2016 Bar Chairman: We are a profession, not a business

8 December 2015

Chantal-Aimée Doerries QC, the incoming Chairman of the Bar, has said that the Bar remains a profession and not a business in her inaugural speech last night (Monday 7 December 2015) at Inner Temple. 

The next Chairman, who officially takes over from the current Chairman, Alistair MacDonald QC, in January, said that the Bar's "primary aim is not, in contrast to most other businesses, to make money, or to increase profit margins". However, she stressed that "this does not mean that we are not a modern profession, to the contrary, but it does mean that we abide by, and are required to abide by, professional standards." 

The Chairman-Elect said to an audience of barristers, members of the judiciary, politicians, including the Attorney General and Solicitor General, journalists and representatives from legal sector that "as well as owing a duty to the Court, and complying with our professional Code of Conduct, we are required to act in our clients' best interests. In doing so, we may well act against our own best financial interests." 

Chantal-Aimée Doerries QC added: "Another example, of how our professional obligations determine how we deliver our services, is the cab rank rule.  As long as a barrister is sufficiently competent to conduct the case, is available and has been offered a proper fee, a barrister is obliged to take the case as a referral. The rule exists to ensure that anyone can access a barrister no matter how unpalatable the case.  This strong and ingrained commitment to representing clients irrespective of their beliefs is at the core of why our justice system is admired across the world. In short the rule reflects the profession's belief that every client, however unpopular, deserves representation and that it is the client who chooses the lawyer, and not the lawyer who chooses his or her clients." 

Listening to chambers 

In highlighting the recent successes of the Bar Council, the representative body for barristers, Chantal-Aimée Doerries QC, pointed out that many barristers did not know about a lot of the work of the Bar Council. Announcing an initiative to be launched during her Chairmanship to help strengthen ties with members of the Bar and their chambers, as well as increase uptake of the Bar Representation Fee, the voluntary, £100 per annum membership fee, she said: "Next year, I, together with the Bar Council will work towards increasing the Bar's take up of the voluntary subscription and increasing the awareness in the profession of what we do.  As part of this drive, I will tomorrow write to all Heads of Chambers inviting them to nominate a member of Chambers to act as the liaison with the Bar Council.  These representatives will obtain feedback from our members and act as ambassadors for the Bar Council. I will also consult with the employed Bar on this." 

Pro Bono Board announced 

The incoming Chairman of the Bar used her inaugural speech to acknowledge the large pro bono contribution made by barristers, not only via the Bar Pro Bono Unit, but in other areas of life, through applying their professional skills to benefit others, for example through become trustees of a charity. But Chantal-Aimée Doerries QC stressed the need for the Bar to "tell its story" and announced the creation of a Bar Council Pro Bono Board to gather information about the Bar's pro bono activity, but to also review it and look to consider solutions where necessary.

She said: "The creation of the Board will reflect the Bar's existing commitment to pro bono, and I will be asking the Bar Council to amend its standing orders to recognise this Board permanently." 

In closing her speech, Chantal-Aimée Doerries QC said: "There continue to be real challenges ahead. We, the Bar, and indeed those who value us, should not underestimate those challenges. However, the Bar has survived over many centuries because of its ability to adapt to changes in society, its commitment to the highest professional standards and to excellence in advocacy. That is why I am confident that, with your help, the Bar will continue to survive, and thrive." 

Read the full speech here

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Notes to Editors 

  1. Further information is available from the Bar Council Press Office on 020 7222 2525 andPress@BarCouncil.org.uk.
  2. The Bar Council represents barristers in England and Wales. It promotes:  
  • The Bar's high quality specialist advocacy and advisory services
  • 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 and abroad.

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 Board.