Onyeka Onyekwelu, Executive of the Young Barristers’ Committee
Employer: The Bar Council
Year of Call: 2013
Role: Policy Analyst – Legal Affairs, Practice and Ethics & Equality and Diversity, and Corporate Social Responsibility
This particular day starts with me sheltered from the rain, below the alcove of the Quad entrance of the Royal Courts of Justice (RCJ) at 8:15. Prior to my role at the Bar Council, I had only ever been in the RCJ to lodge appeal bundles; unglamorous to say the least. This morning, however, I grace the higher quarters for one of many high level policy meetings that I have been scheduling with the senior judiciary since the Chairman of the Young Barristers’ Committee’s (YBC) appointment in January 2016. We sit to discuss impending proposals for the reform of the civil justice system and their effect on young barristers; the assistance the young bar can provide the judiciary; and the retention and progression issues at the Bar and Judiciary. It is my responsibility to debrief the Chairman of the Bar, her Special Advisor and the Director of Policy once I return to the office, so I take great care to accurately note take what is being discussed, and the policy implications.
My 10am meeting at Middle Temple is cancelled, so I walk back to the office to begin my day with everyone else in the Policy Team. I manage to draft and send a few emails to key stakeholders, calling for their assistance with the Young Bar Workshop, the YBC’s flagship event for 2016.
Aside from managing the affairs of the YBC, I am also responsible for the Bar Council’s ADR Panel, so at 11:25, I dart off to a meeting at Field Court Chambers to discuss an exciting new initiative with the Panel’s subgroup. The subgroup discusses how it might change the culture and perception of ADR in Chambers, and how to improve the awareness of ADR as an alternate income stream for Chambers with management staff. The subgroup agree to reconvene and discuss further after the publication of the CEDR Audit 2016, at the Civil Mediation Council Conference.
I have a brief lunch break, and end up running back to the office for a policy team meeting at 14:00. This is a follow-up meeting from our Away Day to discuss the Mission Statement and Action Plan for the Policy Strategy, and its impact on the Bar Council Strategy for 2017. As part of the Legal Affairs, Practice and Ethics team, I inform the team of the projects and initiatives I am currently working on, and how best this can be incorporated into the overall strategy. I unfortunately cannot stay for the duration of the meeting, as I also have a foot in the Equality and Diversity and Corporate Social Responsibility team’s work, managing the Bar Mentoring Service and assisting with the Wellbeing at the Bar project. As a result, I hot-foot to the ‘First 100 Years’ knowledge share event at 15:00, to learn more about the BSB’s work to improve the retention rate of women at the Bar. I like that most of the work I do overlaps, and I find myself tweeting from the @YoungBarristers account about the event, and the project. I contribute to the discussion by querying what impact the project and the BSB’s consultation will have on access, retention and progression of women at the Bar, and am left slightly perplexed by the answer I receive (!) before returning to my desk.
I don’t sit down for more than 5 minutes at my desk before I have to shut down my desktop and run to BPP at 16:45, to setup for the Lord Justice Briggs Open Forum in collaboration with the Bar Council. This was an excellent initiative, open to all members of the Bar, to gather the views, concerns and questions about Lord Justice Briggs’ Interim Report on Civil Justice Reform that have not already been addressed by the Bar Council in its response, or the Chairman of the Young Barristers’ Committee in her paper at the World Bar Conference. I create and display the #BriggsOpenForum to enable Bar Council to track the responses via Twitter, and allow for members of the Bar unable to attend, to participate via social media.
My day concludes at about 20:00, when I catch a train back to town, before catching a late (and irregular) bus and wind up back home around 21:30.
Peaks: My role is flexible as it mirrors the nature of the profession i.e. no two days are the same (as cliché and over-used as that line is, it is true). Since starting at the Bar Council in January, I have had the opportunity to assist with the 25th Anniversary of the Bar Mock Trials and dine with leading Judges and QC’s on the top floor of the Old Bailey, something that would not have been possible for at least another 30+ years in practice. Not to mention sitting across a table from Lord Dyson in a private meeting – definitely my dinner party tale of late with my law school peers.
Pitfalls: The saying that you have as much time as Beyonce does in a day is underrated! Between managing projects, drafting letters and guides for E&D initiatives, and attending important meetings, my day seems to fly by in a flash. As a result, I am joined at the hip to time-management tools and hacks like a baby to an umbilical cord.