We have been focused on some of the major priorities I set out at the start of the year: social mobility and criminal legal aid – and the criminal justice system more broadly.

Social mobility at the Bar

In July we hosted the first Bar Social Mobility Summit which was well attended by chambers. We heard from experts in the Sutton Trust and Social Mobility Foundation and from Bar-specific projects run by the Inns, chambers, and the excellent Bridging the Bar. What Bridging the Bar does so well is provide really focused and sustained support for individuals to set them on a path to succeeding at the Bar.

A common theme that came through in the discussion is the difficulty we all have in reaching the right people. Some schools are alive to opportunities for their students, but what about those that are not? That’s where working with the experts at the Sutton Trust and the Social Mobility Foundation can make all the difference. The Bar Council partners with both organisations to run the Bar Placement Scheme, which took place in early July. We’re indebted to those chambers who take part in hosting the young people on the Scheme. Not involved? Please consider signing up for next year.

Two steps forward on criminal justice

The Criminal Justice Board has just had its first meeting for two years, signalling that criminal justice is finally getting some political focus and impetus back under the new Lord Chancellor Alex Chalk KC MP. We are also delighted that HHJ Deborah Taylor has been appointed as Chair of the Criminal Legal Aid Advisory Board (CLAAB) and the Board can now press on with its important work.

We have already had the opportunity to share our priorities for CLAAB. First, to ensure that overall levels of remuneration for publicly funded criminal work are set at a sustainable level – for both barristers and solicitors. But secondly to ensure that the pattern of remuneration in the Crown Court supports the aims of Better Case Management in terms of early advice and encouraging early guilty pleas.

Civility costs nothing

Last month’s Counsel cover story shone a spotlight on the misogynist and sexist bullying that takes place via social media. In a statement* I made it clear there is absolutely no place for bullying and harassment at the Bar, whether that’s in person or online.

By the time this column is published, we expect the new guidance on social media from the Bar Standards Board to be available from next month in September. It is important that all of us are able to express our opinions freely and robustly and I hope that this will be recognised in the new guidance.

But can I stress that, wherever the line is drawn in terms of professional misconduct, there will be a huge space where comment which does not amount to misconduct is nevertheless unkind, unnecessary, and profoundly undesirable.

In particular, those of us who are established and senior in the profession must consider carefully the impact of what we say to, or about, junior colleagues. It’s easy to forget how acutely sensitive junior members are to anything which is unpleasantly or publicly critical, and how easily that can undermine confidence.

I see far too many so-called ‘pile-ons’ on legal Twitter and it’s getting out of hand. It costs nothing to be civil in our dealings with one another. If you would not say something to someone’s face, don’t say it to them, or about them, on Twitter. And please, please think twice before criticising junior members of the profession on a public platform.


Looking ahead we’re preparing for a busy autumn – organising the Pupillage Fair, publishing the results of the Barristers’ Working Lives survey, and planning a number of international business development missions.

I’m also looking forward to delivering a speech at Inner Temple on 13 September where I’ll be looking even further ahead – to the Bar of 2043.

But before all of that, may I encourage you to take a proper break over the summer to recharge the batteries. The Bar Council has just launched a new video of Bar leaders talking about the importance of looking after your own wellbeing. Perhaps one to watch before heading for the sun lounger, and turning off the mobile phone. 

* ‘There is no place at the Bar for misogynist and bullying behaviour’ – read the Chair’s statement in full, with links to support services and resources for the Bar community.