outside the traditional chambers structure, whether in government, commerce or other areas of practice. To achieve this, the EBSG is charged with ensuring that the Inn’s membership offering is relevant to and caters for the employed Bar. It aims to do this by:

Relevance – ensuring that initiatives, events and opportunities provided by the Inn are relevant and accessible to employed barristers and where appropriate, specifically cater for their professional development needs, interests and career aspirations;

Recognition – ensuring that the Inn recognises the unique skills and achievements of its employed barristers, deploys these skill sets to enhance the experience of all members of the Inn and provide support and mentoring;

Reputation – improving the visibility of the employed Bar as a sector, to better educate and inspire students and self-employed practitioners as to the diverse range of opportunities at the employed Bar, as well as the importance of employed barristers in upholding and promoting the rule of law.

Representation – improving the representation and visibility of employed barrister on decision-making bodies within the Inn to better reflect the employed Bar’s 20% composition of the whole Bar.

Who are we?

We are a diverse group representing the breadth of employed barristers’ practices. Master Christiane Valansot and Michael Harwood co-chair the EBSG. 

Master Valansot practises as an in-house Barrister in financial services, currently serving the Inn’s Membership Committee and is a past chair of BACFI and past Bar Council member.

Michael is a lawyer at the Government Legal Department, currently working at a major public inquiry. He is a former Chair of MTYBA, an elected member of the Bar Council and a member of the Young Bar Committee.

Other members are as follows:

Master Michael Jones is based with the Crown Prosecutor in Wales. Mike serves on the Inn’s Membership Committee, is Secretary of the Inn’s Wales Society and Vice Chair of the Employed Bar Committee of the Bar Council.

Kerry Nicholson, Government Legal Department, currently advises the Department for Transport. 

Laurence Fry, Head of Legal and Company Secretary at JX Nippon Exploration and Production (U.K) Ltd. Laurence is Vice Chair of BACFI.

Ian Brookes-Howells is a commercial lawyer in general insurance at Lloyds Banking Group. For the last eight years Ian has been a consultant at Pinsent Masons Vario, working as a commercial lawyer for banking and financial services companies. Ian is Chair of BACFI, a member of the Bar Council including its General Management Committee and serves also on the Inn’s Inclusion & Diversity Committee.

Master Helen Mahy, formerly General Counsel at National Grid plc and now Chair of the Renewables Infrastructure Group, a non-executive director of SSE plc and an Equality and Human Rights Commissioner. Helen also serves on the Inn’s Membership Committee and its Diversity and Inclusion Committee. 

During Lockdown

We have embraced the virtual world! Given that most of the employed Bar does not work close to the Inn, the use of Zoom has encouraged many employed barristers to attend events that they might otherwise have not attended and we have been delighted with how many employed barristers have participated.

We have hosted a series of webinars:

Raising the Bar, Tuesday 13 October 2020

The EBSG held the first event in its inaugural three-part webinar series for the Inn’s employed barrister members, catering for varying stages of practice. ‘Raising the (Employed) Bar’ focused on helping those at the junior end of the employed Bar develop their careers. The panellists: Ian Brookes-Howells, Laurence Fry and Kerry Nicholson, chaired by Master Christiane Valansot, discussed how to network and collaborate effectively, how to develop and promote skills and experience, how to capitalise on change, and the importance of diversity. 

Applying for Silk from the Employed Bar, Tuesday 3 November 2020

Master Michael Jones QC, the first senior Crown Prosecutor in Wales to be appointed as a Silk, chaired this lively discussion with Russell Wallman, CEO of QC Appointments, the organisation which facilitates the appointment of Silks. The webinar looked at the challenges for the employed Bar in making an application and tips on how to ensure your application is successful. The webinar showed some of the challenges faced by employed barristers who may not have a more conventional practice as an advocate in the courts.  

From Bar to Boardroom, Thursday 3 December 2020

Ian Brookes-Howells chaired a webinar looking at career development at the senior end of the employed Bar, looking at how senior in-house counsel in commerce, finance and industry can develop their careers. We had two former senior employed barristers.  Master Helen Mahy was, amongst other senior roles, general counsel and company secretary for FTSE 100 company National Grid plc.  Helen shared her experiences at the boardroom level with tips on how to develop a lawyers’ career if they wish to rise to boardroom level. Master Ros Wright, former head of the Serious Fraud Office, shared her experiences in a leadership role of public prosecution authority. Finally, Nick Hedley, a city head-hunter, shared ideas and tips to help employed barristers get the right role at a senior level.

Spring Series

Sir Jonathan Jones KCB QC in Conversation with Michael Harwood, Wednesday 3rd March 2021

We started our Spring season of talks with the former most senior British government employed barrister, Master Jonathan Jones, who was until late 2020, HM Procurator General, Treasury Solicitor and Head of the Government Legal Service, and the Permanent Secretary of the Government Legal Department (until April 2015, named the Treasury Solicitor’s Department). Master Jones gave a very interesting talk about what it is like to be the most senior government lawyer during a period of real legal and constitutional challenges during the run up to Brexit.  

What are we going to do next?

The EBSG is committed to showcasing the great variety and depth of careers that employed barristers can undertake, where the world of law bisects with the public, commercial, financial and industrial world and is preparing a ‘Law in Action’ series of webinars in the summer months, starting with ‘Law and the Media’ with BBC Legal correspondent Master Clive Coleman. At the time of writing, similar events on ‘Law and Sport’ and ‘Law and the Armed Forces’ are due to follow.

Employed Bar Conference 2022

The EBSG will also be hosting a day-long Employed Bar Conference in the autumn term at the Inn, inviting members from across the profession to engage with a series of talks, workshops and discussions, designed to educate on common areas of interest to employed barristers and enhance our skills. The programme is designed to be varied, interactive and accessible to all our colleagues across the employed Bar and features plenty of opportunities to meet and network with colleagues across our diverse and exciting profession.

What can Employed Barristers do to help us?

The MTEBSG is keen to hear from employed barristers and the use of online technology means that to engage with the MTESBG, you do not have to jump on a bus or train; you are with us from where you are based. This means you have greater engagement with the Inn to shape its future, something that will hopefully become more meaningful when you next attend the Inn in person.

We have had very good attendance at our webinars. Are there any other areas that you would like us to cover? What events might you be interested in attending?

Please tell us what we can do to make the Inn more employed Bar friendly and relevant by getting in touch with the Inn’s Head of Membership, Oliver Muncey, at [email protected].


Employed Bar Steering Group:
Master Jonathan Jones In Conversation

Autumn Webinar Series – Webinar One
Developing Your Career at the Employed Bar

Autumn Webinar Series – Webinar Two
Applying For Silk from the Employed Bar

Autumn Webinar Series – Webinar Three
From Bar to Boardroom

Ivy and Normanton