Spotlight On

Spotlight On 

In our final Spotlight, the Bar Council's Director of Policy, Philip Robertson, explains what working at the Bar Council has shown him, and shares an exclusive insight into our recently re-vamped Policy Strategy, tying together the ways in which the work of each policy team (as highlighted in the previous six Spotlights) enables us to fully represent both the Bar and the public interest.

I worked as a solicitor in the City and latterly in a military policy context before joining the Bar Council. As a solicitor, I had almost no exposure to the Bar. I worked in pensions, on both advisory matters and the pensions aspects of M&A work. Friends in other departments and other firms sometimes worked with barristers, but examples were rare. My most direct experience was that some of my law school peers became barristers, and advocates north of the border. 

When I joined the Bar Council 3 years ago I did not really know what to expect. I hoped that the passion and dedication of my colleagues at my previous job would be mirrored at the Bar's representative body. I thought it unlikely though, because I had been working for a charity which represented the interests of Army families and almost all of us were Army spouses. When we went home, our work went with us. The issues we campaigned on directly impacted our lives and those of so many of our friends and colleagues.  

The first thing which struck me about the Bar Council was that barristers, and staff, spoke about access to justice and the rule of law. A lot.

Of course, I had read all about the Bar Council's work on both access to justice and the rule of law before I joined the organisation, but I was sceptical about how much of that apparent passion would translate in to actual interest, actual effort. I was wrong to be a sceptic, and have been proven to be wrong every day since I joined this organisation.

Over the past 12 weeks my Policy team colleagues have given you a flavour of the breadth of issues that we are working on. When I look at the list of what we have written about, three common themes appear throughout our work. They are supporting the Bar, promoting access to justice and defending the rule of law. For that reason, our recently re-drafted Policy strategy is simple. In everything we do, we will:

i) Support the Bar;

ii) Defend the Rule of Law; and/or

iii) Promote Access to Justice

Whether we are drafting a consultation response on a matter of law reform, lobbying HMCTS on a specific part of the court reform programme (yesterday's example being feeding back about HMCTS' Online Plea and Allocation work), planning our response to the LASPO review, working on practice management materials, designing an ID card system with HMCTS to ease barristers' access to court buildings, arranging the next iteration of Bar Placement Week, finessing the Pupillage Gateway and Pupillage Fair, highlighting a rule of law issue overseas or campaigning for sensible and proportionate regulation of the profession, supporting the Bar, promoting access to justice and defending the rule of law are constants. 

I had planned to write this as a top 3 or 5 issues that the team is working on. However, when it came to writing this, I thought a brief account of what we actually do, and think, would be a better use of my time, and yours. The issues above are not just a list of policy work that I have dreamt up to fill space in BarTalk. They are all matters which have crossed my desk or been discussed with a colleague today.

We are not just a huddle of people working in an office who do not understand the profession we represent. We work closely with our dedicated and enthusiastic committees, comprised of hundreds of barristers who provide their expertise, pro bono. We are extremely grateful to all of them who give up so much of their precious time to work with us.

We are passionate about representing your interests and the public interest. These things are so often intertwined. Take, for example, campaigning for a viable publicly funded Bar. It is in the Bar's interests that we push for this, but fundamentally also in the public interest. The same goes for our Brexit work, for our work to ensure that the Young Bar is sustainable, and indeed flourishing, and our work to introduce a programme of Pre Application Judicial Education.  

We are your Policy team. Whether you are employed or self-employed, whatever your practice area and level of experience, we work with you, we work for you and we represent you.

 

Read Philip's bio here.

Much of this important work by the Bar Council's Policy Team would not be possible without funding from the   Bar Representation Fee (BRF), a £8.34 per month subscription fee. Read more about what BRF funds   here.