Table setting in a restaurant at night

IBC Chair’s end of term report July 2022

Hello and welcome to this, my first end of term report to you (the members of the IBC).

I must start off by saying what an incredible honour it is for me to be in the chair for this, the 100th year of the IBC. From its inception in 1922 to date, the Institute had striven and still strives to assist Barristers’ clerks in their day-to-day jobs. It is testament to the previous chairs and the current management team that the Institute has adapted, changed, and grown into what it is today.

It is my objective in this report to provide you with an overview of my role to date, the activities of the various IBC committees, where we are currently as an institute and to hopefully create awareness of the initiatives that we are driving and the challenges that we are responding to.

I have now been in the chair for 4 months and what a 4 months!

From an Institute’s perspective I must start at the beginning, which for me was the brilliant conference we held in Birmingham, back in March.

Joe Wilson (the conference chair) brought us all together for the first time in a very long period, clerks who for over the past two years have stayed apart, working in unprecedented circumstances which none of us will (hopefully) ever see again!

As I circulated around the pre-conference drinks and conference the following day, I met up with many clerks, Bar Council representatives and Barristers, I was amazed at the level of camaraderie and professionalism I saw. It was genuinely heart-warming and a little emotional if the truth be told. I saw people wanting to interact in a positive way and continue afresh in a post covid world.

The conference fed on speakers and contributors’ dynamism and was packed with serious talkers and educational breakaways. We even got a centenary mug (which I will go into a little later in this report).

After the IBC conference I found myself engaged in the machinations of a major and fully justifiable days of action by Criminal practitioners.

My special thanks go to Martin Secrett, Mark Fenhalls QC, Michelle Heeley QC and Mike Duck QC for educating me on the intricacies of the Criminal Justice system and allowing me to understand the demands of the Criminal Bar, and from there, the Clerks who are trying desperately to assist them.

We are now at a major crossroads for the criminal bar, and I would urge each and every one of you, no matter at what level or whatever area of Law you clerk in, to take time to understand the challenges they face.

We are not a profession that pulls up the rope ladder after ourselves, if you take the time and trouble to investigate their predicament you will be in a better position to explain to people how the criminal justice system works, how it is remunerated, and why they ARE NOT “Fat Cat Lawyers” as many people outside the profession believe.

Lack of information and understanding creates ignorance. Once you explain to people how the system works you will be surprised at their reactions and the support they offer.

One of the targets I set myself in my introductory speech to you all is that I want more interaction from the regions and that I am keen to see that grow and flourish.

It is also my intention to ensure that I maintain and enhance the legacy left by my predecessor (Lucy Barbet) and other chairs.

With this in mind, I have and will be visiting the regions to listen to member’s concerns, clarifying the advantages of belonging to the Institute and also celebrating the fact that we are in our 100th year. I am also maintaining hybrid meetings for our regular management committee meetings, which is bringing more and more people into the fold.

Recently, I attended the Birmingham Law Societies (BLS) “Race to the Commonwealth and beyond “conference which was co-hosted by the commonwealth lawyer’s association and Uni of Birmingham law school.  I was accompanied to the conference dinner by the chair of the bar (Mark Fenhalls QC), the mayor of Birmingham and Mark Foster the Olympic swimmer. It was an excellent event, and my thanks to Tony McDaid (CEO of No5 Chambers) for organising it and allowing me to attend.

We are once again being regularly approached by the BSB and the Bar Council about a plethora of issues. The most recent being:

  • Fair allocation
  • The accelerator programme.
  • Education
  • Equality, Diversity and Social wellbeing (EDSW)
  • Practice management meetings – how to conduct them
  • Retention

All the above are and will always be very “live” issues. I have a strong team that assists and attends many meetings in their own time to support and provide practical advice.

Last week Mark Fenhalls and I spoke about having clerks and chambers across all specialisations having to find the right “balance” of remote and “in person” hearings and hearing management. HMCTS are looking carefully at physical court usage, and we are facing the possibility of major court stock being lost if not used more.

It has come to light that 239 courts in England and Wales have closed, there are now no courts in 373 parliamentary constituencies and 155 council areas. One must ask how this plays out when looking at “access to justice”.

Lucy Burrows, Jacky Chase and the EDSW team are working with the Bar Council, circuit leaders and SBA’s on ways in which we, as a profession, can improve transparency and encourage more diverse candidates to enter it. My understanding is that a bespoke questionnaire from the Bar Council will be hitting our inboxes soon.

We are partnering with the Bar Council and the LPMA in delivering a disability panel event, in September. This is being over seen by Lucy Burrows and her team, as well as providing input and assistance to refreshing the criteria for the wellbeing at the Bar’s certificate of recognition. My understanding is that we will be helping wellbeing at the Bar with a new leadership video, later this year.

