The law as a superpower

Reaching Gen Z in Justice Week 2020 - by Amanda Pinto QC, Chair of the Bar

Who knew that there were legal superheroes apart from Baroness Hale? The Bar Council has supported the rule of law and promoted the ability of everyone to access justice to many audiences, for many years. On the home front, this has included: publicising that the family justice system is under enormous strain, considering the impact of McKenzie Friends and the sustainability of the criminal justice system. But in this column, I want to focus on the anniversary of a fledgling initiative, which this year features a cast suitable for a Marvel franchise.

The last week of February is Justice Week and it is fast becoming a significant fixture in the legal year. Although the Bar Council has a justice campaign all year round, in Justice Week we focus on a particular subject or audience. Somehow, despite being excellent advocates for our clients, we have been less successful in engaging the wider public in the significance of the justice system. But, if we can get people to think about it, justice affects every aspect of the way we lead our lives. For Justice Week 2020, we are joining forces with many of our closest legal colleagues to concentrate on publicising the importance and relevance of justice to younger people. It is something I feel passionate about.

Together with the Law Society and CILEx, and our colleagues in the Scottish, Northern Irish and Irish Bars, we will be proclaiming and explaining why justice matters, especially to Gen Z (people aged up to 25). We often talk about wanting greater diversity in our profession, and increasingly about social mobility. In the last couple of years, the Bar Council has developed very successful programmes such as #iamtheBar Social Mobility Advocates and our outreach to schools and colleges expands and deepen each year. Justice Week will take this involvement to another level.

It’s easy to take justice for granted. But whether it’s tackling climate change, upholding the constitution or ensuring rights, the law works in the background to protect us and our way of life. Justice Week will showcase lawyers speaking clearly (echoes of Baroness Hale, superhero) about the relevance of the law and the legal tools available to safeguard the rights that everyone should enjoy.

The Bar Council continues to engage with the public and in enterprising ways: we are supporting Young Citizens (with whom we do the Bar Mock Trials competition) to develop the ‘Big Legal Lesson’. The aim is for as many schools as possible to teach their students about the rule of law and justice, adapted to appeal to each of Key Stages 1-4. We encourage barristers to urge your local schools to use this free resource; or, if you are feeling even more proactive, help deliver those lessons in schools.

The Bar Council has commissioned a film aimed at school pupils, students and young people identifying what we have always known to be true – that the law is a superpower. The film brings the law to life, so that a young audience can see how it has been mobilised to protect the environment and support sustainability. Lawyers are interviewed about cases in which the law has played a crucial part in protecting and pressing environmental issues such as air pollution and fracking.

We are also promoting a social media campaign where participants will be asked to hold up a prop so that people across the country can share examples of how the law has been used to make a difference. The prop will be used throughout the week by young people, members of the public, lawyers, the media and MPs. We want to involve as many people as possible in the campaign. Do join in!

Together with the Law Society and CILEx, we are conducting the Justice Week omnibus survey, following the very successful one in 2018, when we surveyed 2,000 people; this time, we are doubling those surveyed. We will analyse the data collected to identify which rights and freedoms are the most important to those surveyed and, collectively, what action might address any particular concerns or areas where there is a lack of confidence or understanding in the law.

As you can see, there are numerous initiatives in which barristers can take part. Keep an eye out for our calendar of Justice Week events. Look at the Bar Council’s and your Specialist Bar Association’s websites – the FLBA, for example, is making a film – urge your local school or college to consider what the law can do for their students. If you do, please let us know and we’ll be delighted to point you in the right direction and support your efforts, whether as an individual, as a chambers or SBA. The more people involved, the stronger our voice will be in promoting access to justice and the importance of the law and legal professions as forces for good.

Yes to the BRF!

Each month I will be highlighting one of the things the Bar Representation Fee (BRF) helps fund, to show just how valuable this voluntary contribution is to our work for the Bar. February’s spotlight is on: briefings issued to MPs ahead of key debates and votes on home affairs and Brexit that affect the Bar. At such a pivotal time, the BRF helps promote our positions to all political parties, adding our voice to the national conversation. Without your BRF payment we have much less clout. Please go to your MyBar and tick ‘yes’ to the BRF!

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Amanda Pinto QC

Amanda is Chair of the Bar. She is a silk at 33 Chancery Lane.