Young Barristers take the IBA Conference 2016

I attended the International Bar Association Conference in Washington D.C. in September 2016. I was able to attend the event thanks to the Bar Council and the Criminal Bar Association International Legal and Professional Development Grant.

The IBA conference took place over five days and 7,000 delegates were in attendance. It was an opportunity to hear from leaders in the field, as well as to network with lawyers from around the world.

The keynote speaker for the Opening Ceremony was Christine Lagarde, Managing Director of the International Monetary Fund, who addressed the conference on corruption. She said: “Enhancing integrity in public and private sector governance is critical in mending the trust divide we see in societies today.” The Welcome Party was held in the Air and Space Museum and the Native American History Museum – where the networking began in earnest.

20160919_232849733_iosAs the conference was held in Washington, there was an address from a high ranking member of the American government every day. We heard from Colin Powell, former Secretary of State; Loretta Lynch, Attorney General of the USA who was speaking only days after the shootings in North Carolina; Jeh Johnson, Head of Homeland Security; and Tina Tchen, Chief of Staff to the First Lady. The week concluded with a symposium where Justice Kennedy of the United States Supreme Court, addressed the conference on the rule of law.

Seminars were held throughout the day, covering every practice area of law imaginable. Some of the highlights for me were the IBA Human Rights Institute’s forum, which debated the human rights issues in the USA and drafted a letter to the next President of the United States; the War Crimes Committee mock trial on whether the USA had failed international justice by not signing up to the ICC; and the Family Law Committee’s session on the Rights of the Child. It was incredibly interesting to be discussing international law with people at the height of their practice, who were eager to learn best practice from other countries. It was quite startling to realise the esteem in which Barristers from England and Wales are held – even if, as in my case, they are only a few years into their careers.

20160921_103735000_iosIn the evenings, there were a large number of cocktail parties and receptions hosted by different jurisdictions, firms and organisations. The Bar Council, along with the Faculty of Advocates in Scotland, and the Bars of Northern Ireland and Ireland, hosted a reception at the British Ambassador’s residence. The aim of which was to promote the UK as an attractive jurisdiction to work in, and to litigate in. Initially, the networking seemed a little intense but because everyone else was there for the same purpose, it became very natural to introduce myself and hand out business cards after exchanging information.

The closing party at the National Portrait Gallery gave everyone a chance to enjoy themselves with food and wine whilst being surrounded by the portraits of American Presidents. Most delegates were there to meet lawyers from other jurisdictions who they could work with and receive referrals from.

20160920_035338000_iosThe Bar Council and the Young Barristers’ Committee were very active throughout the conference. Not only did they host the reception at the British Embassy, but they also met with other countries’ respective delegations in order to promote England and Wales as a place to do business. There was a small and diverse group of young barristers from England and Wales who tried to meet with as many different people as possible, and to soak up the expertise from the global leaders in our respective fields. It is very encouraging that the Bar has such a confidence in the Young Bar that it seeks to encourage and support young barristers at international events.

I would strongly encourage anyone considering international practice to attend an international conference as it really opens your eyes to the work and the opportunities which are available, and the career you may wish to build. The conference was a good reminder about the importance of the rule of law, and the vital role lawyers play in our societies and in the world.

Katherine Duncan

Barrister, 5 St. Andrew’s Hill

Katherine Duncan is a young barrister specialising in family, criminal and public law at 5 St Andrew’s Hill.

What is a ‘young barrister’?

Well for a start we are not necessarily young….

The question that I have been asked repeated this year by other barristers, senior judiciary and politicians is “what is a ‘young’ barrister?”. How do we, at the Bar Council, ‘classify’ our most junior members?

The Old Definition 

For the past 52 years the Bar Council had defined its young constituents as those under 7 years’ call. This worked on the same basis as most have operated for the past century; that you define a barrister’s seniority by reference to their date of call.

As far as Bar Council is concerned this matters as it defines who can stand for election to Bar Council in the junior elected categories. It also determines the pool of individuals who the Young Barristers’ Committee (YBC) is entitled to represent and support, under the Standing Orders.

