Bar Council elects 4 Paper Buildings’ joint head of chambers as first Black vice chair

Barbara Mills will assume the role next year, paving the way to become the first Black chair in 2025

Barbara Mills KC Photo courtesy of the Bar Council

Barbara Mills KC, the joint head of chambers of the specialist family set 4 Paper Buildings (4PB), has been elected vice-chair of the Bar for 2024.

Mills will be the first family lawyer in 35 years to take the role and the first person of colour to assume the office. She will succeed Sam Townend KC of Keating Chambers, who was elected unopposed to serve as chair in 2024. Following that tradition, Mills is expected to become chair in 2025.

Mills was called to the Bar by Inner Temple in 1990 and took silk in 2020. She is an arbitrator, a mediator and a fellow of the International Academy of Family Lawyers. She specialises in difficult and complex children’s cases, often with an international element.

She was appointed as a deputy High Court judge this year and has been a recorder on the South Eastern Circuit for more than 10 years. She has been co-head of 4PB alongside Charles Hale KC since last December.

Mills comes to the vice chair role from her Bar Council’s Equality, Diversity and Social Mobility (EDSM) Committee membership. She also co-chairs the Bar Council’s Race Working Group, which published the landmark Race at the Bar report in 2020. As a governing bencher at Inner Temple, Mills is also a member of its diversity and international committees.

Mills said: “When Baroness Hallett became the first woman to chair the Bar Council in 1998, I was inspired and uplifted, but it seemed like a hopeless dream for me. So, I am deeply honoured and humbled to have been elected as the next vice chair.” 

Mills said she will raise the profile of the publicly-funded family Bar following the prominence of recent challenges faced by the legally-aided Criminal Bar.

Criminal barristers went on strike last year over unsustainably low investment in publicly-funded legal work. The Bar Council, while supportive of the underlying campaign, said the decision to strike was an individual one.

Their complaints – low legal aid rates, declining court facilities and insufficient funding for access to justice, with consequential impacts on clients – are mirrored at the Family Bar.  

Her second focus is “to continue the vitally important work on equality, diversity and inclusion at the Bar”. 

She added: “Since we published the Race at the Bar Report, we have seen some progress, but there is so much more to be done across race, gender, disability and social mobility where the scales require rebalancing.” 

Mills will work alongside Townend and in-house barrister Lorinda Long, associate general counsel at Bank of America, who was re-elected as treasurer for 2024.

Stephanie Boyce, who was presented a lifetime achievement award at the Women and Diversity in Law Awards in March, was the first person of colour to become Law Society president in 2021, and actively champions greater diversity.

As of April 2022, 16% of barristers were from an ethnic minority, of which only 3% were Black. 

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