It has been a privilege to represent our great profession and I have thoroughly enjoyed my year as Chair of the Bar. I have spoken out in support of the rule of law, and I have tried to promote the independence of the profession, improve remuneration for publicly funded criminal work, press for appropriate levels of regulation, and improve equality and social mobility.

Our role

As barristers we are rightly required to meet high standards of behaviour in all we do in our professional life: to act with integrity and honesty, and to be independent. Our clients do not always manage to achieve similar standards of behaviour, but our job is not to judge them (that is for judges and juries), but to advise and represent them.

We should not be associated with our clients just because we represent them. Some people who ought to know better still don’t understand this and in the summer I was pleased to be able to join the Law Society in condemning ill-founded criticism of immigration solicitor Jacqueline McKenzie.

At the International Bar Association, first in Helsinki and recently in Paris, I joined leaders of many northern European Bars who were concerned at suggestions that IBA Guidance be revised to suggest lawyers might have a duty to consider the desirability of their clients before deciding whether to act. And I was pleased that the leaders of the Four Bars – England and Wales, Ireland, Northern Ireland, and Scotland – issued a joint statement championing the cab rank rule.


Moderate progress has been made on remuneration. The CPS has matched the 15% increase in defence fees and there have been increases for s 28 and for immigration legal aid work. We have recently secured an important commitment to uprate the Fixed Recoverable Costs figures for inflation in April 2024.

But the criminal justice system continues to run hot, and on manifestly inadequate funding. It is not surprising that backlogs remain stubbornly high. The Criminal Legal Aid Advisory Board has two jobs to do. It must ensure that overall levels of remuneration for publicly funded criminal practice are sufficient to attract and retain both barristers and solicitors. But it must also ensure that the pattern of remuneration encourages the sort of behaviour that Better Case Management seeks to encourage. Earlier guilty pleas lead to savings in both prison and court costs: those savings could fund better fees for barristers advising at an early stage on prospects and plea.

Call to the Bar

Fallon Alexis and I have written an article in this issue of Counsel explaining the importance of delaying call until at least the first six months of pupillage is complete. Giving the title barrister to those who cannot yet do anything that barristers do is misleading and devalues our profession. Solicitors don’t do it and neither should we. It is important that the Inns canvass and listen to the views of all their members on this issue.


We criticised the Bar Standards Board for its low levels of productivity in dealing with its core task of regulating conduct and there have been marked improvements. But the BSB is increasingly expensive. We cannot become involved in the exercise of its regulatory functions but we all pay for the BSB and we are entitled to ask whether it is providing value for money. I am not persuaded that it is.

The Bar Council will need to continue to robustly champion the interests of the profession when it comes to relations with the regulators.

Earnings and social mobility

Have a look at the earnings data we recently published. It shows that in every call band and every area of self-employed practice, men’s median gross earnings are higher than women’s. Everyone at the Bar should be concerned that these disparities exist. Part of the difference may reflect different working patterns but the differential starts in the early years and it is hard to see that there is an acceptable explanation.

I am delighted that the 2024 Pupillage Gateway will incorporate an option to use contextual recruitment tools that will help identify candidates from underrepresented social groups and those people who have outperformed their peer groups. If you think future performance is as important as past achievement – perhaps even more important – encourage your chambers’ pupillage selection team to use these tools. It’s not about giving second-rate people a leg up, it’s about working out who the first-rate people really are.

Back to Chambers

I’m back to 4 Pump Court in January but am delighted to be handing over to Sam Townend KC who has been a fabulously supportive Vice-Chair. A massive thank you to the staff at the Bar Council, and Bar Council members, especially committee chairs, for their unstinting support this year.