The Bar of the future – and the timing of call

Thanks to everyone who attended ‘The Bar of 2043’ event at Inner Temple in September and especially to Fiona Rutherford, Chief Executive of JUSTICE, who helped to make the night a success. I explained why the Bar Council thinks we should only call people to the Bar when they have completed pupillage, instead of the present system in which the Inns confer the title before people are allowed to exercise rights of audience.

First, the present system is very confusing to the public who are bound to think that someone who is called a barrister has completed their qualifications. Second, the present system means that each of the 17,500 of us who pay the practising certificate pay for the regulation of another three non-practising barristers who don’t pay anything. Third, the present system encourages people who have little prospect of successful practice to incur yet more debt taking the vocational course, by offering the consolation prize of an empty title. Fourth, the present system is off-putting to the best and the brightest candidates, who think that the much more logical system the solicitors use is also a safer bet (you only become a solicitor when you have finished your training contract). And finally, the present system, because it devalues the title ‘barrister’, will in the long run play into the hands of those people who want to see a fused legal profession.

That’s the short version! The longer version of the speech is online together with some really interesting slides that demonstrate how the demographic of the Bar has changed in recent years. I hope that across the Inns, the Bar Council and the Bar Standards Board (BSB) regulators we can build a forward-thinking consensus to secure the future of our profession by only calling people to the Bar when they have completed pupillage.

Social mobility at the Bar

I was really pleased to be able to announce the introduction of a contextual recruitment tool for the Pupillage Gateway system starting in the 2024/25 round. Contextual recruitment tools are used by recruiters to identify candidates from disadvantaged backgrounds who outperformed their immediate peers and who can demonstrate the qualities needed to succeed at the Bar. It’s not about giving second-rate people a leg up; it’s about working out who the first-rate people really are. The Bar Council will integrate the Rare Contextual Recruitment System with the Pupillage Gateway. 

The Bar and the Inns can be very daunting and off-putting for those who come from disadvantaged backgrounds. What we ought to be interested in when we recruit to pupillage is potential – how good a barrister you can soon become – and that may not be exactly the same as what grades and extracurricular activities you can put on your CV.

Please vote in the Bar Council elections

Please cast your vote for the candidates to be elected to the Bar Council as the governing body of the Bar in England and Wales. The online ballot box is open from Thursday 5 October to Monday 19 October. I can promise you that committed people on the Bar Council make a real difference to the profession. It is a lot of effort to serve, but it requires minimal effort for you to cast your vote. Everything you need can be found via

The Bar Council’s international work

Throughout the year, the Bar Council represents the public interest and the interests of the profession in several international forums including the International Bar Association, the Council of Bars and Law Societies of Europe, the Commonwealth Lawyers Association and a range of other international institutions.

We have decided that this autumn is not the best time for our planned visit to Rwanda, but the business development visit to East Africa will go to Kenya for three days from Tuesday 17 to Thursday 19 October.

BSB social media guidance

The BSB has issued new guidance on barristers’ conduct in non-professional life and on social media. We know from our own ethical enquiries service that issues relating to social media and barristers’ private lives can be difficult to navigate.

We think the BSB has struck the appropriate balance, and it is right that the regulator focuses on the use of language that is seriously offensive, discriminatory, bullying or harassing. There is absolutely no place for bullying or discrimination, online or offline, in our profession. And if you wouldn’t say something to someone’s face, don’t say it online.