Bar Council to Address Social Mobility and Law as an Export at Lib Dem Conference
21 September 2012
The Chairman of the Bar Council, which represents barristers in
England and Wales, will address social mobility in the legal
profession and the value of the law as an export industry during
the forthcoming Liberal Democrat Party Conference in
Michael Todd QC will speak at two fringe events, both hosted by
the Liberal Democrat Lawyers' Association. The first will take
place on the evening of Sunday 23 September, and will focus on the
challenges posed by, and the progress achieved in, attracting
individuals from low-income backgrounds to join the legal
And, at 13:00 on Monday 24 September, Todd will speak on a panel
discussion entitled "Law as an Export Industry", discussing the
legal sector's importance in fuelling economic growth.
On social mobility, Chairman of the Bar, Michael Todd
QC, will say:
"In December 2011, Nick Clegg gave a speech on the 'open society'
in which he criticised the legal profession for remaining 'woefully
"I'm not here simply to take a defensive stance, but it should be
acknowledged that the Bar has made impressive progress over the
"Of course, there are limits to what we, as a profession, can do
to improve social mobility more widely.
"The Government must practise what it preaches. The soaring cost
of obtaining an undergraduate degree will not only deter some from
going to university in the first place, but also renders the cost
of legal training even more intimidating, coming as it does on top
of £30,000 of undergraduate debt. And repeated cuts to
publicly-funded fees are making legal aid practices difficult to
sustain; particularly for the junior Bar.
"There is help available for those with the will and ability to
succeed at the Bar, but without the financial means. The biggest
challenge is in attracting talented individuals from low-income
backgrounds to aim for the Bar in the first place.
"For that reason, the Bar Council funds and is involved in a wide
range of initiatives aimed at communicating to school pupils that
the Bar is open to all with the talent to achieve, irrespective of
where they have come from.
"There is more work to be done but, as the Cabinet Office has
recognised, the legal profession is leading the way in working
together to heighten aspiration and improve social mobility."
On the law as an export industry, he will say:
"Our judicial and legal system has long been one of the most
important factors contributing to London's position as a leading
global financial centre. In the aftermath of the banking crisis,
that remains the case; arguably even more so.
"The integrity and incorruptibility of our judges and the quality
and skill of our lawyers are attracting more international
litigants to the UK every year, who, with them, bring business to
the UK for a number of other sectors, from financial services to
"Law is an extremely valuable export. Overseas' exports of UK
legal services have been valued recently at more than £2.8 billion
per year, to which the Bar makes an important contribution.
"Government actions have the ability, if not the propensity, to
undermine the functioning and reputation of our justice system. To
date, the Government has been largely supportive in promoting legal
services, recognising their value to the UK.
"The opening, last year, of the new Rolls Building - the largest
business court complex in the world - consolidated this effort.
This work must continue. The British economy needs it."
Notes to editors:
1. Further information is available from the Bar
Council Press Office on 020 7222 2525.
2. The Bar Council has published a 2012 Party Conference
briefing - please click here to read it.
3. "Fair Access to the Legal Profession - is Access Denied?" will
take place from 20:00 - 21:15 on Sunday 23 September at the Hilton
Metropole, Edinburgh Room.
4. "Law as an Export Industry" will take place from 13:00 - 14:00
on Monday 24 September at the Grand Hotel, Pavilion Room.
5. The Bar Council is involved in the Unlocking Disputes campaign,
which seeks to promote London as the world's leading centre for
dispute resolution. For more information, please visit www.unlockingdisputes.com.
6. The Bar Council represents barristers in England and
Wales. It promotes:
• The Bar's high quality specialist advocacy and advisory
• Fair access to justice for all
• The highest standards of ethics, equality and diversity across
the profession, and
• The development of business opportunities for barristers at home
The General Council of the Bar is the Approved Regulator of the
Bar of England and Wales. It discharges its regulatory functions
through the independent Bar Standards