Bar will wither on the vine if it ignores plight of junior barristers

The size of the junior Bar is shrinking, Andrew Langdon QC told the annual Bar Council conference in London earlier this month.

‘Most believe the lack of confidence in public funding is partly what has caused chambers to recruit fewer junior members,’ he said, along with the growth in the number of solicitor higher court advocates.

This year, he said, there had been ‘some sign’ that confidence may have returned and recruitment to the junior Bar may be ‘heading back to a healthier place’. But, he said: ‘We are currently losing young barristers who see how hard it will be to pay back the debts they incur in training.’

Langdon warned: ‘We will wither on the vine if we do not take care of the most junior barristers.’

Accusing successive governments of undervaluing the delivery of justice and taking the publicly funded profession for granted, he told barristers they must ‘call out ill-conceived reform’ that may save money, but that will ‘demote the quality of justice’.

While fees from publicly funded work have been shrinking, Langdon told delegates that income from international work was increasing. ‘Confounding those who predicted our demise,’ he said the overall size of the Bar has continued to grow.

Chaired by Rachel Spearing, the conference heard from speakers including Sir Keir Starmer QC MP, Lady Justice Hallett, terror-law watchdog Max Hill QC, retired Court of Appeal judge, Sir Henry Brooke and Chairman of the Judicial Appointments Commission, Lord Kakkar. (See pp 12-21.)

Meanwhile, as Westminster is gripped by allegations of sexual impropriety, Labour peer and barrister, Baroness Kennedy QC warned that young barristers are vulnerable to sexual harassment.

She told The Times: ‘At the Bar, young women and some young men are vulnerable because they are in a highly competitive world seeking training places and tenancies and briefs.

‘There are many people who might seek their favours to advance their career. Stories abound and chambers should have clear rules and be swift in ending the tenancies of people who abuse their power. But it is still too hard for women to speak out.’

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