The Talent Retention Working Group (TRWG) was set up by Middle Temple’s Membership Committee in 2019 to support and promote the interests of members either returning to practice following absence for a variety of reasons ranging from maternity/paternity, caring leave to pursuing other ventures (a returner), or moving practice areas, or from chambers to employment or vice versa (a mover). The TRWG supports all barristers, men, and women, employed and self-employed.
The Inn recognised that greater support was needed for this cohort of members who could experience problems such as:

  • Learning new areas of substantive law
  • Understanding how expectations and working cultures differ across the various Bars – criminal/employed/family etc.;
  • Getting back up to date with changes in the law and practice;
  • Loss of professional and personal networks and not having a pool of portable clients to offer any new potential set or employer;
  • Personal branding and loss of confidence, while at the same time needing to project confidence to potential employers and clients;
  • Lack of understanding of what is wanted by chambers or employers when recruiting;
  • Support needed in pitching applications, drafting business plans and CVs, interview skills and practice;
  • Financial difficulties: for example, balancing the costs of childcare against chambers’ rent structures/contributions or potential salaries, or the need to work part-time but without any chambers’ flexibility in rent/contributions;
  • Time constraints (if caring responsibilities persist);
  • Difficulty competing with new starters at the Bar – highly competitive and malleable young barristers, with recent training in the skills and substantive law required by the job and a willingness to work all hours because of fewer family, financial or other responsibilities.

By supporting this cohort of members, the Inn aims to (i) promote the cognitive diversity that such candidates offer where different backgrounds, approaches, skills and experience enrich the offering of an employer or chambers, and (ii) ensure diversity, equality and inclusion. We know from BSB statistics that women leave the profession in higher numbers than their white male counterparts, particularly around the 10-year level, and that those from ethnic minority backgrounds find it harder to establish their practice and have more periods away from practice. This is a serious problem.

The TRWG has found that whilst corporates and public sector bodies are supportive and encouraging of recruitment from returners or movers and recognise the diversity they offer, many sets of chambers are further behind in their appreciation and understanding of these barristers.

To capture a broad spectrum of experience and expertise, members of the TRWG include employed and self-employed barristers, the Inn’s Director of Education and Head of Membership, returners, movers, a senior clerk, a High Court Judge and a representative from the Bar Council.

The aim is to provide guidance, information, workshops, seminars, and social events on a range of issues and topics that can support returners and movers.

Initiatives to Date
To date, we have launched a variety of initiatives, some of which are detailed below.

Coach/Coachee Scheme
We have created a panel of experienced practitioners who serve as coaches to returners or movers and have direct experience of the issues. Once paired, the coachee has an opportunity to discuss issues and concerns in a confidential space.

Tips for Returners and Movers
We have created an information hub for returners and movers on the Inn’s website ( This is an updated portal which provides information on a variety of topics and links, including:

a. Securing tenancy/jobhunting
b. Practice development
c. Confidence building
d. Keeping up to date with substantive and procedural law
e. Pastoral and wellbeing.

Workshops & Seminars
These events included:

a. A CV workshop which provided expertise from chambers and a recruitment consultant on CVs, presentation, and expectations etc. for all our stakeholders (employed and self-employed Bar, returner or mover) coupled with a CV writing workshop;
b. Advocacy workshops with breakout rooms for training and exercises
c. A confidence building seminar entitled The Confidence Trick – How to Play, How to Win;
d. Further advocacy workshops and seminars planned for next term (see below).

Coffee Mornings
These are designed to enable members to network with each other, share experiences and build confidence. We found from our advocacy events that confidence building and imposter syndrome were issues of particular concern.

Best Practice Guide
To assist chambers in their appreciation and understanding of the cognitive diversity and other benefits that returners and movers can offer them, we have put together a best practice guide (the Guide), which, it is hoped, chambers can read, take note of and perhaps even adopt some of these practices. The Guide is available on the Inn’s website (

New & Upcoming Events
The following events are planned for later this year, so do look out for them (please note this is not an exhaustive list):

  • Part 2 of our confidence building seminar
  • Further advocacy workshops
  • Further coffee mornings
  • An event exploring and sharing experiences about returning to work and moving from self-employed to employed Bar and vice-versa

Talk to Us!
The impediments faced by movers and returners, and their link to the lack of retention at the Bar is a Bar wide issue that needs to be acknowledged and addressed. We have showcased our work in Counsel Magazine to raise awareness (
Please visit the Inn’s website to take a look at our scheme and Practice Guide, and feel free to contact Gabriel in the Membership Department on [email protected] for further information on our initiative.

We are guided by the members we aim to support. If you have any ideas for events or issues that you consider the TRWG should be looking at, please let us know.

Master Juliette Levy specialises in commercial, chancery and telecommunications law. She has been involved in a wide variety of commercial disputes, often of a multi-million pound and multi-jurisdictional nature and with a foreign law element. She was Chair of the Hall Committee before becoming Chair of the Talent Retention Steering Group following her Call to the Bench.