Conference call

Inclusive and interactive, this year’s main Bar event offers something a little bit different, as Rachel Spearing explains

For many, simply mentioning the word ‘conference’ will be a turn-off. Lawyers are never short of conferences to attend, and many will spend their career having never attended any. Given the speed and evolution of the profession, however, there has never been a better time to take the plunge and experience the Annual Bar & Young Bar Conference. There is a big difference between those conferences that leave delegates inspired and those that leave them heading for the exits with nothing but a goodie bag to show for it. We are aiming for more than just updates and education with our programme.

The annual conference must be doing something right as it goes into its 32nd year. Feedback has been strong; it educates, innovates and inspires practitioners. However, this year’s conference One Bar: threats, opportunities and strengths in an age of change,which takes place in London on 4 November, aims to build on the positive feedback but be a little different to past events. The same, beneficial characteristics will still be there: high profile speakers, the only event in the Bar’s calendar that brings the whole Bar together, the wide range of break-out sessions, opportunities for the young Bar, exhibition and post-conference drinks reception. But it is 2017, and as the title of this year’s conference indicates, we are in an age of change.

So what’s different this year?

As Chair of this year’s event I wanted it to genuinely reflect the One Bar ethos to which the Bar Council and the Bar as a profession subscribe. For me, that means a conference for not only the self-employed Bar, but the employed Bar too. It’s a conference not only for the practising Bar but those who have moved into other fields. The conference needs to be relevant for the Bar as a whole, and that includes chambers who support us barristers in everything that we do: clerks, practice managers, chief executives, marketing, PR experts and more. And then there is the next generation; this is the perfect opportunity for students, pupils and others looking to join the Bar to help them make informed choices about accessing the profession and the opportunities and challenges ahead.

This year’s event is not London-centric. We have worked hard to be inclusive with an active organising board reflecting the many faces of our profession. For the first time we welcome the home Bars (Scotland, Northern Ireland and Ireland) as well as our international counterparts. Providing opportunities to share knowledge, collaborate and network around the issues is a priority to ensure that all delegates find value.We hope that this facilitates ideas, opportunities and support for all of those in practice and practice management.

I was keen to show a collective effort from across the legal sector to meet and face the challenges and opportunities on the horizon, whether the court transformation programme, impact of Brexit on the Bar and what the General Data Protection Regulation means for not just barristers but chambers too, as well as practical tips on how to develop your practice.I also wanted the conference to give a ‘voice’ to the individual swept along with many such developments, allowing question, answer and plenary discussion to provide leadership with feedback from the ‘coalface’.

Some of the changes, while beyond our control, also bring a fresh approach. For example, gone are the days when CPD points were the sole reason to attend. Today, the conference provides the one opportunity for the whole Bar to come together and share discussion on key issues facing not only the practising Bar, but the wider legal sector and our justice system. We are also providing an opportunity for the systemic structures of those supporting the Bar to be included and for us to recognise that importance.

Speaker line-up and the conference app

This year’s speakers are not only high profile but relevant. Many are at the forefront of reform or leading names within our sector. We have Lady Justice Hallett, Vice President of the Court of Appeal Criminal Division and Sir Keir Starmer KCB QC MP, as well as speakers at the forefront of many of the reform programmes currently under way – Professor Richard Susskind OBE, author, speaker, and independent adviser to professional firms and to national governments and Susan Acland-Hood, Chief Executive, Her Majesty’s Courts and Tribunals Service.

The look and feel of this year’s conference will reflect the fact we are a modern profession. A conference interactive app will provide information and format at some of the break-out sessions. Innovations via the app and social media will allow questions to be posed discretely, in advance and during some of the plenary sessions. There will be a more interactive feel, but I don’t want to give too much away. You’ll have to just come along and see for yourself. Tickets are available from bit.ly/2rWQenJ.

For many, the most important element of our conference is meeting up with colleagues from other parts of the country who share your experiences and will want to share innovation, in the best way of meeting the challenges ahead. My recent experience is that these events are excellent at refreshing our enthusiasm for, and our pride in, the One Bar ethos of our profession. And in a time of change, it is good to take the time to consider the current position of the Bar and play a part in shaping its future.

Further information

One Bar: threats, opportunities and strengths in an age of change takes place at the Westminster Park Plaza, London on Saturday 4 November: bit.ly/2rWQenJ

 

 

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Rachel Spearing

Rachel Spearing is the Co-Founder and Chair of the Wellbeing at the Bar Project and the Convenor of the Wellness for Law Forum.