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A row has erupted over Attorney General Baroness Scotland’s equality and diversity expectations for Treasury counsel, with members ;of ;the ;bar claiming it could lead to chambers being forced to quit the Government panel.
The expectations have been amended to include a requirement that all chambers are monitored for equality and diversity, even if only one member of a set is on the Treasury panel.
The bar is split on the decision. One senior clerk at a top 30 set told The Lawyer that the expectation would lead to both “positive and negative discrimination”. “Say all our immigration barristers are women, for instance – it means we breach the expectations,” said the clerk.
He added that the set would rather not be on the Treasury panel if it meant it would have to hire less talented people to meet diversity requirements. However, 39 Essex Street director of clerking David Barnes said the set is in favour of the requirements.
“Promoting equality and diversity in chambers will ensure that all members of the profession and their staff feel valued and supported,” said Barnes. “This is vital for a representative profession.”
A spokeswoman for the Attorney General’s Office said the expectations reflect the requirements of both the Bar Council’s code of conduct and the equality and diversity code for the bar.
“We urge any chambers who have any worries about any aspect of the policy to contact the Treasury Solicitor’s Department, who will be happy to discuss it,” the spokeswoman said.