Time for a Change 

In April 2016 the YBC put a paper to the Bar Council seeking a change of that definition. The reasons that a change seemed necessary are that: –

  • When the YBC was originally established in 1954, most barristers would expect to complete their Bar Finals, get called to the Bar and then go on to pupillage. The numbers of those being called to the Bar and the number of pupillages available was not as disparate as it now is.
  • Now it is commonly the case that individuals seeking pupillage will have to apply more than once. For those applying to criminal chambers they may have to wait 2 or 3 years after call until they are able to secure a pupillage.
  • It is also well known that most criminal pupils will undertake a third-six. Third-sixes are also increasingly more common in the civil sphere.
  • Following completion of pupillage anecdotally it takes approximately 7 years until most young barristers feel comfortable in their career: professionally, ethically and financially. On the old definition a young practitioner, who has 2-3 years between call and completion of pupillage, would only be considered a young barrister for 4-5 years. This means that the representative capacity of the YBC and junior elected members of the Bar Council is reduced.
  • For most practitioners it takes up to 2 years for them to be sufficiently comfortable in their practice to considering standing for Bar Council or becoming engaged in the representative work of the Bar Council, SBAs, Circuits or Inns. An individual might fall outside the old definition of “young barrister” before they even considered volunteering, and as a result their expertise and experience might be lost.
  • In relation to employed barristers, while employed barristers in the GLD are qualified barristers by the end of their 12-month pupillage, they continue to do 2 further seats in advisory positions so as to put them on a par with their solicitor counterparts. Employed barristers in the GLD would therefore not be settled in practice until at least 4 years after call in most cases. This would obviously be a longer period of time if they were unable to get a pupillage initially.

Bar Council unanimously approved a changed definition.

The New Definition

the change that was approved was “less than 7 years practising following the first date on which the barrister was eligible for a full practising certificate”.

In effect this means that you are a young barrister for your first 7 years of practice, after you become fully qualified. For most individuals, this will be from completion of your 12-month pupillage.

The new definition has also been adopted in relation to the International Grants Programme run by the Bar Council and SBAs.

What’s in a name?

Of course, this all leads to the next question – if we are defining barristers by their experience, should we really be called ‘young’? A newly qualified barrister in their 50s would be as ‘young’ as a newly qualified barrister in their 20s on the definition as it stands. Although both individuals would experience similar challenges in the early years of practice.

To date no one has been able to suggest a better alternative. We could not be the Junior Barristers’ Committee, as that denotes anyone who is not a Silk. The Junior Junior Barristers? Repetition in this case would definitely become complicated. What about the New Barristers’ Committee? But how would that be perceived by our clients? The answer to this question has eluded me for 18 months! If anyone has any suggestions as to an alternative, please do e-mail YBC@barcouncil.org.uk and let us know.

Louisa Nye is the Chairman of the Young Barristers’ Committee and a barrister at Landmark Chambers.

What does the future hold for the Young Bar? A Family Law perspective

When I was looking for pupillage, which is longer ago than I care to think about (1983), I was repeatedly told by everyone in the profession that getting taken on in chambers and establishing a practice was extremely difficult. I can still remember thinking that quite a few people had achieved it, and why should it not be me? I also remember responding in an interview to the standard question as to why I wanted to become a barrister by saying, amongst other things that I thought that being a barrister would be fun.  Lucky for me (because that would have been thought a frivolous answer by many an interviewer), that answer struck a chord with the panel.

Although the work we do can be very challenging, and at times extremely emotional if you are a family lawyer, some 33 years later I believe that my early sense that the Bar would be an enjoyable career, and where success was eminently achievable, was right. There is nothing like fighting a case on behalf of a client, and nothing like doing your very best to persuade a tribunal to make the decision for which you are advocating. In family law (and no doubt in other fields as well) there is also the greatest satisfaction in team work and negotiation.

One of the biggest difficulties faced by the would-be young barrister is financial. Although some scholarships are available from the Inns, it is likely that many a talented graduate is put off by the thought ever more debt. Although the profession is acutely aware of this, the engagement of the junior bar in helping to advise as to practical solutions is crucial for those who follow..

If the individual manages to surmount the difficulties – and is prepared to persist, I am convinced that the Bar remains a very worthwhile career.  Of course it is not for everyone. There are some who will find that the unpredictability and lack of stability are too hard to manage, and will leave the Bar to become employed.

For those who wish to remain at the Bar and to concentrate on family law, there are significant challenges. Not least is the future of publicly funded work.  During the course of my career I have seen a reduction in publicly funded fee levels, a raising of the threshold for obtaining public funded, and now the abolition of public funding in most private law family cases. No doubt there will be more cuts, more changes.

