Representation matters. This is true in all parts of society and never more so in an age when truly representative government is being challenged by authoritarian regimes across the world. The power of having your voice heard cannot be overstated; it makes for better decision-making and outcomes, as well as a richer understanding of the views and lives of others. Many of us joined the Bar because we understand the value of the job that barristers do in representing their clients and providing them with a voice. I want to make clear, this year, the value of representation not only for individuals but also within our organisations; ensuring the Bar Council unites relationships across the profession and presents the strongest possible collective voice.

As its core reason for existing, the way in which the Bar Council represents its members takes many forms. It is achieved through dedicated committees, through the elected body of Bar Council members which meets regularly (often with attendance from prominent figures in government and beyond – we invited the Director of Public Prosecutions, Max Hill QC and the Chairman of the Hong Kong Bar Association, Paul Harris SC to speak at our latest meeting), as well as through dialogue with the profession via research and intelligence. The insights we gain through feedback of this sort are essential in allowing us to understand what matters to those we represent; only then can we continue to make our case effectively at the highest levels of government and more widely.

This year we are holding a particularly important exercise to gauge the views and concerns of the Bar. In mid-April, the Bar Council opened its profession-wide ‘census’: an opportunity for all barristers to air their views and help shape the Bar Council’s priorities as we emerge into a post-pandemic world. I appreciate that we may all be suffering from ‘feedback fatigue’ after clicking ‘submit’ on survey after survey across a range of different topics affecting the legal profession over the past year. But, this census is a huge cross-profession effort. It is being run in partnership with the Circuits and Specialist Bar Associations to ensure its findings benefit every part of the Bar. It is the first opportunity in four years to provide a detailed steer on issues affecting you, including career progression, wellbeing, working practices and more. The findings of this ambitious survey of barristers’ working lives will go on to inform not only the Bar Council’s policies and training programmes, but also provide evidence to help shape how we seek to influence decision-makers in government on matters affecting the profession, access to justice and the rule of law.

There is of course no mandatory requirement to participate, but this is a real opportunity to have your say on what your representative body can do for you. Please take 20 minutes to complete the survey before the end of May. It can be found here.

We have also been looking closely at representation on our committees and the elected body of Bar Council itself. As we look towards Officer elections and, later this year, towards Bar Council subscriber elections, we need to ensure that we give effect to a desire to be open and available to all; to be a Bar Council that is truly reflective of our profession and society more widely. The work we do relies heavily on the voluntary contributions of many talented barristers. We are working to ensure that the structures of the Bar Council enable and support anyone who wishes to volunteer in any capacity to do so, in a way that takes account of their personal circumstances and home commitments. This is a key part of fair and equal representation. Please consider getting involved, whether as a Bar Council member, a Committee member or one day as an Officer – Chair, Vice-Chair or Treasurer of the Bar Council. If you are looking for somewhere to start, anyone can follow what is happening in Saturday Bar Council meetings live on Twitter, via the hashtags #BarCouncil and #BarCouncilLive and you can find more information about how it works here. Perhaps, as I did, you will find that after too long spent watching the justice system suffer from neglect and decline, you feel compelled to join those working towards a better future.

If you are still wondering how exactly the Bar Council represents you and you have not already seen it, I urge you to watch this one-minute video for a snapshot of the work that the Bar Council does on your behalf. If you want to help shape that work, please visit our website, respond to our survey and look out for more information about Bar Council elections later this year. Across the course of the year, we will continue to drive forward our agenda of representation as we confront the many challenges which our profession and the justice system face. I invite you to take part.