“It was the application of reason and persuasion together with an implacable courtesy throughout. But this time, unlike the many previous occasions upon which we have fought similar battles, the persuasive words were backed up by action,” he said.

MacDonald summarised the position on fees: “The Bar has endured successive fee cuts and we have done our bit”; there was “growing recognition that rock bottom has been reached” and negotiations with Government were now proceeding with “cordiality and calm engagement”. “We have cut the Gordian knot [on] VHCCs [and] are proceeding on the basis of individual contracts tailored to the needs of the case,” whilst discussions take place on a replacement of the old system.

Panels drawn from the CBA and the Circuits will be consulted on any proposals on the re-structuring of fees under the Advocates Graduated Fee Scheme. “Never again will we hear the complaint from the Bar that it was not consulted about new fee schemes until it was much too late. The new system brings a representative selection of barristers into the process as active participants in the negotiation process,” MacDonald said.

“The new system should [also] help to persuade those who do not practise in London that the Bar Council is not a metrocentric organisation, out of touch with real life on Circuit... I will have things to say about the relationship between the Bar Council and the Circuits in the course of my year as Chairman,” he added.

MacDonald committed to discussions with the Legal Aid Agency “about a means by which the Bar can be fairly treated in the allocation of work” and added a note of caution on “the rise of the [unregulated] McKenzie friend beyond any function they were supposed to meet”. He expressed concern for the future of London as a global centre of legal excellence in the wake of the Legal Aid, Sentencing and Punishment of Offenders Act 2012 (LASPO).

“Our pre-eminence has been hard won. It can so easily be lost. I am really concerned that the changes brought about by LASPO both in terms of access to justice and also to restrictions on the ability of the citizen to challenge, by judicial review, the rectitude of Government decision, will have far-reaching consequences on the reputation of the justice system of England and Wales.”

MacDonald, in post from 1 January 2015, practises in Leeds, where he is co-Head of Chambers at New Park Chambers and was a former Leader of the North-Eastern Circuit. Nicholas Lavender QC returns to practice commercial law from Serle Court. Maura McGowan QC was appointed to the High Court Bench in October 2014.