The Bar agenda for 2010

Securing stability for the publicly funded Bar and the need for all barristers to modernise in the fast-moving legal landscape have been set at the heart of the agenda for 2010 by the new Bar Council Chairman, Nick Green QC.

“The Bar has made great strides in recent years to improve diversity and equality in the profession. These very positive steps are jeopardised by recent government cuts, which do nothing to make the profession a more attractive place to come for a student saddled with a substantial debt as he or she leaves education and training,” he warned.


In his inaugural speech he condemned recent cuts in family and criminal legal aid, contrasting Ministerial and civil servants’ pay increases of one per cent with reductions of 18 per cent in legal aid pay. In the profession’s strongest warning yet over the legal aid crisis, Nick Green said: “When members of the Bar see civil servants and Ministers taking an 18 per cent pay cut, then we shall be silent. Until then we shall challenge unfair and irrational pay cuts with the utmost vigour.” As rates declined, the risk was that there would be insufficient advocates prepared to take on the cases.

Turning to moves to liberalise the rules governing the Bar’s provision of legal services, Nick Green said that these were changes that could not be ignored. “Over the next 12 months the Bar must begin to examine its methods of working. New choices on the menu will not appeal to all. But for some they may be critical.” In future, the Bar might consider opening its doors to all specialist advocates, including solicitor advocates, he foresaw.

Nick Green said he would be introducing measures to improve the internal operations of the Bar Council and its secretariat, in particular to improve communication with the profession. A panel of experienced juniors would be drafted in to assist with the Bar’s representations to government and more widely.

 

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