I have been working closely with AccessAble, Sam Mercer of the Bar Council and many other sets in looking at having audits to improve access information for clients, staff, and members (especially those specialising in PI and employment). 7BR is a very good example. I am talking to the Inns of Court about this initiative too.

The Race group, now steered by Will Theaker, is going from strength to strength. It is currently looking at the 10KBI programme, which is a Bar Council initiative that the IBC is assisting with. Its aim is to achieve 2000 internships each year, for 5 consecutive years.

Will is also assisting with the Court Dress Working Group, with The Bar Council who are responsible for guidance on court dress, the group holds a responsibility (as a representative body) to consult with the judiciary to seek changes on court dress rules.

As a diverse and open profession, I was pleased to have been asked to attend the launch of the FreeBar publication celebrating LGBT+ Diversity at the Bar. The book itself is a collection of portraits and profiles, which paint a picture of an industry that has come a long way and is now, an inclusive and exciting environment for LGBT members. For more information about FreeBar please contact Alex Southern or me and we can pass you all the relevant information.

I sincerely hope that you have all read The Times article on “Women are rising to the top as barristers clerks” ( . It is a fantastic and incredibly uplifting article, and one that made me feel proud. We are heading in the right direction, however, there is a lot more work to be done. It is interesting and encouraging to note that we are experiencing a large uptake from female clerks applying for membership, at the moment and I want to ensure that this trend continues.

Angela Beglan-Witt, our events and administrative co-ordinator (and an administrational genius), is updating me regularly with stats about our gender split.  At the time of me writing this report our total membership is 872 (plus 32 honorary members). Of that number roughly 36% are female.

The Institute is attending more and more career fairs and educational programmes, generally to try and beat the drum louder for the clerking profession – I have Tom Bennett, Sian Wilkins and Lucy Burrows to personally thank on this front for all the work they are putting into this.

A career as a Barristers’ clerk is a rewarding one and more and more people from outside the profession are beginning to look at it with new/fresh eyes.

As you all know Education is a subject very close to my heart, having been a previous Education secretary to the Institute for 6 years.

I am keen to ensure that momentum is maintained, and I know that David Bingham has many individual training talks in the pipeline and is also working very closely with the Career Development Committee (CDC) (run by Tom Bennett and his team).

By way of example, we are looking at the possibility of holding bespoke courses on:

  • Menopause and menopause training
  • Sabbatical and maternity leave management (How clerks can and should manage it).
  • Race training an overview
  • Alternative Dispute Resolution training – General overview
  • Fair allocation of work within the clerking environment
  • How to have an effective Practice Management discussion

Please keep an active eye out for our regular newsletters and website for information on dates and times etc.

We are currently exceeding our predicted numbers for the new Practice Management Development programme course. The numbers for both the NVQ levels III and V are also very positive.

I’m pleased to say that our mentoring scheme is thriving. We have seen a big increase in uptake, and I would highly recommend you all look into it. It is open all year round and it is a great way for clerks who what to progress within this profession to

  • Increase self confidence
  • Increase self-awareness
  • Develop strong communication skills
  • Grow a personal network
  • Provide exposure to new and different perspectives
  • Learn from others

Rowan Caffull who is heading up our social media and IT arm has a small committee who look after the IBC website and social media feeds.

We have recently added a message board and discussion forums to the website, which we hope are useful for the membership. Current feedback is indicating that it is however we could always do with help on informative and helpful topics. If you can think of any others we should add, please let me know asap.

The IT committee also deal with contact from IBC members on IT related matters and assist wherever possible. They are currently looking at some new developments for the coming months, including an IBC App and an IBC Podcast. Watch this space!

As I have already mentioned, it is the IBC’s 100th year and the centenary committee (headed up by Leigh Royall) have been incredibly active. In a very short period, they have:

  • Created a centenary logo, circulated it to the membership with encouragement to display on email footers, social media, etc to highlight the centenary.
  • Organised and distributed a highly collectable Centenary mug which was gifted to all attendees at the IBC Conference.
  • The Centenary was acknowledged in keynote speeches during the conference and will feature in my speech at the annual dinner
  • An article focusing on the female clerks has been initiated by the committee, written by Frances Gibb and published in The Times
  • Dinner/events on Circuits –
  • Northern Circuit, Matt Gibbons has arranged a successful event in Manchester which drew a great turnout.   
  • North-Eastern Circuit, we have a date for a celebration on the 22nd September in Leeds.
  • Welsh Circuit, Phil Griffiths is organising a date and arranging a venue.
  • Western Circuit, Tony Atkins has plans in place to develop a function for later in the year.

Articles are also in the process of being written for Counsel magazine, providing insight to the modern clerking profession and how it has changed and developed over the last 100 years.  

All that is left is for me to wish you all a wonderful summer, have a great holiday and relax.  Christmas is only just around the corner!!!!!