NewsBites - September 2013

Liberalised litigators
Self-employed barristers will be able to conduct litigation next year, following Legal Services Board approval of the new Bar Standards Board (BSB) Code of Conduct. Numerous practising restrictions will be lifted in the revised code, which forms part II of the new BSB Handbook and comes into effect on 1 January 2014. It replaces the current 8th edition of the Code of Conduct, its annexes and the Bar Training Regulations.


Bar’s Birmingham mobility
July saw the sixth, and largest, Social Mobility Foundation Bar Placement Week in London, and the first ever regional Placement Week in Birmingham, in partnership with Aim Higher West Midlands. This year, 74 students from state schools in London, and 12 from state schools in Birmingham, visited local chambers and shadowed practising barristers. The Bar Council hopes to launch other regional programmes in the future. See p 22, this issue.

Women in the City
Nominations have opened for the legal category of Women in the City’s “Women of Achievements Awards”, endorsed again this year by the Bar Council. The awards recognise those who are actively promoting and encouraging the progress of other women, above and beyond their everyday job. Nominations close on 20 September. See www.citywomen.co.uk.

Call for parole courts
Victims’ Commissioner, Baroness Newlove, has called for less secrecy and more formality in Parole Board hearings. In her first report as commissioner, she urged reform of the Victim Contact Scheme, said she would fight to ensure that hearings are more “open and transparent” and would be pressing for victims to be given the option to attend the whole hearing. Plans for the Parole Board to become part of HMCTS should be revisited so that hearings are run in accordance with formal court processes with security staff present, she added.

Learning disabilities report
A lack of experience in dealing with people with learning disabilities means that lawyers often struggle to provide the specialist support needed, according to new research published in July. The Norah Fry Research Centre, on behalf of the Legal Services Board, the Legal Services Consumer Panel (LSCP) and Mencap, found that a “range of good practice exists, but that too often lawyers are uncertain how to communicate with people with learning disabilities”. LSCP chair, Elisabeth Davies, said: “In the face of changes to legal aid and declining funding for Law Centres and Citizens Advice Bureaux, this report shows the really positive difference that high quality legal services can make.” The LSB has asked the profession’s bodies to consider developing guidelines for all lawyers.

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