Bar Blog

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Chairman-Elect of the Young Barristers' Committee, Duncan McCombe, on the committee's plans for 2017

Duncan McCombe

It is a true privilege to have been elected as Chairman of the Young Bar for next year. For me, the Bar is an unambiguous social good and I welcome the opportunity to play my small part in promoting the interests of young barristers and those we represent. I have never been prouder to be a member of our profession than during the November meeting of the Bar Council. At this meeting, the Bar Council passed a  resolution calling on the Lord Chancellor to abide by her oath and her statutory duty to protect the independence of the judiciary and the rule of law in the face of despicable attacks on individual judges by the press and certain MPs following the judgment in R (Miller) v Secretary of State for Exiting the European Union. I have little doubt that this was absolutely instrumental in ensuring that  a statement was made.
 
That was a reminder of the crucial role which our profession plays in society, and the importance of the Bar Council in promoting and furthering that role. With that in mind, the focus for my year as chairman of the Young Bar will be "selling" the Young Bar. That is, both to clients and prospective clients, but also as a social good.
 
As far as selling the Young Bar to clients is concerned, I would like to use the profile of the Young Barristers' Committee of the Bar Council (YBC) to get the Young Bar an audience for its skills that it might not otherwise reach. In this regard, I would like to run an "Introduction to the law of…" series presented by young barristers. This could be giving the British Medical Association an "Introduction to the law of clinical negligence" seminar, or the Young Diplomats in London and the United Nations Association Young Professionals, with whom we already have strong links, an "Introduction to public international law". Such events would, I hope, be effective in raising the profile of the Young Bar. The only reason that anyone would choose an unregulated, uninsured and untrained paid McKenzie Friend over an, often cheaper, member of the Young Bar is through a lack of knowledge of the options available. Such initiatives should help to redress that lack of knowledge. Please get in touch on the email below if you have any ideas of an "Introduction to the law of…" seminar which you would like to run.
 
Such a programme can also be extended to help sell the Young Bar as a social good. In this regard, we do not want to "reinvent the wheel". We know that there are a great many excellent organisations which are, for example, already doing fantastic work in schools educating children about the legal system, and in particular criminal justice. However, I would hope that the Young Bar could supplement such work by, for example, providing an "Introduction to housing law" or an "Introduction to family law" programme. Again, please get in touch if you have any ideas in this regard, or if you know any organisations with which you think we should be working.
 
Beyond that we will, of course, continue with the work which the YBC is already undertaking. That includes feeding into the Bar Council's work in relation to upcoming radical reforms of the civil justice system, assessing the results of the YBC's  survey in relation to fees in the Magistrates' Courts and taking any necessary action arising from it, assisting with the work of the Bar Council's Brexit Working Group and continuing to ensure that the Young Bar's voice is heard loud and clear throughout the Bar Council.
 
It is also my intention to continue to develop the hugely valuable Young Bar Hub and  Toolkit. Alongside this, I hope to repeat the YBC's extremely successful Half Day Workshop, continue the Toolkit Seminars where there is demand and ensure that there is a vibrant Young Bar Conference at the Annual Bar Conference.
 
It looks like it is going to be a busy year. If you would like to get involved with the work of the YBC or have any comments on my proposed priorities (positive or negative) please do get in touch with Onyeka Onyekwelu at the Bar Council at YBC@BarCouncil.org.uk.

Duncan McCombe is Chairman-Elect of the Young Barristers' Committee and a barrister at Maitland Chambers