Category Archives: Chairman’s Message

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

Chairman of the Young Barristers’ Committee’s Address for the Young Bar Conference 2016

There are two themes which have been consistently present over the past year and during my time as Chairman of the Young Barristers’ Committee: – technology and Brexit.

Both of these topics will be spoken about today, and the breakout sessions on these issues highlight the importance of these themes.

Both topics bring with them a great deal of uncertainty – a lack of clarity as to the way forward, how they will affect the Bar, and particularly how they will affect and change the future of young barristers.

Today’s cohort of young barristers is in a particularly vulnerable position.

They are financially vulnerable – as a consequence of tuition fees and increases in the BPTC fees we now know that young barristers can have anywhere from £30,000-£70,000 debt when then start out in the profession.

Many are making repayments over their first 5 years of practice if not substantially longer.

Young criminal and family barristers are receiving the lowest of sums for carrying out important work, and many are struggling to maintain a living.

Parts of the media have reports almost daily where lawyers are criticised for the work they do and characterised as a scourge on society.

Young barristers live in deeply uncertain and difficult times. I would argue more so than any generation of barristers in the previous 52 years. And it is difficult against that background not to feel somewhat lost and somewhat depressed.

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The Wellbeing at the Bar report published last year highlights the levels of stress and anxiety being felt by all barristers.

Nearly 2,500 barristers responded to the survey that formed the research behind the report.

The survey found that one in three barristers find it difficult to control or stop worrying. One in six barristers said that they felt low in spirits most of the time.

I myself have suffered with anxiety and depression. I have lost a close friend who took her own life, in part under the strain that this job and circumstances can place on people.

And the increase in remote working has started to remove the idea that chambers are where others will be working and where support can be found if needed.

Young barristers are under increased pressure and this is why I welcome the Wellbeing at the Bar initiative, which is being launched today. Through this work we can dispel the stigma that prevents so many people from asking for help. And we can help others to understand what they can do to assist those in difficulty.

For the young bar in particular there is also the Young Bar Hub and Toolkit, which have become an invaluable resource for young barristers – to find advice and guidance, and to understand that they are not alone in this profession.

One thing I have realised and learnt over 7 years of practice is that many people, many young barristers, do their work while dealing with great adversity. Whether that is physical disability or illness, mental un-wellness, discrimination or harassment, or financial pressure.

The one thing that the Bar excels at is standing firm in the face of difficulty. The concept of fearlessly defending others’ interests and standing up for our client is at the heart of all that we do. And we are capable of taking the wrath of judges, governments, solicitors and (on occasion) clients.

All the barristers who I know manage their difficulties and never once allow it to negatively impact on their work for their clients or their duty to the court. They stand strong.

In her sermon at the Annual Judges’ Service at Westminster Abbey, to mark the Opening of the Legal Year, Reverend Jane Sinclair, Canon of Westminster and Rector of St Margaret’s Church, described lawyers and judges, and the work of lawyers and judges, as a gift to society. A gift to society that helps us to maintain our freedoms.

It is for these very reasons that I think we have to embrace change and see the opportunities ahead – even if they appear sometimes to be elusive.

We are a strong profession. We are becoming a more diverse profession. And we are a profession that puts our clients first – no matter what.

I am proud that I am part of a profession, and a cohort of young barristers, that still hold those values true. The value of representation. The importance of assisting and guiding our clients. And the duty that we hold to the court that enables justice to be done in every case in which we appear.

Barristers are not a scourge on society. We are strong advocates that ensure people’s stories are heard and their rights are protected.

And so while Brexit is being debate and discussed, I truly hope and invite and encourage the Government and individuals to look to barristers to assist them. To guide them and help them in framing our new relationship with Europe.

While our Courts are embracing digitisation I call on Her Majesty’s Courts and Tribunal Service and the Senior Judges to listen to and take the advice of those of us at the coal face, who assist and help individuals through the system every day.

And for all those present to remember that what we do matters.

Representation and advocacy matters.

Today there are a variety of sessions that are specifically aimed at Young Barristers, and are identified as such in the programme. All are welcome to attend these sessions, but I would encourage young barristers in particular to take this opportunity to learn something new and to engage with others.

