The Bar’s first Sustainability Network Summit

We face unprecedented threats from climate change. We all have a part to play. In June the Bar Council organised its first Sustainability Network Summit, chaired by Zoe Leventhal KC.

The event was an opportunity for members of the Bar Sustainability Network to meet in person, share experiences and collaborate. The network provides a range of services and support for chambers, Inns and others to help the transition to a more sustainable way of working, saving not just carbon emissions but costs.

Four new chambers joined the network, and we hope more will follow. Going forward the work programme aims to reduce the Bar’s carbon emissions, support Net Zero initiatives and mainstream climate conscious practice.

Fixed recoverable costs: trouble brewing

We have been engaging for years – literally – with government officials about the recently published Statutory Instrument dealing with Fixed Recoverable Costs and it was extremely irritating to be told that the Ministry of Justice had ‘not had sufficient bandwidth’ to deal with what we had said to them before the regulations were drafted.

There are three serious flaws in the regulations as published. Firstly, the government proposes to uprate fees using the Services Producer Price Index (SPPI) which is reasonable enough in itself. But unfathomably it has uprated the fees from the wrong date – uplifting them from 2016, rather than from 2013 when they were last fixed.

Secondly, it is daft and unfair that no part of the advocacy fee is payable if the case settles before the hearing day. We have asked that 75% of the advocacy fee should be payable if the case settles within two working days of the hearing.

Lastly, we would also like to see a mechanism for annual uprating. This is a particularly irksome omission when inflation is so high.

We are promised urgent reconsideration of these points. Absent that reconsideration, we will have to seek a review of the irrational details of these regulations.

Work in India

The Bar Council, Law Society and the Bar Council of India (BCI) have all signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) to strengthen cooperation and legal exchange in parallel with what is being presented as a partial opening up of India’s legal services sector to foreign lawyers.

In 2009 the Bar Council’s International Committee first launched an India Interest Group as an informal body of barristers with a practice in relation to India, so the Bar Council have been working on this issue for many years.

This year we have been able to reach agreement and formalise the details with the signing of the MoU. There is much still to be done and we urgently need clarification on some aspects of the BCI’s draft rules, but the MoU was a modest step in the right direction.

Our Indian friends enjoy ‘Fly In, Fly Out’ rights to represent any client in any arbitration seated here. It is important the BCI ensures that their rules make it clear that reciprocal rights are available to barristers who are instructed to appear in Indian seated arbitrations.

Menopause at the Bar

I recently attended a roundtable about the menopause at work, attended by members of the Bar and members of the House of Commons. There have been positive strides in breaking down taboos and raising awareness about the impact of the menopause on the careers of barristers who are affected. The Bar’s work has been boldly led by Brie Stevens-Hoare KC and Lyndsey de Mestre KC.

The Bar Council submitted evidence to the House of Commons’ Women and Equalities Committee’s Menopause and the Workplace Inquiry and featured in their report. We have also engaged with the All-Party Parliamentary Group on Menopause.

We are looking at practical steps the Bar Council can take across the profession. Some of the themes identified include retention at the Bar as well as career development and progression. Has your chambers thought about the impact of the menopause? If the topic were raised, would you suddenly look at your shoelaces? If so, the Bar Council’s guidance is a good place to start.

Anglo-Dutch Exchange

The Young Barristers’ Committee organised a successful exchange programme in June with 21 Dutch lawyers visiting from Amsterdam, Rotterdam and The Hague. The baton passes back to our colleagues in the Netherlands to organise the event next year.

I went on that exchange 30 years ago. The bits I can remember were sober, serious and studious. I think there may have been other bits. I am told there was some serious clubbing this time. An especial thank you to those who hosted. We need more than ever to keep in close touch with our European lawyer colleagues.