Bar Conference 2024 is back after a break and, in a likely general election year, will debate the big issues facing the justice sector and hear from those with the power to shape the future.

The Bar Council is delighted to announce the three headline speakers for the event, to be held in London on Saturday 8 June: Lady Chief Justice Baroness Carr, the Lord Chancellor Rt Hon Alex Chalk KC MP, and Shadow Lord Chancellor Shabana Mahmood MP.

All three headline speakers will consider ‘what next for justice’ in England and Wales, as court backlogs continue to grow and public spending looks more challenging than ever. Each speaker will also take part in a Q&A discussion chaired by Sam Townend KC (Lord Chancellor session), Lord Macdonald (Shadow LC session), and Amrit Kaur Dhanoa (LCJ session).

The big debates: international courts, AI, and private prosecutions

In a year that will see a record number of people going to the polls across the globe and increasing geopolitical risk, our international panel debate will discuss the effectiveness of international courts and consider what the future holds. Our expert panel, chaired by Baroness Kennedy, will include ICC Judge Joanna Korner CMG KC, Lord Neuberger, and journalist and war reporter Chris Stephen.

With the rapid growth of ChatGPT and other generative AI, our panel debate will ask what place artificial intelligence could – and should – have in the justice sector considering opportunities, potential threats and ethical questions. The debate, chaired by David O’Mahony (7BR), will hear from expert speakers, including Sir Robert Buckland KC MP and Shobana Iyer (Swan Chambers).

The Post Office scandal has gripped the nation and, in its wake, the Bar Council has joined calls for private prosecutions to be reformed. But how, and how far should reform go? This panel debate, chaired by Adrian Darbishire (QEB Hollis Whiteman), will hear from Ari Alibhai (QEB Hollis Whiteman), Flora Page (23ES), and Polly Sprenger (Addleshaw Goddard).

Culture and practice

The Bar Conference 2024 programme will also support learning and career development with practical sessions on earnings and work allocation, futureproofing practice through ADR, and navigating ethical dilemmas at the Bar (with a particular focus on the employed Bar).

The Bar Council is delighted to welcome Dr Paul Redmond, University of Liverpool, to deliver a thought-provoking session on navigating intergenerational differences between the four generations currently working at the Bar: Baby boomers, Generation X, Millennials, and Gen Z.

And the Bar Council is also proud to be hosting the Lifetime Achievement in Pro Bono, the Sydney Elland Goldsmith Award, to be presented by the Lord Chancellor.

Chair of the Bar Sam Townend KC will open Bar Conference 2024 with a welcome address. Speaking ahead of the event he said:

“Bar Conference offers something for everyone. It’s a chance for the whole Bar to come together to grapple with the biggest challenges facing the justice sector. In a general election year it’s more important than ever that barristers have the chance to hear from those who have the power to shape the justice system – and that they get to hear views from the Bar.

“Bar Conference took a break last year to give us the opportunity to rethink and refresh the format to give the profession an annual event to be proud of. We’ve listened to members and put together an excellent programme that tackles the important issues, offers practical sessions for career diversification and development, and includes useful professional networking. I’m very much looking forward to seeing members from across the whole Bar coming together.”

Amrit Kaur Dhanoa, Chair of the Young Barristers’ Committee, will be speaking in the afternoon. She said:

“Bar Conference brings the profession together which can be hugely rewarding for those starting out in their careers at the Bar. It’s an invaluable opportunity to meet new people, exchange ideas, and engage in discussions over a new policy or practice area. Working at the Bar can be intense and the Bar Conference offers a welcoming environment for learning in a relaxed and enjoyable setting.

“I’m delighted to be speaking and chairing the Lady Chief Justice’s keynote speech – it will be a true honour to be able to address vital questions on behalf of the Bar.”