Coram Chambers tops bar diversity tables

Family set Coram Chambers is home to the highest proportion of female tenants and has also topped the Black Solicitors Network’s (BSN) league table for having the highest proportion of ethnic minority members.


The BSN invited 180 sets to participate in the survey yet only 23 responded, all of which have more than 30 members. The BSN said this was an improvement on 2011 when just 18 sets responded.

Coram Chambers, which is home to 68 members including one silk, outperformed its peers with female tenants making up 75 per cent of its membership while ethnic minority members represented 22.7 per cent of chambers.

Barrister Khatun Sapnara, who is also a member of the Bar Council’s diversity committee, said that while it was fair to say that women are better represented in family law, the fact that other family sets had not featured heavily in the tables demonstrated that Coram had worked to encourage greater diversity.

“It’s a really important part of our chambers,” she commented. “We have an equality and diversity officer who is part of management structure.” She added that the set had worked to improve its retention rates for all members and had encouraged men and women to return to the bar after parental leave.

Sapnara continued: “We offer more flexible working arrangements. Members aren’t pressured into working during the school holidays, and not pressured into moving to far-flung destinations for cases.”

Hardwicke topped the league tables overall. Of the set’s 82 members, five of which are silks, 15.6 per cent cames from an ethnic minority background, while EM members made up 20 per cent of its QC ranks. In terms of QC tenants, the set was ranked equally with 9 Gough Square with 20 per cent of itsline up being women.

The research shows that the chambers with the highest proportion of female silks is criminal set Atkinson Bevan Chambers, although the set is relatively small with five silks and 40 members. Liverpool-based Atlantic Chambers ranks second in the QC table, with a third of its six silks being female.

At the London civil bar, One Crown Office Row topped the league table for highest proportion of female silks at 27.3 per cent. The set is home to 110 members, including 22 silks. The set also ranked highly in having a higher proportion of female tenants at 40 per cent, although Matrix, with 65 members, had a higher proportion of women overall.

One Crown Office Row chambers director Bob Wilson said increasingly clients were looking at the demographics of sets before instructing counsel. He said that in the long term creating a culture that embraces cultural and gender diversity was self-perpetuating when it comes to attracting new members.

“[Diversity] doesn’t come through positive discrimination, it comes through word of mouth,” he commented. “Once you have created that [culture] it works for itself, as long as you get the basics right and have the right training and monitoring.”

The Bar Council has put diversity at the top of its agenda and is supporting the Bar Standards Board’s recently issued equality and diversity code. The new guidelines, put into action on 1 September, requires sets to produce an equality and diversity action plan as well as appointing an equality and diversity officer.

Nevertheless, figures released by the BSB and Bar Council in the annual Bar Barometer report yesterday revealed that of the 1,682 students who enrolled on the BPTC in 2010/11 32.4 per cent had already secured pupillage (14 November 2012). Those attending Oxbridge achieved a significant increase in success from 23.7 per cent in 2009/10 to 34.3 per cent in 2010/11.

In a speech at the Liberal Democrat party conference in Brighton in September, Chairman of the Bar Michael Todd QC said that the Government “must practise what it preaches” on social mobility and that the soaring cost of education and repeated cuts to publicly funded fees were making life for the junior bar particularly difficult (24 September 2012).

Top 10 ranking of female barristers for all participating chambers

Chambers Female (%) Male (%)
Coram Chambers 75.00 25.00
Matrix Chambers 44.68 55.32
Tooks Chambers 44.44 55.56
One Crown Office Row 39.78 60.22
New Park Court Chambers 38.82 61.18
11KBW 38.46 61.54
Five Paper 38.30 61.70
25 Bedford Row 37.50 62.50
18 Red Lion Court 37.50 62.50
Atlantic Chambers 37.31 62.69

Top 10 ranking of EM barristers for all participating Chambers

  Chambers EM (%) Asian (%) Black (%) Mixed (%) White (%) Other (%) Unknown (%)
1 Coram Chambers 22.73 15.15 6.06 1.52 77.27 0.00 0.00
2 Tooks Chambers 18.06 9.72 8.33 0.00 81.94 0.00 0.00
3 25 Bedford Row 16.07 5.36 8.93 0.00 83.93 1.79 0.00
4 9 Bedford Row 15.87 9.52 1.59 4.76 84.13 0.00 0.00
5 Hardwicke 15.63 4.17 3.13 4.17 84.38 4.17 0.00
6 One Crown Office Row 15.05 4.30 4.30 2.15 82.80 4.30 2.15
7 11KBW 14.81 11.11 0.00 0.00 85.19 3.70 0.00
8 Cornerstone Barristers 14.63 7.32 0.00 4.88 85.37 2.44 0.00
9 23 Essex Street 12.75 6.86 3.92 0.98 87.25 0.98 0.00
10 18 Red Lion Court 12.50 7.95 2.27 1.14 64.77 1.14 22.73