What does the voluntary Bar Representation Fee help us achieve? See a snapshot of our work in our feature "Five things the Bar Council did” and read the top five picks from February from our Head of ServicesCarolyn Entwistle.

In February 2020, the Bar Council opened the nominations process for the Employed Bar Awards, made a submission to the Treasury ahead of the Chancellor of the Exchequer’s spring budget and closed the Pupillage Gateway without issue; offering administrators early access to their AETO’s applications. Over and above these activities and successes, here’s a more detailed glimpse at some of the work we have undertaken over the past month.

  1. As part of Justice Week 2020 more the40,000 young people in over 440 schools throughout England and Wales participated in the biggest public legal education event of its kind. The Bar Council joined forces with Law Society and Chartered Institute of Legal Executives (CILEx) to launch a campaign featuring a team of ‘superheroes’ tasked with highlighting the vital role of justice and the rule of law in supporting democracy.
  2. Bar Council warnings and commentary over issues affecting our justice system and the profession continued to hit the headlines in the national media in February. Major news outlets, including Daily Telegraph, Daily Mirror, Metro, The Guardian, Evening Standard, Daily Mail, The Independent and The Sun, to name a few, reported on the Bar’s reaction to a range of stories, such as criminal justice statistics, emergency terror legislation, judicial review reforms, the newly appointed Attorney General, prosecution rates, court sitting days and the Bar Council’s budget submission to The Treasury. The on-going flurry of Bar Council publicity and thought-leadership on these matters is part of the organisation’s drive to push justice up the public agenda.
  3. It has been a busy month for regulatory responses submitted by the Bar Council. We responded to the International Bar Association’s (IBA) consultation on unregulated providers of legal services and took the view that it is not IBA’s proper role to produce principles for such providers. We also submitted a response to the Office for Legal Complaint’s (‘OLC’) Corporate Strategy 2020-23 consultation paper and strongly opposed the requested 20% increase in the funding for the Legal Ombudsman on a number of grounds, including a lack of detailed costs provisions, the timing of the proposed increase in budget and the negative impact on the profession. Finally, the Bar Council submitted a response to the Legal Services Board’s (‘LSB’) Draft Business Plan 2020/21 consultation paper, raising the issue of the proposed increase in the Legal Ombudsman’s budget and requesting that the LSB robustly scrutinises the OLC budget proposals.
  4. The Bar Council successfully called for more Crown Court sitting days. Following a concerted press campaign, the Lord Chancellor announced in February 2020 plans to add an extra 4,500 sitting days to relieve the backlog of cases in the criminal justice system. By increasing court sitting days, the Lord Chancellor has acknowledged the urgent need to unblock the huge backlog of cases in our criminal courts. However, Chair of the Bar Amanda Pinto QC has made it clear that “a one-off increase in sitting days will not have the desired effect” and has therefore urged the government to monitor the impact. The Bar Council will continue talking to the Ministry or Justice to help ensure the right approach is taken.
  5. During half term in February 2020, 32 students headed to chambers across Leeds, Liverpool, Manchester, Middlesbrough and Newcastle for Bar Placement Week North. Bar Placement Week provides students from ‘non-traditional’ backgrounds with the opportunity to experience life as a barrister, and therefore acts as a key opportunity to promote diverse access to the profession. Not only do students develop specific skills relevant to the role of a barrister, but they are also given the opportunity to develop their professional networks, ensuring that talented students, no matter their circumstances, can pursue a career at the Bar. Read about one student’s experience here.

Many of these activities would not have been possible without the funds we’ve received through the voluntary Bar Representation Fee payments made by our members. To pay your Bar Representation Fee, log on to My Bar, email MemberServices@BarCouncil.org.uk or call 020 7611 1329.