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 pursing other ventures (a returner) or moving practice areas, or from Chambers to employment or vice versa (a mover). 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 needed to navigate a changing landscape, and 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/commercial 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 & 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
  • Managing professional relationships both in chambers and in-house
  • 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 in the profession. 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 corporate and public sector bodies are supportive and encouraging of the recruitment of returners or movers and recognise the diversity they offer, many sets of chambers are further behind in their appreciation and understanding of these barristers.


In order to capture a broad spectrum of experience and expertise, members of the TRWG include employed and self-employed barristers, the Inn’s Directors of Education and Membership, returners, movers, a senior clerk, a Lord Justice of Appeal, a representative of the Bar Council and a member of the Circuits. 

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

Three Years on and Beyond 

To the best of our knowledge, we are the only Inn that provides such direct support to returners and movers. That is not to say that other Inns do not provide support that captures this demographic, only that they do not appear to have a group focused on them. Our initiative has received widespread support from returners and movers. Although many of our events are open to the other Inns, we hope that they may perhaps look to set up similar initiatives or explore joint initiatives with us, so that as large a demographic as possible across the Bar, can be supported.  

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 published detailed tips for returners and movers on the Inns website. This is an updated portal which provides information on a variety of topics and links, including:

  1. Securing tenancy/jobhunting
  2. Practice development
  3. Confidence building
  4. Keeping up to date with substantive & procedural law
  5. Pastoral & wellbeing. 

Workshops & Seminars

These events include:

  1. 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 
  2. Advocacy workshops with breakout rooms for training and exercises
  3. A confidence building seminar entitled ’The Confidence Trick – How to Play, How to Win’
  4. An event exploring and sharing experiences about returning to work and moving from self-employed to employed Bar and vice versa, and how clerks can assist returning or new members, entitled ‘Shared Experiences and Lessons of Reinvention and Evolution’
  5. Further seminars and events 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 purpose of the guide is to set out a best practice guidance for chambers, which it is hoped they will take note of and perhaps even adopt. The guide is available on the Inn’s website.

New & Upcoming Events 

The following events are planned for the Michaelmas term, and we are currently planning events for next year, so please look out for them (please note this is not an exhaustive list):

  • 3 October: An event on effective and constructive communication focused on improving communication skills, setting boundaries, giving feedback and building professional relationships. This event will be led by Dr Anna Colton – a chartered clinical psychologist and executive coach, moderated by Lady Justice Whipple and will include demonstrations of best practice
  • 18 October: Coffee morning

Talk to Us!

The impediments faced by movers and returners and their link to the lack of retention is a Bar wide issue that needs to be acknowledged and addressed. Last year, we 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 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. 

Juliette Levy

Chair of TRWG 

15 August 2023

Master Juliette Levy

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.