After lunch our keynote speaker Caroline Wilson will be speaking to the young bar, and we will have an Open Forum session where you can ask any question of your leadership and we will answer. This is the time for your voice. No question is a silly question – we are here to listen and speak with you.

I sincerely hope you will enjoy the Conference and look forward to meeting as many of you as possible over the course of the day.

This address was delivered by Louisa Nye (Chairman of the Young Barristers’ Committee of the Bar Council of England and Wales) to the delegates at the Young Bar and Annual Bar Conference 2016. 

Chairman of the Young Barristers’ Committee responds to the EU Referendum result

Commenting on today’s decision to leave the EU, the Chairman of the Young Barristers’ Committee, Louisa Nye said: “I am currently attending the European Young Bar Association’s AGM in Dusseldorf, and this reflects the Young Bar’s commitment to maintaining a good working relationship with the European market. The Young Bar is committed to engaging with other European lawyers regarding the changes that will be taking place. The Young Barristers’ Committee is confident that the quality of advocacy and legal service provision in the jurisdiction will not be undermined by today’s results, and London will remain a leading centre for international dispute resolution.”

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Notes to Editors

  1. Further information is available from the Bar Council Press Office on 020 7222 2525 and Press@BarCouncil.org.uk.
  2. The Bar Council represents barristers in England and Wales. It promotes:
  • The Bar’s high quality specialist advocacy and advisory services
  • Fair access to justice for all
  • The highest standards of ethics, equality and diversity across the profession, and
  • The development of business opportunities for barristers at home and abroad.

The General Council of the Bar is the Approved Regulator of the Bar of England and Wales. It discharges its regulatory functions through the independent Bar Standards Board.

The Challenges facing the Junior Bar

“Young barristers are finding new ways of working to combat the pressures of legal aid cuts, court fee increases, and the heightened costs of training” Louisa Nye

Being a barrister in the early years of practice has always been challenging: there are long nights doing work to prove yourself to your solicitors, clients, and clerks. Not to mention the financial insecurity of managing a practice at the self-employed Bar, where sometimes you will not be paid for work you have done for well over six months.

Now there are the added pressures of the legal aid cuts, which have substantially reduced the work available at the criminal and family Bar. Increases in court fees mean that litigants in the civil sphere have no money to spend on representation: they spend what money they do have on commencing the claim, or decide not to go to court at all. Access to justice is being eroded, which means that litigants are representing themselves or giving up on the law as an avenue to resolve their disputes. This means the work that young barristers used to do in lower value or less complex cases is no longer available.

Why does this matter? Some quarters would say that having fewer lawyers is a good thing. My concern is that these pressures cause the Bar to be less diverse. And if we do not have a diverse and thriving Bar, which the Lord Chancellor has said he would like, we will not have a diverse judiciary in the future. Sadly, the legal aid cuts and court fee increases have caused irreparable damage to our country’s justice system.

Privileged elite

First, the Bar is becoming less diverse because of the under-representation of women and black, Asian, and minority ethnic groups, who tend to practise more in family and criminal law, areas which were grossly affected by the legal aid cuts.

Second, why would a young person decide to go into a profession where they can see that work will not be available, and they will not be able to afford to meet the debt they have incurred in getting there? The cost of the Bar professional training course is now around £17,000, which will be added to the debt that young barristers will have acquired from university, the cost of living, meeting the Inns’ qualifying requirements, and travel expenses. The Inns of Court do what they can and award a substantial amount through scholarships, but the cost of becoming a barrister is still exorbitant. This means that those who do not have an independent income, or whose family cannot afford to assist them, are simply unable to access a career at the Bar. We are in danger of having a Bar that reflects the ‘privileged elite’ of 20 years ago.

New ways of working

So, why would anyone choose to be a barrister? The Bar is still a highly challenging and intellectually rewarding profession. No two cases are the same, and every day in practice (whether at the self-employedor employed Bar) is different.

In the face of all these difficulties, young barristers are finding new ways to work, and different ways to apply their talents and skills. More young barristers are doing secondments, and adding value to firms or companies by assessing risk in cases, providing advice, or dealing with specialised research projects.

