Category Archives: Blogs

Young Barristers’ & Inns of Court Qualifying Session

The Young Bar Hub is a treasure trove of useful information which could prove to be invaluable to those in their early years of practice, but at present it is not as well-known as it should be.

Young Barristers’ Committee (YBC) have met – and are meeting – with representatives of the Inns of Court to try to raise our profile amongst students, particularly so that we can highlight the work that we do and the assistance we can provide when commencing life at the Bar. The Young Bar Hub shares information on matters such as accounting and finance, which are rarely discussed on the Bar Professional Training Course (BPTC) or even in Chambers. Forewarned is forearmed, as the saying goes.

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Making Tax Digital

What is Making Tax Digital?

Making Tax Digital (MTD) is a radical new system being introduced by HMRC. It will transform the way that tax returns are filed online.

Under MTD, self-employed barristers must keep accounting records electronically and use that information to provide updates on their business profit to HMRC on a quarterly basis.

HMRC’s main aim under the scheme is to make tax administration more efficient and easier for taxpayers through the introduction of a fully digitised system.  Also, HMRC estimate that they lose around £8bn a year through filing errors by taxpayers and that MTD will help to reduce those errors.

The Facts

The way that business profits are reported to HMRC is changing. Barristers with income in excess of the VAT threshold will need to begin digital submissions from April 2018 under the current proposals, and barristers with income below the VAT threshold will need to begin digital submissions with effect from April 2019. Quarterly submissions will be due to HMRC following these start dates, and will need to be based on accurate accounting data. The reports must be submitted one month after the end of the quarter.

That means you will no longer need to wait until the end of the year to find out how much tax you need to pay. However, a penalty regime will apply to late submissions.

If you are not already using software for your business record keeping/accounting you will need to establish a system in order to comply with the rules

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Anglo-Dutch Exchange: 50 Years On

I decided to sign up to the Anglo-Dutch Exchange after receiving an enthusiastic email from one of my old pupil supervisors. In his email, he encouraged junior members of my chambers to consider the trip, having attended the exchange and hosted Dutch lawyers in the past.

Unbeknownst to me, it was the 50th anniversary of the Exchange. I was excited, partly because I had no idea of what to expect, and partly because I had never been to The Netherlands.

On arrival at Schipol Airport in Amsterdam, I met members of the Anglo-Dutch Exchange Organising Committee and fellow English lawyers. We travelled to Loyens and Loeff, a law firm in Amsterdam. This was my first visit to a Dutch law firm, and this law firm was extremely impressive. Through the modern reception area was central space with a glass ceiling, wooden accents and green plants lining the walls. I made my way to the back room to meet the rest of the delegates, Loyens & Loeff lawyers, and the Anglo-Dutch Exchange Organising Committee. The setup of this room gave us all an opportunity to network, and the fact there was a bar serving drinks didn’t hurt. It was also my first opportunity to try typical Dutch snacks and started my love affair with bitterballen; a meat and potato ball, covered with breadcrumbs and deep fried. I also tried herring for the first time, which was surprisingly tasty, and had lots of raw meat and cheese.

We then made our way to our hosts for dinner; some of whom were in Amsterdam, while others were in Rotterdam or The Hague.

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Day two was spent in Rotterdam; a very modern city, in comparison. Our tour of the city started at the Port of Rotterdam. We were kindly given an interesting lecture by the Head of the Legal Department Mr. Frans van Zoelen, and his associates. We then travelled to Euromast by water taxi, which is now my favourite way to travel. We had lunch at Euromast, an observation tower, which commanded impressive views of the city.

After lunch we went to the Court of Rotterdam; the only court in the Netherlands which allows proceedings to be conducted in English. We were given a talk by two judges about the Dutch legal system. This talk was particularly interesting because it highlighted the similarities and differences with the Dutch legal system and the system in England and Wales. One example of the differences was the need for parties to have lawyers in order to present their case and the limits on litigants-in-person. We were then given a tour of the building, which concluded with a trip to the cells. This was very familiar for me, as a barrister with a criminal practice,  but this was the first experience for some of the other delegates.

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We then made our way to the Royal Maas Yacht Club for a lecture by Conway & Partners law firm on arbitration, followed by drinks and Dutch canapes. The lecture was interesting whilst the Club afforded spectacular views of the river.

We had dinner at Tenn Holter Noordam Advocaten law firm and had drinks with the Rotterdam Young Bar Association. Members of the Young Bar Association were very welcoming and this  gave us an opportunity to chat and network with our Dutch counterparts.

Day three started in the historical city of The Hague.We met with an enthusiastic tour guide who gave us a stimulating tour of the city and the no so amicable history of Anglo-Dutch relations. Lunch was at Wladimiroff Advocaten, a boutique law firm in a beautiful building. Lawyers from the law firm kindly joined us for lunch, which gave us an opportunity to get to know them and learn about the work that they do.

