“You make Theresa May look like she is working a basic 9-5” is the response I received after one of the Young Barristers’ Committee’s commercial partners read my ‘Day in the life’ blog. I did not have the heart to tell him that my responsibilities had tripled in scale since drafting that piece in my first year at the Bar Council.
From meetings with Senior Judges, Politicians, or companies with a commercial interest in the profession, to international gala dinners, project managing exchange programmes and multi-disciplinary seminars, my role as the YBC’s Executive is even more important now than it was 3 years ago when I joined the Bar Council.
The Young Barristers’ Committee was created in 1964 to act as the voice of the young Bar within the Bar Council and over the past 54 years, this voice has evolved and taken on a life of its own. YBC have championed, represented, supported, and promoted the interests of young barristers as they have overcome regulatory barriers to entering the profession; dealt with career-defining cuts to their fees; evolved their practice alongside technological change; or competed against unregulated legal service providers.
Our world-renowned justice system will always have a need for highly skilled advocates. The increase in knife crime in the capital or radicalised grooming gangs in the regions, the threats to our fundamental human right to privacy by social media apps, and other social justice threats to society can only be challenged and curtailed by quality advocates.
Even advocates need advocates
Access for all to legal advice and representation is a recognised human right in the UK, and yet, it is not accorded the same level of respect by the public as free health care under the National Health Service (NHS), or the right to free education for all. Why? Because the court system and the law are often regarded as something that you’d only ever need if you got into trouble. It is easy to forget that something as basic as downloading an app on your phone or buying a cup of coffee in the morning is covered in some way by the law. Without intelligent lawyers, we would may not have the basic freedoms we currently enjoy, and often take for granted.
Where do I come in?
Barristers are voluntary Committee and Panel members and not full-time members of staff. As the Executive of the YBC, I manage the output of the Committee, and work with barristers to articulate policy positions and act as the dedicated voice of the young Bar in different fora. This is even more important in light of proposed changes to the justice system, and the input that is necessary from barristers at meetings that are time-and-again, scheduled during court time. Barristers are passionate advocates, but it is hard for anyone to make a self-interested case persuasively. My role is to ensure that the young bar’s best interests are consistently and effectively presented.
The Bar Council is reliant upon funding from the Bar Representation Fee (BRF), and my role is no exception. By paying the BRF, you are effectively supporting me and the YBC’s efforts to represent and promote the young Bar nationally and internationally. The BRF helps us to carry on helping you.
Onyeka Onyekwelu is a Policy Analyst at the Bar Council, and the outgoing Executive of the Young Barristers’ Committee.