At the time of writing the Conservative leadership race is well under way and, by the time you read this, we’ll know who the new Prime Minister is and who has been appointed to the Ministry of Justice. During the hotly contested election, we heard various jibes targeted at the legal profession. I suspect some politicians seek to raise their own profile and want to shift the blame for problems of their making. But we know that this irresponsible political rhetoric helps to fuel disinformation, public anger, and hostility.

The attacks aren’t new but in each one there has been a total indifference to Article 18 of the United Nations’ Basic Principles on the Role of Lawyers (adopted by the UN in 1990): ‘Lawyers shall not be identified with their clients or their clients’ causes as a result of discharging their functions.’

There is real risk and personal cost to lawyers who are simply doing their job representing clients not of their choosing and adhering to our ethical and professional code of conduct. The Bar Council will always support and represent barristers and promote our professional ethics and principles.

The Bar Council has two key asks of the new Prime Minister: the first is a commitment to ditching the harmful and untrue political rhetoric that undermines the rule of law and the UK’s legal sector both at home and abroad. These attacks damage the reputation of the UK around the world, and they have to stop. The second is to commit to sufficiently funding the legal system.

The political focus in the coming months will be dominated by the cost of living crisis and many of those facing serious financial difficulties will need access to legal advice and representation. The credibility of our whole justice system is at risk, and it is up to the new government to ‘build back better’. This is a message I’ll be taking to the party conferences over the coming weeks.

Most urgent of course is to address the concerns of criminal barristers who have voted in such large numbers to withdraw their labour. Whatever state the ‘action’ has reached by the time you read this, there is no doubt that the government needs to commit to long-term funding improvements to build confidence and show that it is serious about a justice system that meets its rhetoric and election promises.

Throughout the summer I have been working towards the next phase of legal aid reform (criminal and civil) and seeking to persuade government to engage with Bar leaders. Ours is not the only part of society that has suffered from a government that ‘downed tools’ on 7 July.

The government must fund the system for it to be able to work – build capacity through more judges and support staff; adequately fund barristers and solicitors; and rebuild our crumbling courts. The agreed increases to advocates’ fees need to extend to cover the backlog of work and not just new cases – we’re pressing the Ministry of Justice to overcome the technical issues so that the uplift can be applied to all new trials.

During the leadership electioneering the Bar Council opposed calls for judges to be stripped of their responsibility for court case listings. The solution to the Crown Court backlog does not lie in artificial intelligence or transferring powers from judges to the Ministry of Justice. Nor does it lie in creating an expensive new class of civil servants in an expanded ‘Public Defender’ service.

While we continue to see horrifying scenes of violence and devastation in Ukraine, barristers in England and Wales have been working with colleagues at the Ukrainian Bar Association to launch a new internship and home-finding scheme for Ukrainian lawyers. We have had more than 100 requests for assistance and around 200 barristers have offered support and accommodation so far. We continue to do what we can to help and are still looking for offers of support and assistance. If you can help please email:

There is a need for coordinated assistance in times of humanitarian crisis and pressing legal need. That is why the Bar Council, Bar Standards Board and Advocate have come together to establish a new protocol that sets out how we will work together to coordinate the Bar’s pro bono response to disasters. Previous examples include Ukraine, the EU Settlement Scheme, Grenfell, 7 July bombings, the war in Afghanistan and COVID. During these times barristers have provided vital emergency legal advice to those that need it and with a commitment to greater collaboration in future, we can do even more.

We will also continue to work collaboratively with our sister organisations abroad and look forward to welcoming international guests at the opening of the legal year. It remains important to demonstrate our solidarity with our colleagues and the international legal community.

We’re now looking ahead to the Annual Bar and Young Bar Conference this year which will take place over four days. We’ve programmed both online and in-person sessions with an event at the Grand Connaught Rooms in London on Saturday 26 November. We have a great line-up of speakers and I would encourage you to have a look at the programme and join us.