Promoting social mobility and inspiring women to succeed at the Bar are just two of the goals of the new leader of the Midlands Circuit, Michelle Heeley QC.
The former Head of Education and Training at the Circuit will replace fellow No5 Barristers’ Chambers member Michael Duck QC, following his successful four-year term. Heeley will be looking to draw on her experience of establishing a number of mentoring and accessibility programmes, not least the Midland Circuit’s very own mini-pupillage scheme, as her tenure begins.
It is the latest in a meteoric rise for Michelle, who joined the ranks of silk four years ago, just sixteen years on from embarking on her career with a pupillage at No5 Barristers’ Chambers.
One of Michelle’s key priorities as part of her leadership will be looking at how she can support and inspire female colleagues in realising the prospects of a long-lasting career at the Bar. Michelle explains: “I’m thrilled to be taking up the role of leader of the Midlands Circuit, particularly as it means that four out of the six Circuits across the UK will now be led by women. It is the first time that there has been a majority female leadership, which is reflective of the progress that has been made.
“The Diversity at the Bar 2020 report by the Bar Standards Board showed that women constituted 38.2% of the Bar, yet we know of many talented women who are leaving the profession. There is clearly a long way to go in ensuring fair representation within the industry. I intend to use my position to promote greater accessibility to the Bar, breaking down barriers through initiatives such as scholarships, but also by making it more approachable. There needs to be less mystery surrounding our work if we are to encourage talent from all areas of society.”
As part of her duties as Leader of the Midlands Circuit, Michelle will also be supporting existing members to promote and maintain the highest professional standards in the practice of law. This comes in the face of a number of challenges, including the backlog of cases at the Crown Court, and ongoing discussions surrounding the funding of Legal Aid.
Michelle concludes: “I have witnessed first-hand the impact that COVID has had on our industry, and the Crown Court backlog is something that is particularly distressing for everyone involved. It should be highlighted, though, that the pandemic has merely exacerbated this issue, with the root causes of the problem still needing to be addressed.”
Michelle Heeley will begin her leadership role at the Midlands Circuit on 1st October, 2021. For more information, please visit: https://www.no5.com/people/barristers/michelle-heeley-qc/silk/