The answer to these challenges, in my view, is for the young barrister to make sure of striking a balance in the work that he or she does and to be alive to new areas of work that are developing. I suspect this is true in whatever specialism, but in family law, even if you have a desire to confine yourself to a particular field in the long run, there is a great deal to be said for being willing to do what you are given within the first few years of your practice (within reason of course). Even if you want to be a money practitioner, it will improve your advocacy skills to do public law work.  If you enjoy public law work (and I speak as someone who very much does), you should do other things too. There is a huge amount of private law children litigation in the courts, for example. Although many litigants are driven to representing themselves there is a significant group who will wish to be represented as long as they can be reasonably certain of the cost.  The junior bar will benefit from this, especially those qualified for public access.  International work is a growing area (and Brexit is likely to add to this), and so is surrogacy. Many say that family lawyers should become more involved in Court of Protection cases.  By doing a variety of work you will not only gain in skills and insight, but you will be better protected if a particular type of work disappears through a change in the law or the government removes certain work from the scope of public funding.  Advocacy, negotiation and problem solving are desirable and adaptable skills.

Finally, be prepared to get things wrong and to make mistakes without feeling as if it is the end of the world. It is inevitable that some cases will go well and less not. It is part of a process of learning in a difficult job, and everyone does it. The important thing is to learn from it, and then to take that forward to the next case.

Frances Judd QC, Vice-Chairman of the Family Law Bar Association (FLBA) and a barrister at Harcourt Chambers.

 Frances Judd QC is a barristers at Harcourt Chambers. She is Vice-Chairman of the Family Law Bar Association (FLBA) and is a Deputy in the High Court.

 

Day in the Life of…Rupert Jones

Rupert Jones

 

Rupert Jones, Member of the Young Barristers’ Committee

Chambers: Citadel Chambers

Year of Call: 2011

Practice Area: Criminal & Media Law

 

06:40

I catch the train to Birmingham, which is where my chambers is based, but my work takes me to courts all across the Midlands.

07:50

I arrive in Chambers and access the digital case file for the wounding with intent trial, in which I act as the prosecutor. I’d never been on the case before, but was instructed last-minute. This is completely normal and you soon get used to absorbing huge amounts of information in a very short space of time. I go through the papers one last time, and finalise my notes.

As well as prosecuting the trial, I’ve got two other hearings. I’m making a bail application and a plea in mitigation (defending a sentence).

09:00

I walk over to Birmingham Crown Court and head to the robing room, where I sign in electronically. The room is full of familiar faces – I can’t remember the last time I went into any court and didn’t recognise someone. It’s one of the great things about the Bar. I make the most of it by taking some time out to chat to a friend about football the latest legal issue.

09:30

I speak to witness care. I am informed that the prosecution witnesses have arrived, so I make my way over to them, to introduce myself.

Afterwards, I try to find my client who is being sentenced for Affray. His mum is with him, and it is evident that they are both nervous. I have a quick chat and try to put them both at ease by pointing out the mitigating facts of the case. He’s a young man with no previous convictions, and the pre-sentence report recommended a suspended sentence. This is helpful but you can’t guarantee the Judge will agree.

10:00

The defence barrister in the trial approaches me outside court to inform me that his client is thinking about pleading guilty, but puts forward a slightly different version of events. We discuss it – the difference between his account and the prosecution case is so minimal that it’s unlikely to make any difference to the sentence. In any event, I phone the CPS lawyer to update and get their view on the matter.

10:30

I’m called into court for the bail application. My client is refused bail. I call the solicitors to let them know.

11:00

My sentence hearing is called, and in court, my client gets a suspended sentence. This is a relief to him, and his mum can hardly contain herself and bursts out in tears.

11:30

I go and speak to the witnesses about the proposed basis of plea. They have no issues with it. I pass this information back to the CPS lawyer.

12:00

The trial is called. The defendant pleads guilty on a basis which the prosecution have accepted, and the Judge is satisfied. The defendant is sentenced to 4 years imprisonment.

13:00

I head back to chambers, eat some lunch and catch up on other work. Two of my upcoming trials have work that needs doing: I need to draft Agreed Facts and a Bad Character Application in one, and I need to make proposals for edits to an ABE video interview with a child in the other.

14:00

I receive a call from my clerks at my desk. A defendant who absconded after being convicted has been arrested. I head back to court, read the papers as quickly as possible (again, it’s not a case I’ve been on before) and go into court. The Judge adjourns the sentence so that the original Judge can deal with it.

15:00

Back at my desk – working. My chambers is friendly and sociable, so I take this opportunity to chat to other members as they come and go.

17:00

My clerks call to inform me of my work for tomorrow. I have a new trial. This time, I’m defending in a robbery trial in Worcester. I read the papers and familiarise myself with the facts of the case.

18:00

I get on the train and travel back home. I eat dinner and end my day by going through the papers for tomorrow’s trial for a second time.

Best thing about practice: Every day brings something new, interesting and often unexpected.

Worst thing about practice: Every day brings something new, which often means working late into the evening.

Rupert Jones is a criminal and media law young barrister at Citadel Chambers, and a member of the Young Barristers’ Committee.