After lunch, we headed to the Supreme Court, where we were greeted by a man who showed us to the cloakroom area. He waited patiently while we deposited our coats and jackets, and took various selfies. I soon came to realise that he was none other than the President of the Supreme Court! The President took us on a tour of the impressive offices, and even allowed us into his room, before sitting with us in the canteen. He welcomed our questions, of which there were many, and answered them in such an honest and inspiring way. The President’s generosity with both his time and hospitality was humbling and greatly appreciated by us all.

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We then attended the office of Pels Rijcken & Droogleeven Fortuijn; a law firm specialising in government defence work. We were given a fascinating talk about the Urgenda climate case, in which the district court of The Hague in 2015 ordered the Dutch government to reduce its greenhouse emissions in The Netherlands by 25% in comparison to 1990. The case raised a number of issues in relation to the applicability of international treaties and conventions to domestic law, and the ability for citizens and NGOs to rely on international law.

Bird & Bird treated us to a fabulous reception with many traditional Dutch foods. Here, I continued my love affair with bitterballen, whilst trying other Dutch dishes and meeting the amazing lawyers there.

The final day started off with a guided tour of the Rijksmuseum in Amsterdam. The tour guide took us on an Anglo-Dutch themed tour of the museum, which gave us an interesting insight into historical Anglo-Dutch relations.

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Despite having three and a half hours of personal leisure time planned, we couldn’t help but eat lunch together, cementing our bond. Jealousy also ensued when it took an extraordinary amount of time for half of our group to receive their meal. I kindly shared my bitterballen with the some of the starving group, grateful that my meal had arrived promptly.

We had a lecture at De Breij Evers Boon law firm, who gave us a quiz in order to test our knowledge of the Dutch legal system. We were treated to drinks and canapes by the law firm which were greatly received.

On the final part of our trip, we had a fantastic dinner at the Royal Institute of Tropics with our hosts. The venue was spectacular, the food was amazing and the company was impeccable. Our last stop was a bar for drinks, where some of us danced the night away. Some took the party further and allegedly stayed out until 7am. I, sadly, had a 08:50am flight to catch in order to attend my chambers AGM.

All in all, the Anglo-Dutch Exchange was an unforgettable experience for which I feel privileged to have been a part of. A huge thank you to the Committee in The Netherlands for organising such an informative and pleasurable trip.

Natasha Shotunde

Barrister, 5 St. Andrew’s Hill

Natasha Shotunde is a young barrister who accepts instructions in landlord and tenant, civil, family, crime and extradition at 5 St Andrew’s Hill.

Why the YBC is supporting the new proposed AGFS

It’s a point often made that the launch of Government consultations can be a moment where the profession can get a bit nervous, especially when the issue concerned is criminal publicly funded fees.

We have all experienced the perverse effects of the current system: turning up for trials that are non-effective for reasons beyond your control; endless delays and arguments with the LAA over page count; attending mention after mention payments for which you know are coming out of the final brief fee. Under the current scheme, the young barrister is often on the losing side in the roulette of remuneration.

The consultation entitled ‘Reforming the Advocates Graduated Fees Scheme‘, has been launched by the Ministry of Justice. This contains a proposal for a new scheme that intends to rationalise the way that publicly funded defence cases are paid. We think this will redress many of the disadvantages of the current system.

Fundamentally, it suggests re-writing the current Advocates Graduated Fees Scheme (‘AGFS’) and replacing it with a scheme where cases are paid based on the complexity of the case and to reward the work that barristers actually do, rather than working slavishly to a page count system.

From the perspective of a young barrister, there are some clear advantages of the scheme:

  • Being paid £300 for every ineffective trial
  • Restoration of payment for PTPH, sentence and mentions
  • Payment for the second day of every trial
  • A scheme that rewards advocates for the level of work done and their experience
  • No more arguments over the service of material as evidence.

It goes without saying that no scheme is going to be absolutely perfect. There are a few drops in the base amounts for payments for some cases. But the clear advantage is that young barristers will be paid for their time in court, rather than being paid on an arbitrary basis, and will be able to actually make money rather than feeling like every other case is a loss leader. The scheme actually provides the groundwork so that newly qualified barristers can have a sustainable career in their early years, and beyond. The young bar needs a scheme that incentivises progression to more complex and serious cases.

The Young Barristers’ Committee, through the Bar Council will be responding to the consultation. The response will be positive, as we think this is a step in the right direction and the changes proposed would benefit the Young Bar overall.

If you have any views or would like to contribute to our response please do send comments and feedback to YBC@barcouncil.org.uk.

By Louisa Nye (Chairman of the Young Bar 2016) and Helena Duong (Criminal Barrister at 23 Essex Street)

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.

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