Legal Professional Privilege, the role of witnesses, and rule of law on the agenda at Opening of Legal Year

1 October 2015

The Bar Council will today join legal leaders from the UK and overseas at a special service at Westminster Abbey to mark the Opening of the Legal Year. 

The occasion has been a fixture in the legal calendar since the Middle Ages, when judges prayed for guidance at the start of the new legal term. 

Following the service at Westminster Abbey, the Chairman, Chief Executive and Treasurer will attend a reception hosted by the Lord Chancellor, the Rt Hon Michael Gove MP, at the Houses of Parliament. 

The service follows a series of events organised over two days by the Bar Council and the Law Society, in which over 60 international bar representatives from over 40 jurisdictions have been taking part. 

On Wednesday, Chairman of the Bar, Alistair MacDonald QC, presided over a seminar on 'Witnesses: their role and treatment across the globe,' which compared issues affecting witnesses in both criminal and civil proceedings in various types of tribunals around the world. 

Concurrently, the Law Society held a seminar on 'Challenges to client confidentiality and legal professional privilege in the digital age', which was chaired by the President of the Law Society, Jonathan Smithers. 

A Bar leaders' roundtable discussion focussing on the manifold threats to the independence of the legal profession around the world took place in the afternoon. This was organised in co-operation with the new International Bar Association Presidential Task Force on the Independence of the Legal Profession. The contributions made at the roundtable will inform the work of the Taskforce which will produce a report and recommendations next year. 

A reception and formal dinner concluded the day's events. 

Chairman of the Bar, Alistair MacDonald QC, said: 

"The Opening of the Legal Year is the most celebrated event in the legal profession's calendar. The programme of events and the number and range of international participants demonstrates the global orientation of our profession. It also enables us to discuss the future of our profession and the challenges and opportunities we face, to reflect on the values we share with fellow legal practitioners overseas, and to reaffirm our commitment to the rule of law."


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