At the time of writing, we are in the middle of the latest Conservative Party leadership election. Many of you will feel relief that the Criminal Bar accepted the offer before the latest ‘events’ put government once more on hold. The Statutory Instrument has been laid, at last applying the 15% rise to the backlog and we hope the first meeting of the ‘Advisory Board’ marks a new more positive phase in our criminal courts.

Advice for pupils

I am grateful to all the barristers who volunteered and attended the Bar Council’s fantastic Pupillage Fair in October. The presentations were terrific, and the time and energy put in by so many volunteers at the ‘CV clinic’ was well received. Aspiring pupils are well advised to avoid pursuing pupillage in niche areas of work too soon. It is worth trying out and familiarising yourself with different types of legal practice at the start of your career, including criminal law, and then move onto specialist areas if you wish. The capacity crisis at the criminal Bar means there will be lots of criminal work for the next few years.

As chambers recover from the pandemic, many will start to benefit from the improved rates and flow of work. As they examine the ageing profile of their barristers, I hope many will consider recruiting extra pupils so we can expand the pool of talented individuals entering our profession.

Challenging behaviour

One of the Bar Council’s key priorities is to try and tackle bullying and inappropriate behaviour. We aim to help foster cultural change at work both in chambers and in court. The Bar Council has guidance and resources to help equip individuals to better understand the problems and seek redress. We also encourage the entire profession to work together to bring about change. We want talented new entrants to join our profession, but we also must convince them to stay by cultivating an environment that is genuinely welcoming, inclusive and diverse.

The Bar Council is part of the Judicial Diversity Forum; we have created guidance on addressing judicial bullying and there is a confidential online reporting tool available called Talk to Spot. Use it if you witness something inappropriate.

The Bar Council is involved in the Pre-application Judicial Education Programme (PAJE) which offers first-hand advice and support from practising judges The programme supports women, disabled and ethnic minority lawyers so that underrepresented groups can gain access to judicial work.

We still need further practical action, including better and more regular anti-racism training (including microaggressions)for the judiciary; as well greater emphasis on equality, diversity and bullying in the Guide to Judicial Conduct, and better use of the Equal Treatment Bench Book.

Creating a legal mess

Perhaps the most important legal issue facing the next Prime Minister is how to address Retained EU Law (REUL). I am hugely grateful to the barristers who have made up the Bar Council’s working group on REUL. Our major concern is that the Retained EU Law (Revocation and Reform) Bill will damage the economic interests of the UK, and risks the rights and protections afforded to all our citizens from law created during the decades of EU membership.

Browse the government’s dashboard. The Bill sets out the ‘sunset’ that will automatically revoke all EU-derived subordinate legislation by the end of next year. This date can be extended by the minister but must not exceed summer 2026. The Bar Council remains deeply concerned about the risk to legal certainty, business, and consumer confidence. Areas affected include regulations covering food safety, biodiversity, travel protection, product safety (white goods, cosmetics, cleaning products), unfair commercial practices, to say nothing of water (beaches, rivers and sewage), air pollution and tobacco.

The government has said it will not revoke any future financial services regulations without prior consultation, there is no specific deadline and the whole process is expected to take years. This should be the model for all REUL.

There is a perfectly proper reason to review REUL and, where appropriate, replace it. But the government should only do so where a better, evidence-based alternative is available. Parliament must not allow the ‘accidental’ loss of decades of legislation. If the Bill were to proceed unamended, then it is a recipe for confusion and uncertainty and hugely damaging.

Come to conference

It was a delight to attend the Employed Bar Awards at Gray’s Inn celebrating the wonderful work done by employed barristers across so many areas of vital national importance, and now I am very much looking forward to our next big event. Our conference takes place from Wednesday 23 November to Saturday 26 November, both online and in person in London.

The programme is full of fantastic speakers and the event is an opportunity for us to come together as a profession and one Bar. Please get your ticket to attend.