Coronavirus Barring Chambers’ Survival?: Chambers struggle to continue amidst Coronavirus

April 23, 2020

2 min read

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What's going on here?

According to a Bar Council survey, 81% of barristers’ chambers will not survive the year with no financial aid if the current Coronavirus circumstances continue.

What does this mean?

The survey, of 145 heads of chambers, revealed that 55% of chambers cannot survive six months, while 81% will fold within twelve. This is due to the severe interruption in barristers’ work caused by COVID-19, but also a general lack of funding which has left chambers ill-equipped to deal with the effects of this pandemic. Unless the government is able to inject more cash to provide financial relief to barristers, almost all of whom are self-employed, then the survival of a majority of chambers is put at risk.

What's the big picture effect?

This narrative of an industry being hit by COVID-19 is not unique. However, the repercussions of this survey’s findings have the potential to be devastating. If increased financial relief were not provided and the majority of chambers did fold, access to justice would be significantly affected, according to the Bar Council. This is particularly true of the Criminal Bar, where it is predicted that 90% of chambers could fold. Further, pupillage recruitment has already been impacted. 30% of chambers are already altering pupillage programmes starting both this year and next. Many have also said that they may not take on new pupils for two years. This impact is likely to become more severe as disruption continues. The effect of this is that many BPTC (the Bar Professional Training Course that law graduates must pass in order to become barristers) students will not be able to secure pupillage – a process that is already highly challenging and competitive. This will, of course, reduce the number of practising barristers in the future. We can only hope that the government sees these issues and is able to supply the much-needed money, and that court interruptions ease soon to allow chambers to generate income again. Will coronavirus bar the survival of these chambers? Only time will tell.

Report written by Elizabeth Cooper

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