Meeting Your Needs

With your help, we can ensure that we are working in all our members’ interests, writes Desmond Browne QC.

The Bar Council’s Member Services team came into existence last summer with one goal, to provide tangible benefits to the Bar and make our personal and professional lives that much easier. Already this past autumn the team has been testing the temperature to see how best they can support the Bar community.


For the Bar Council to succeed in representing the needs of its members, we must listen to barristers today in order to deliver on the promises of tomorrow. Conducting member research is essential for any organisation which wishes to understand its members and how services fit into their lives. The consequences of not doing this research are a risk we simply cannot afford to take. By looking closely at the Bar, Member Services will be able to align their services with our needs and remain up-to-date with an evolving profession. They have therefore adopted a two-stage process; the first being a series of small focus groups for in-depth discussions which in turn informs the second and final stage, an online questionnaire for the whole Bar.

Focused research

In the autumn of 2008, Member Services in partnership with one of the leading market research agencies in the country, mruk, hosted four focus groups as the first stage of a larger member research programme. Generously giving up their evenings, 29 barristers over four evenings debated the merits of different products and services which the Bar Council is or could be providing. It will come as no surprise that when a group of barristers came together after a hard-day’s work in a comfortable-setting with cheese and wine, the ensuing couple of hours involved intelligent and energetic debate. When asked what the Bar Council could do for them, each group responded with a lively, thought-provoking and stimulating discussion. The findings were as diverse as the Bar community itself from a group whose members’ backgrounds and domestic lives were in many cases, poles apart.

Online questionnaire

That was back in October 2008, now in the New Year, Member Services are ready with the next stage of their research; an online questionnaire constructed from the views of those barristers who attended the autumn focus groups.

We must surely all agree that what is essential is that the Bar community is not treated as one stereotype by service providers wishing to go into partnership with the Bar Council. Some barristers will have needs that are irrelevant to others; on the other hand, there are services we can deliver to accommodate everyone’s wishes. It is for the Bar Council to accommodate as many of its members’ requirements as it possibly can. We want to hear from every member of the Bar; whether you are employed, self-employed or non-practising, new to the profession or at the height of a successful career. If you complete this survey, we can connect with every member of the Bar from Land’s End to Hadrian’s Wall.

Please take a few minutes of your time to make sure every voice within our diverse community is heard. Over the next few weeks, I will be contacting every member of the Bar asking them to complete this questionnaire. Only with your help, can we continue to work in all our members’ interests.

E-communication

Last August, Mark Hatcher, the Bar Council’s Director of Representation and Policy, and Julie Myers, the BSB’s former Head of Strategy and Communications, co-authored an article in this magazine discussing the merits of communication by email (Counsel August 2008 p 24). As a result we now hold email addresses for the majority of the Bar, but if we don’t have your email address, we want to hear from you, and hear from you now, not later. Please email Records@barcouncil.org.uk if you have not already supplied us with your email address.

Expanding services

Only by listening to the needs of the Bar will Member Services be able to deliver additional value to your Members’ Services Fee, year on year. Already we have seen the introduction of new services, including reduced-fee gym membership and discounts on a local level. From this month onwards, members of the Bar who pay their Members’ Services Fee will receive a Bar Membership Card which will identify the holder as entitled to an increasingly diverse portfolio of products and services. Our Member Services team (MemberServices@barcouncil.org.uk) are continually looking to deliver benefits on a local level, working in the spirit of “One Bar”. Over the coming year you will hear more from the team as they expand the delivery of services across England and Wales. This online questionnaire is about you, for you and in your interests; don’t let your voice go unheard.

The Member Services portfolio

As Chairman of the Member Services Board, I work with the other board members to steer the Member Services executive team, providing guidance on their strategy and practitioner insight into products and services we need. After agreeing a strategic plan taking us up to 2010, the board established guidelines to underpin the future.
The portfolio of services provided by Member Services will:

  • promote the interests of the Bar community and be in the interests of the Bar
  • offer value for money and be competitive within the market
  • remain inclusive to all members of the Bar
  • provide proactive and responsive customer care
  • be delivered to the highest standards of quality

Only by asking the Bar what it wants, can Member Services be sure it is delivering a portfolio that satisfies the Bar’s needs, both now and in the future; and without it we would be flying blind. As a practitioner, I understand how busy we all are and that a request for another “contribution” to a survey might be the last thing one wishes to contemplate after a long, hard day. But by taking the time to tell us what you want, Member Services can help alleviate the stresses of drudging through the internet looking for better-value services or buying essential products we all need in order to get by, either professionally or personally. The few minutes you spend on this questionnaire will soon be outweighed by the time saved when you can rely on Member Services to secure products and services using the collective purchasing power of the whole Bar community.

But of course you should not feel restricted from voicing your opinion before or after the questionnaire has run its course and our Head of Member Services, Paul Mosson, would be only too happy to hear from you at PMosson@barcouncil.org.uk or on 020 7611 1394.

Tim Howe QC

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