Finance, human rights, and rule of law all on the agenda at Opening of Legal Year

1 October 2014

A service today at Westminster Abbey marked the Opening of the Legal Year, one of the most celebrated events in the legal profession's calendar.

A fixture in the legal calendar since the Middle Ages, when judges prayed for guidance at the start of the new legal term, the service follows on from a programme of events arranged by the Bar Council and The Law Society for legal practitioners from around the world.

On Tuesday, Vice-Chairman of the Bar Council, Alistair MacDonald QC, began proceedings by opening a seminar at Middle Temple entitled 'The financial crisis - coping with the aftermath.' Comprising two sessions, moderated by London School of Economics Professor, Jeffrey Golden, and later, Caroline Binham of the Financial Times, two panels of experienced civil and criminal practitioners discussed how the courts have been engaged in the aftermath of the financial crisis and considered the responses of governments and regulators

Vice-Chairman of the Bar Council, Alistair MacDonald QC said:

"The topic was chosen because we are in London, a leading global financial centre which has a formidable concentration of legal expertise in financial services law. The effects of the financial crisis of 2008 linger on. Many cases have yet to reach the courts, while regulatory reforms face enormous practical, legal and political hurdles. Many commentators are frustrated with the slow pace of change."

At a parallel event, also held at Middle Temple, President of The Law Society, Andrew Caplen introduced an expert panel who examined the benefits for the legal profession of being engaged and aware of the United Nations Guiding Principles on business and human rights, both as providers of legal services, and as businesses themselves.

After taking part in an afternoon roundtable discussion on Open Justice, where Bar leaders from around the world stressed the need to keep exclusions of the public from proceedings to the absolute minimum consistent with safeguarding national security and the protection of vulnerable people, Chairman of the Bar Council, Nicholas Lavender QC said:

"The opening of the legal year is a significant and highly anticipated event for so many legal practitioners, not least the Bar. It provides an invaluable opportunity to reaffirm the values that bind our profession at home and abroad, and to reaffirm our commitment to the Rule of Law.

"The Bar Council will continue to argue the case for proper funding of our legal system, not least to ensure that the poorest and most vulnerable in society are not denied access to justice. The programme of events over the past two days, together with the forthcoming Annual Bar Conference on 8 November and the Global Law Summit in London next February enable us to demonstrate the virtues and the values of our legal profession, to celebrate what we share with colleagues from around the world and to reflect on where the Rule of Law is under threat."

Following the service at Westminster Abbey, The Chairman and Vice-Chairman will attend a reception hosted by Lord Chancellor, The Rt Hon Chris Grayling MP, at the Houses of Parliament.


Notes to Editors 

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

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