7 King’s Bench Walk has a strong proportion of female members of Chambers. As part of its commitment to diversity, 7 King’s Bench Walk would like to encourage more women to consider the Commercial Bar as a career choice and to improve the representation, experience and retention of women in the profession. We are proud signatories to the Women in Law Pledge and the Pledge on Equal Representation in Arbitration (which aims to improve the profile and representation of women in international arbitration and seeks the appointment of women as arbitrators on an equal opportunity basis). We are committed to the progress of equality, elimination of sex discrimination and pledge to make positive change for the legal profession. As part of its participation in the Women in Law Pledge, 7 King’s Bench Walk has set a number of targets and will report to the Bar Council on its progress in meeting these. Please click here to view our targets.
Our female members believe that a career at the Commercial Bar is both personally rewarding and family-friendly. Several members of Chambers act as mentors for women at the Bar through various programmes, including the COMBAR Mentoring Scheme for Under-Represented Groups and Bridging the Bar, as well as informally.
7 King’s Bench Walk also has a generous parental leave, special leave, career break and flexible working policy. We believe that nobody should have to choose between a successful practice and a happy family life. Each member returning to Chambers following a period of parental leave is allocated a mentor who assists the member in settling back into practice and generally.
We are proud that all of our female members who have taken maternity leave and/or a career break have opted to return to Chambers following (often extensive) periods of parental leave and feel continually supported in their desire to combine a fulfilling career with family life. We believe that this reflects the wider supportive culture in Chambers.
If you have any questions about our commitment to encouraging and enabling women to pursue careers at the Commercial Bar or would like to talk to a member of Chambers about their experience, please contact Josephine Higgs KC by email at email@example.com.
Some of our current and former female members share their experiences of life at the Commercial Bar and life at 7KBW below.
Julia Dias was called to the Bar in 1982 and joined 7KBW in 1985 as their first ever female tenant. She rapidly acquired a formidable reputation as a leading commercial junior with a high-quality practice focusing on shipping, insurance and arbitration. Notwithstanding two 12-month periods of maternity leave and a 5 year career break (all taken before remote working was even a possibility), she rebuilt a successful practice and took silk in 2008. She was appointed as a Deputy High Court Judge in 2018, sitting mainly in the Commercial Court, before being appointed as a High Court Judge sitting in the Commercial Court in 2023. She is a Governing Bencher of the Inner Temple and served on its Executive and Finance Committees for 10 years, including 5 years as Chair of the Finance Committee. She chaired Bar Disciplinary Tribunals for many years and is currently the Inn’s appointed representative on the Bar Tribunals Appointments Body.
While relishing the challenges of her professional career, Julia has always believed in maintaining a wide range of interests outside the law. She was a triple blue at Cambridge, captaining the university tennis team, and continued to play until eventually overtaken by injury. She is now reduced to running to keep fit – a poor substitute, but better than nothing. She also plays the violin and piano, sings in the local church choir and enjoys reading, walking and cooking. Julia was a trustee for 10 years of Magpie Dance, a small charity working with learning disabled adults and children, and still takes an active interest in their work. She supports the Inner Temple’s educational and outreach activities whenever she can.
Having very much enjoyed bringing up her two children (aged 30 and 26 and both musicians), Julia was thrilled to become a grandmother for the first time earlier in the year.
Siobán Healy joined 7KBW as its second female tenant in 1994, having previously trained and worked as a qualified solicitor at Richards Butler (now Reed Smith) from 1988-1993, specialising in international trade and commodities. She soon developed a good reputation as a commercial junior with a practice specialising in insurance, shipping and international trade, arbitration and professional negligence – broader and more varied than would have been possible at most City law firms. Siobán was appointed QC in 2010, becoming the 233rd female barrister ever to be appointed silk in England & Wales, a number which had increased to over 530 by 2021. Since taking silk Siobán has continued to practise as a commercial law advocate but has also built up a substantial practice as an arbitrator, deciding international disputes across a wide range of fields including not just those identified above but also corporate and banking disputes and sports law. Arbitration hearings as counsel or arbitrator often take place overseas e.g. in Singapore, Bermuda, Dubai, Paris or Lausanne. Siobán enjoys the mixture of arguing cases and deciding cases and the variety of subject matter.
Siobán’s experience as an independent practitioner at the Bar has enabled her to take on other interesting roles from time to time e.g. as a Director of the Bar Mutual Indemnity Fund Limited, the compulsory mutual professional indemnity insurer for all barristers 1995-2010, as a member of the Finance Committee of the Philharmonia Orchestra 2004-2007, and as a member of the Professional Conduct Committee of the Bar Standards Board 2011-2015.
Siobán grew up in rural Warwickshire and did A levels at the Trinity School in Leamington Spa before studying law at Brasenose College, Oxford and obtaining an LL.M at Northwestern University, Chicago. These days Siobán splits her time between London and the French alps where she enjoys hiking, trail running and ski touring, having learnt to ski in her 30s.
Sarah was called to the Bar in 2006 and joined 7KBW in 2007. Sarah practises in all areas of commercial law and has particular experience in shipping and insurance and reinsurance matters.
Sarah grew up in Newcastle upon Tyne where she attended her local state school. She studied law at Downing College, Cambridge, where she also did the LLM. Sarah was awarded Middle Temple Inn scholarships, including an accommodation scholarship, for her bar school studies in London. While at bar school, Sarah supervised Contract Law at Selwyn College, St Edmund’s College and Christ’s College, Cambridge. Sarah is a governor at a local prep school and sits on the Finance and General Purposes Committee.
Sarah returned to 7KBW in October 2022 following an extended maternity leave. She has four children aged 9, 7, 6 and 4 who keep her busy when she’s not working! As a family, they love spending time by the sea, eating ice cream and scooting along the seafront. Sarah plays the flute and enjoys reading, baking, being part of her local church and trying to keep healthy by running and taking ballet lessons.
Sophie was called to the Bar in 2021 and completed her pupillage at 7KBW in 2022. She is now building a broad commercial practice, focusing on Chambers’ core practice areas.
“After finishing my A-levels at Sharnbrook Academy in Bedfordshire, I went on to study law at Keble College, Oxford. I didn’t consider a career at the commercial bar until leaving university, in large part because I just didn’t think I fitted the mould of a “commercial barrister”. However, after university I took part in schemes focused on women at the commercial bar, and spoke to women barristers on mini-pupillages, including at 7KBW, about their careers and the application process. Those experiences made the prospect of a career as a commercial barrister more realistic, despite some of the stereotypes. Having now been at 7KBW for over a year, I am very glad I decided to apply, as I am firmly enjoying the challenges of commercial practice, with the support of the barristers and clerks at Chambers. Recognising that there is a lot more to do in this area, I am looking forward to getting involved with events to support greater inclusivity at the commercial bar.”