Young barristers are branching out into different areas of expertise. Criminal barristers are no longer ‘just’ criminal barristers, but add specialisms in extradition, fraud, or regulatory work to their practices. Civil practitioners are becoming expert arbitrators or mediators, helping litigants to resolve disputes outside the court system.

International work is also providing new opportunities and areas of interest. There are increasingly complex legal crossovers, as the ease of travel and the prevalence of the internet mean that legal conflict issues and different jurisdictions are becoming an important part of everyday practice. Young barristers are perfectly placed to develop these areas of work.

Young barristers are, in my experience, resourceful and determined. They find ways to use their advocacy and analytical skills. The one thing that seems to be true of any barrister is that they are willing to meet a challenge. The challenge for those of us at the forefront of the profession is to help and encourage every young person who has the ability to be a barrister, to see that it remains a vibrant and rewarding profession.

Louisa Nye – Chair of the Young Barristers’ Committee

(This article first appeared in Solicitors’ Journal issue: Vol. 160 no. 07 dated 23 February 2016)

Bar careers are challenging, but there is support

There are so many challenges that face people coming to the Bar. Those challenges are varied but almost everyone I have spoken to has faced some sort of challenge to making a career as a barrister. Whether it is discrimination of someone from an ethnic minority; direct or indirect. Whether it is discrimination on the basis of a disability. Discrimination against women; sometimes from more senior women in the profession rather than just men with out-dated views.

Socio-economic limits have meant young barristers have massive debt, or have to take second jobs in order to be able to support a practice at the criminal or family bar. There is discrimination that ‘young barristers’ who come to the Bar later in life feel, even though they have gained experience in other areas. The challenges are varied and immeasurable. They cannot be compared. But they are felt.

In contemplating the challenges that so many young people face another thought occurred. The thing that all young barristers have in common; the ability to rise to a challenge. The fact that they will meet those challenges no matter what. The wish and will to succeed. The determination that they express every day when they turn up at court, knowing they are not properly paid for their time. Or refusing to take otherwise profitable instructions because they are an ethical and honest person.

All the young barristers I have met have so many skills. Not just the specialist advocacy skills that we have in common, but compassion, integrity and a strong and positive belief in the rule of law and justice.

This is why even in the face of so many challenges I have hope, not just for the Young Bar but also for the future of the Bar. It’s because there are still people who are willing to meet these challenges.

The responsibility of those of us in positions of responsibility, representation or authority is to help young barristers to meet those challenges.

Last year the Young Bar Hub was set up with this view in mind, and the Young Bar Toolkit is designed to assist those in the early years of practice. Just because young barristers can and will struggle to make it through their careers does not mean that they should have to struggle so much.

There are many things that the Bar Council, Inns and Specialist Bar Associations are already doing to help those who are facing difficulties in their careers. Whether it is the work done on looking at women at the Bar, equality and diversity training, mentoring schemes and in some cases sponsorships. But we cannot rely on those groups to provide all the services and support that is needed.

The Bar is a collegiate profession. We are One Bar. The challenges and difficulties will not be met simply by a few people.

They are the responsibility of all of us. So I would encourage everyone to consider whether they are acknowledging and helping other barristers where they can.

Whether it is through considering your own actions or actively trying to help through being a supervisor or a mentor. By speaking out when you see another member of the profession being treated badly.

We are all independent practitioners. It is time we exercised that independence of thought beyond our work and towards our profession.

Louisa Nye, Chair of the Young Barristers’ Committee

(This article first appeared in ‘Bar Talk’ dated 29 January 2016)

Message from the Chair of the Young Barristers’ Committee

During 2017 the Young Barristers’ Committee will be as active as ever in representing the Young Bar at the Bar Council, on Circuit and at Specialist Bar Associations. We are your Committee, so feel free to get in touch at YBC@barcouncil.org.uk, if there are issues you would like to raise at any level.

 

When it comes to day-to-day practice, we hope the Young Bar Hub will provide you with useful information to help you. Whether you are starting out at the Bar, or wish to check an issue having been in practice for a few years, our Toolkits are designed to support you and your early practice.

If there are any issues that we haven’t addressed, do get in touch at YBC@barcouncil.org.uk.

 

Duncan McCombe

YBC Chair 2017