BSB echoes Bar Council concerns on equality and access to justice

18 May 2016

The Chairman of the Bar, Chantal-Aimée Doerries QC has signalled agreement with the Bar Standards Board's (BSB) concern for equality and diversity in the profession.

As the independent regulator reported on its recently published Risk Outlook yesterday, the Bar Council also welcomed the focus on access to justice and on ensuring that consumers' needs are properly met following the prolonged period of cuts to our system of justice.

Chantal-Aimée Doerries QC said:"It is encouraging to see that the BSB is helping to bring these issues to the fore. This is a huge testament to the Bar Council's success in shaping the equality and diversity and social mobility agenda at the Bar."

Bar Council Head of Equality and Diversity Sam Mercer said:"We are doing pioneering work in this area and it is great to see more attention focused on improving equality and diversity in the profession. In the last 12 months, the Bar Council has published ground-breaking research on the experience of women at the Bar and has continued to roll-out our hugely successful mentoring programmes to encourage women to apply for silk and judicial appointments.

"We have also been running career breaks seminars to support and encourage barristers with young families to return to practice. Practical measures like these are needed to help redress the imbalance in the rate at which men and women leave the Bar.

"We produce and regularly update a range of support materials for chambers and individual barristers on how to comply with rules and how to promote best practice. Every month we provide training on diversity awareness, which includes a summary of the legal and regulatory duties. This training is available to barristers, Equality and Diversity Officers, practice managers and clerks. Additionally, barristers can call on us for support when facing problems or challenges with equality and diversity through our Ethics Helpline."

The Chairman also commented on the regulator's concern over cuts to legal aid and the implications for access to justice.

Chantal-Aimée Doerries QC said:"We are pleased that the BSB is echoing so many of our concerns. Many consumers, particularly those who are vulnerable, have been left in the cold by successive cuts to civil legal aid. The Bar Council is rightly proud of having resisted these cuts. To protect consumers from unregulated legal practitioners, the Bar Council recently called for a ban on the remuneration of McKenzie Friends, and to help ensure consumers can access the courts we have made the case against Enhanced Court Fees at the highest levels in Government and in Parliament."

"In recognition of the need to enhance consumer choice and enable consumer access to legal services, the Bar Council this year launched and promoted the Direct Access Portal, an online directory where consumers can find the barrister they need without having to go through a solicitor."

ENDS

Notes to Editors 

  1. Further information is available from the Bar Council Press Office on 020 7222 2525 and Press@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