Keating Chambers has put forward £20,000 to help fund a criminal bar pupillage, in a bid to offset the financial impact of the pandemic on the criminal bar.

The one-off fund will support one pupillage for an aspiring criminal barrister. Construction set Keating has pledged the money for a set that has had to withdraw its pupillage offer due to coronavirus.

The fund offer came a few days after the Bar Standards Board published a report which stated that there could be a drop in pupillage numbers in the next two years because of the pandemic, with the criminal and family Bar hit the hardest.

The Lawyer understands that Lucy Garrett QC is the driving force behind the fund, with the support of members at the chambers.

Keating’s exco gave the fund the green light in a vote in August, with the chambers now seeking applications – through the Criminal Bar Association – from sets looking to take advantage of the fund.

Marcus Taverner QC said: “The financial impact of the pandemic has been felt particularly by the criminal Bar. Commercial sets are in the fortunate position of being hit less hard. We took a decision to provide support for the vital work carried out by the criminal Bar in the legal system of England and Wales in these very difficult times.”

The pandemic has put several chambers under financial strain – with two chambers forced to close its doors. In July, Ely Place Chambers was the first casualty of the pandemic, with members deciding to part ways in the summer.

In August, it was reported that Charter Chambers would be closing shop from 30 October due to the pandemic and the impending sale of its premises. The criminal set is home to 47 barristers, including six silks.

In an April survey by the Bar Council, 55 per cent of all chambers said that without financial aid they would not survive six months, while 81 per cent said they would not last 12 months.

At least one new chambers has been founded during the pandemic. Crown Chambers was launched in May, with 10 barristers splitting off from two Hull-based sets.

In April, over 200 junior barristers signed a letter to the Bar Council and its vice-chair Amanda Pinto QC, asking it to respond to the self-employed income support scheme announced by the UK Government.

This letter came after the Chancellor of the Exchequer announced that self-employed people would be supported with 80 per cent of their income if they can show proof of three years worth of tax returns.

The scheme supported those whose income is below £50,000 per year, providing financial support of up to £2,500 per month.

However, junior barristers were in uproar as many were eligible for the support. Newly-qualified members of the Bar will not have filed a tax return for the last financial year, or be able to show they are self-employed.