Category Archives: Guest Blog

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.

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 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.

 

The Bar’s Eye on Brexit

The Bar Council was neutral as to the result of the EU Referendum. It limited its activities to producing a hugely informative set of notes on the consequences of either an ‘in’ or ‘out’ vote. If you want to understand the potential ramifications for the referendum vote you could do a lot worse than read these papers, which can be found here:

Where the Bar Council is emphatically not neutral, is in the view that it needs to do whatever it can to help the profession to mitigate the risks and take advantage of the opportunities of the Brexit vote. That is why the Bar Council has established a Brexit Working Group, the remit of which is to do just that. I am the Young Bar representative on that group.

However, before the Brexit working group can march off confidently in the direction of helping the profession, it is of course important to work out what the profession actually wants. To this end an open meeting was held at Serle Court in Lincoln’s Inn to garner views from the profession. The meeting was very well attended, with people travelling from all over the country. A huge number of issues were identified, but a number of key priorities emerged.

First, the Bar Council must do its utmost to ensure that those who practice EU Law and who, for example, exercise practicing rights in the Court of Justice of the European Union by virtue of the UK’s membership of the EU, can continue to practice EU Law and exercise those rights.

Second, the Bar Council must seek to ensure that the issues of jurisdiction, the enforcement of judgments and other such matters are appropriately dealt with in a way which serves the interests of justice and the profession.

Third, the Bar Council must do all it can to make sure that the Bar is well placed to take advantage of the considerable amounts of work which will be generated by Brexit, particularly in government.

Many important consequences for domestic law were also identified. However, it was thought that it is important that work is not duplicated across the profession and much of this work is already being undertaken by specialist bar associations, who are in any event better placed to carry out such work. The role of the Brexit Working Group will be to coordinate these efforts, if required, and to identify gaps in the work being done.

If you would like feed in your views in relation to any of the priorities identified above, or if you think further priorities need to be considered, please email the group at  brexitwg@barcouncil.org.uk.

Duncan McCombe – Vice Chairman of the Young Barristers’ Committee