Day in the life of…Duncan McCombe

Duncan McCombe

Duncan McCombe,Vice-Chair of the Young Barristers’ Committee 

Chambers: Maitland Chambers

Year of Call: 2012

Practice Area: Anything Chambers will give me but, broadly, Commercial Chancery.

My day starts with a 6am get up. For reasons that I still do not quite understand, I signed up for a Half Ironman triathlon which takes place in July, so training has now started in earnest. A disturbing facet of this decision is that I have joined the MAMILs (Middle-Aged Men in Lycra) prematurely, a feeling which is not helped by the fact that my 6am alarm is the Today programme on Radio 4…

After a session in the gym, I am at my desk and working at about 9:30am; late for a barrister! This is just in time to meet my Pathways to Law Student whom I am hosting for the morning. Pathways to Law is a programme run by universities which aims to get school children from non-traditional backgrounds to study law and become lawyers. This is a competitive programme to get involved in, so unsurprisingly Amber is extremely impressive. I have been tasked with setting her an advocacy exercise, which is a challenge given she has not studied law. I choose an application to adjourn a trial, which has the positive side-effect that I get to play a grumpy District Judge (not that any District Judges are grumpy, of course). While Amber is preparing I manage to get some work done on a thorny sale of goods problem for a client. Looked simple at first glance; it isn’t. Amber then performs her advocacy exercise and I give some feedback. The idea that I am qualified to teach anyone anything is still slightly beyond me, but I do my best. After which – Amber having performed with distinction – we have lunch with the member of Chambers who is organising the scheme.

The afternoon involves more work on my sale of goods problem. It is legally fascinating, and would be enjoyable, if I didn’t actually have to give some practical advice at the end of it. At 4:30pm Bar Council duties call. I am Vice Chairman of the Young Barristers’ Committee (YBC), which means that I do my best to support the agenda of Louisa Nye, the Chairman. This year that involves raising the profile of the YBC, especially amongst the senior judiciary and policy makers, which is just as well given the newly-published Interim Report of Briggs LJ into civil justice. Our 4:30pm meeting is with the Master of the Rolls, Lord Dyson, the head of civil justice. Much time is spent on discussing Briggs LJ’s report and emphasising to the MR what effect this is likely to have on access to justice and the Young Bar (bad, in a nutshell) and the potential knock-on effect on the senior Bar and judiciary of the future. One of the best elements of being involved in the YBC is the opportunity to meet leading members of the profession and the judiciary and the respect accorded to your views. The meeting with the MR is no exception.

The meeting with the MR is immediately followed by a meeting of the YBC, where numerous matters are discussed from high policy (Briggs, Magistrates Court fees) to fun (the Young Bar dinner). This is followed by YBC drinks in Davy’s and bed… eventually. No good for the Half Ironman training.

The Changing Face of the Referral Bar

YBC Logo


On Friday 15 April 2016, Louisa Nye (Chair of the Young Barristers’ Committee of the Bar Council of England and Wales) delivered a speech at the World Bar Conference in Edinburgh. The speech shed light on the Junior bar point of view of the future of the independent referral bar. The full paper titled ‘The Changing Face of the Referral Bar’ is available here.


Day in the Life of…Louisa Nye

Louisa Nye

Louisa Nye, Chair of the Young Barristers’ Committee 

Chambers: Landmark Chambers

Year of Call: 2007

Practice Area: Real property law and Landlord and Tenant.

Being Chair of the Young Barristers’ Committee is an exercise in multi-tasking and organisation! I have to maintain my practice, while also attending various meetings and events as of the Young Barristers’ Committee (YBC). I am also involved in writing responses to consultations and papers for the Bar Council.

My day starts around 6.45am, not too early. I get into Chambers around 7.30am to go over my notes and papers for the meetings I have during the day.

I also spend an hour looking over a case that I have been asked to advise on and to draft proceedings in, and send an e-mail to my instructing solicitors indicating some points on which I believe difficulty may arise as a result of professional ethics.

At 9.30am I have my first meeting of the day; a meeting with a District Judge to discuss a reference for an application. While I am Chair of the YBC, I also have to ensure I am developing my own practice and taking the opportunities I can to expand the work opportunities available to me.

By 10am I have made my way to the Royal Courts of Justice for a meeting with Sir Adrian Fulford, the Senior Presiding Judge. My Vice-Chairman, Duncan McCombe, and the YBC Executive, Onyeka Onyekwelu, also attend. We discuss the technological developments in the courts; the good and bad points of Better Case Management and the potential for an Online Court. Duncan and I spend time outlining the concerns in relation to access to justice, and the potentially detrimental effect of the proposed changes on the Young Bar. We also discuss succession and ensuring that there is a strong cohort of young barristers who will be the QCs and judiciary of the future.

After the meeting, Duncan and I have a coffee to touch base. I then go back to Chambers to collect papers for cases, that I then take to the Bar Council Offices to work on in the afternoon. Thankfully there is usually a spare desk so I am able to sit and work alongside the staff at the Bar Council office. This enables me to do my work on cases, while at the same time being on hand to discuss issues as they arise with Onyeka and other member of the staff.

At 12.45pm Duncan, Onyeka and I have a lunch with the Chair of the Bar Standards Board. We discuss the realities of life as a junior barrister and the current problems with the BPTC, and the effect that this has on early years of practice financially.

After lunch Duncan and I hot-foot it over to Fleet Street for a meeting at 2.30pm with Gerard McDermott QC, Chair of the Bar Conference Organising Board, to discuss the Annual Bar Conference and Young Bar Conference.

At 4pm I return to the Bar Council Offices. This gives me an opportunity to sit down and check my e-mails. I also spend the time advising on a leasehold enfranchisement case and giving an opinion on whether to commence proceedings.

I finish at about 6pm and head home, continuing to keep an eye on my iPhone for any e-mails that might come in! I have some dinner, do some yoga, and watch some rubbish TV so that I can decompress from the day.

The greatest benefit of being the Chair of the Young Bar is the opportunity to speak to senior members of the profession and the judiciary. It is a privilege to be in a position where I can put across the concerns of the Young Bar, and am met with interest and true respect from the individuals that I am dealing with.

The greatest challenge is balancing my work as Chair with a full working practice. I effectively do two day jobs at once, so I have to remain as organised as possible and keep on top of e-mails and phone calls, as well as meetings.

The highlight of my time as Chair so far, has been being asked to speak at the World Bar Conference in April 2016, and being able to address the leaders of the referral Bars and others on behalf of the Young Bar of England and Wales.