Pro Bono – The Business Case

Pro bono work contributes to the public good. In doing pro bono work barristers forgo paid opportunities. The primary motivation is, or should be, altruistic.

So far, so obvious.

Through all our work, we create value. In transactional terms, anyone undertaking pro bono work will have decided that the value added to the client (and/or society in general) will outweigh the loss of financial opportunity to himself/ herself.

And yet less often included in this equation, perhaps, is the value we can add to our own practice through pro bono work. There is a sound business case for working pro bono, and here are three aspects of it:

1) Building your skills

As a junior (or even baby) barrister without appellate experience, if an ordinary appeal to the Court of Appeal (for example) comes into Chambers – i.e. one which is publicly or even privately funded – the chances of you picking it up as opposed to someone a few years’ call ahead of you who has appeared there before are very slim.

If the case is pro bono, that’s a very different matter. These types of cases crop up fairly frequently through, for example, the Bar Pro Bono Unit, and often are suitable to those of limited call. Cases like this provide the opportunity to bolster your CV well ahead of schedule and obtain a meaningful competitive advantage.

2) Networking

So far, I’ve used the classic definition of pro bono work, i.e. “providing legal services free of charge”. Undoubtedly, taking on this kind of work will allow you to expand your professional network.

But there are other legally-focused opportunities to work pro bono outside of this definition. For example, there are various working groups within the Circuits and Bar Associations focused on access to justice issues, often contributing to policy debates and Government consultations.

Activities like this can be fascinating, and aside from the societal benefit in participating, you will have the opportunity to work closely with leaders within the profession and, in so doing, add to your own professional network.

3) Reputation

Pro bono work can also be a valuable marketing tool. For example, taking on pro bono cases can put you in the running for the various “Pro Bono lawyer of the year” awards by professional associations and regional pro bono organisations. Even if you don’t win one of these awards, being seen to do pro bono work will improve your credibility, and that of your Chambers or firm.

There are also reputational benefits. For example, should you find yourself in the Court of Appeal (to continue the above example), you will find that your tribunal will appreciate your acting pro bono; something which is unlikely to harm your reputation among the judiciary.

So, to conclude, those who might be mulling over whether or not to take a few hours out of their diary for pro bono work? Make sure that, as well as considering the public good, you consider the business case and potential marketing and reputational benefits.

Sam Roake

Charter Chambers

Sam Roake is a criminal barrister at Charter Chambers, and a member of the Young Barristers’ Committee, and is the young bar representative on the Bar Council’s Pro Bono Board of the Bar Council of England and Wales. 

National Pro Bono Week

To the Young Bar,

I am writing to invite you to take part in the 15th Annual National Pro Bono Week, sponsored by the Bar Council, the Law Society, and the Chartered Institute of Legal Executives. This takes place between 7-11 November 2016.

Pro bono work is of great value. By taking on pro bono work, young barristers decline paid opportunities and offer their time and resources to further access to justice.

Many young barristers undertake pro bono work; whether by working with the Bar Pro Bono Unit, the Free Representation Unit, the Personal Support Unit, giving advice in Law Centres, working on the Chancery Bar Litigant in Person Support (CLIPS) scheme, or even through voluntarily reducing their fees and hourly rates to ensure that they can represent clients who require their help and assistance. There are many schemes and initiatives throughout England and Wales through which young barristers help to ensure that those most in need are supported.

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National Pro Bono Week is a week devoted to marking the efforts of barristers, solicitors, and legal executives in England and Wales. The Young Barristers’ Committee is committed to supporting the efforts of young barristers who take up pro bono work. We have a member of the Young Barristers’ Committee who sits on the Bar Council’s Pro Bono Board, and have supported the efforts of the profession by publicising the consultation on the level of pro bono work done at the Bar (click here to participate).

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I hope you will join us to celebrate and promote the pro bono work of the legal community, through the series of events throughout National Pro Bono Week.  The launch event for the Week is an evening of “SPARK Talks” on Monday 7 November at BPP University London. This event presents an opportunity to hear about the experiences of people engaged in pro bono practices as they recount challenges, concerns and hopes for the future. The Chairman of the Bar, Chantal-Aimee Doerries QC, will give the opening keynote on behalf of the legal profession. Other speakers include Ann Cooper (national coordinator at Kids in Need of Defense (KIND) UK), Amy Heading  (Pro Bono Director, UK & Nordic at DLA Piper), Gloria Morrison (Joint Enterprise: Not Guilty by Association (JENGbA) Campaigner), among many others.

For further information, please email YBC@BarCouncil.org.uk or visit the National Pro Bono Week website here.

Louisa Nye

Chairman of the Young Barristers’ Committee 2016