The day focused on the future for the young Bar – in particular the new government’s ideas regarding the publicly funded Bar; and in light of the increased competition faced by young barristers, the impact of the Legal Services Act 2007 on all areas of the profession.
Opening the conference, the Lord Chief Justice, Lord Judge, told delegates of the challenges the young Bar has faced in his lifetime and the difficulties he had faced at the outset of his career. His advice was to be a fearless advocate; to use every occasion in court to “use the strength of your personality and character to affect and engage with the judge”, and to “be the barrister that your personality makes you … there may be 20 different ways of dealing with the same case, but there is no perfect way”.
Dame Hazel Genn DBE QC addressed the conference on the trials facing the profession, in the wake of further moves away from arbitration as a means of dispute resolution. She encouraged the young Bar to draw on lessons learnt in responding to current challenges, in particular by understanding the need to directly respond to the anti-lawyer and anti-adjudication rhetoric which has flowed out of the Woolf reforms by reiterating the vital importance of judicial determination to our society.
Eight workshops covered material ranging from forensic pathology, to a review of civil litigation costs reforms with Lord Justice Jackson; criminal and civil ethics and advocacy workshops, and a workshop focusing on child witnesses in the family court.
A panel debate – “Where will the Bar be in five years?” – heard speakers reflect on both the importance of learning from the past, for example in opposing moves towards one case one fee (Stephen Leslie QC, Leader of the South Eastern Circuit), and trying to embrace the future with flexible structures and an openness to practising both within and outside of the traditional model for the Bar (Chairman of the Bar, Nick Green QC).
Baroness Deech of Cumnor, Chair of the Bar Standards Board, spoke of the role that regulation of the Bar had to play in the evolution of the Bar, and Keir Starmer QC, the Director of Public Prosecutions, spoke as openly as he could (in light of current negotiations between the Bar Council and CPS) of his plans to see CPS fees restructured in favour of junior advocates.
He assured delegates that these plans would not be affected in principle by the Comprehensive Spending Review. Delegates also widely expressed their anger and dismay at the postponed proposals to increase the practising certificate fee for the junior Bar to up to four times its present level.
The Attorney General, Dominic Grieve QC MP, spoke enthusiastically about the role of the young Bar in the future of the provision of legal services across all areas of practice, and reminded all delegates about the importance of their role in the continuing development of the Bar.
Tim Kevan (author of BabyBarista and The Art of War) brought proceedings to a close with a lighthearted look at the life of a young barrister in chambers, through the conduit of the characters in BabyBarista.
Belle Turner, Chair of the YBC