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Bar Council staff, Melisha Charles and Haylie Page, provide an overview of the international team's work. 

Last year was a busy year for the international team at the Bar Council and 2024 continues to be no different. We have an International Committee of barristers that help to steer the Bar Council’s work and priorities plus an accompanying staff team, providing an extensive range of services, events and training to support the Bar in developing, maintaining and growing an international practice.  

The Bar Council’s international strategy  

Our work is guided by our strategic vision: to promote underdeveloped practice areas internationally. This includes investigations, private international law, public international law, international regulatory work and sanctions.  

In London in 2023 we organised a series of events on how to develop an international practice. The first event in the series took place in July and provided junior practitioners with an insight into how to better utilise and benefit from language skills, as well as a session on how to increase their international work more generally. Our second event of the series will take place this year and is likely to focus on employment law and inquires.

Our strategy for 2024 continues to focus on organising overseas visits, conferences and events all aimed to foster stakeholder relationship and further develop practice opportunities for barristers. Going forward, we want to better integrate the Bar Council’s international work and priorities with the international objectives of the Specialist Bar Associations, Inns of Court, and Circuits.

Business development for barristers   

The Bar Council is committed to pursuing international opportunities for barristers by building new relationships, identifying new and sustainable revenue streams, and promoting the Bar’s niche and unique services across the globe. As part of this work, the Bar Council organised visits to Mexico, Sri Lanka, India, United Arab Emirates and Kenya in 2023.  

In Mexico the workshops we organised focussed on arbitration and international investigations. In Kenya our event sought to build on the existing Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) that sets out areas of mutual cooperation (more details on our MoUs below) and we organised panel discussions with the Law Society of Kenya. Our team will continue to build on the Mexico work on the sidelines of this year's International Bar Association’s conference in Mexico City in September. We will also continue to keep in touch with the Law Society of Kenya and large law firms in Nairobi so that we are able to work collaboratively.

International Committee members were also involved in leading specific initiatives such as the Day at the Bar for Ukrainian Lawyers Scheme, an initiative for Ukrainian lawyers who wish to learn about the operation of the legal system in England and Wales from a practical perspective. This saw over 150 Ukrainian lawyers paired with barristers in London, Birmingham, and Manchester.

We also organised seminars last year in conjunction with the British-Kazakh Law Association, the Commonwealth of Independent States (CIS) Forum of Eurasian and CIS legal professionals in Turkey, Armenia, Uzbekistan, Kazakhstanand Kazakhstan. We hosted delegations from Denmark, India, Singapore and China, to discuss topics such as artificial intelligence and alternate dispute resolution.

Market access for barristers

Market access work has become a permanent fixture of the Bar Council’s international agenda. This work is underpinned by a desire to limit the obstacles for barristers to practise in overseas jurisdictions and improve access to England and Wales for our overseas colleagues.

We sign MoUs with overseas Bar associations as part of this work. These are informal agreements between two organisations setting out points of collaboration and a common line of action. These cement our international partnerships and structure mutual asks and reciprocity. In 2023, we signed MoUs with the Bar Council of India (jointly with our colleagues at the Law Society of England and Wales) and the International Law Section of the Florida Bar Association. In 2024, we continue to seek to expand our MoU catalogue with jurisdictions that desire closer cooperation with and/or lowered barriers to the Bar in England and Wales, as well as offering something of interest to the Bar.  

Free Trade Agreements are also a priority area that enable us to expand market access. As the UK re-establishes its international position post-Brexit, we work with Government representatives and officials to reinforce the position of legal services in these trade agreements We also work with various Government departments on tackling the immigration barriers for advocates from Commonwealth jurisdictions – particularly in the Caribbean – when they need to attend the Judicial Committee of the Privy Council, their final court.

Promoting the Rule of Law  

Last year, the Bar Council issued a statement supporting judicial independence in Sri Lanka and calling for the authorities to carefully reconsider plans to question judges in parliament and disobey court orders. Letters were sent from the Chair of the Bar Council about the proposed judicial reforms in Israel and the right of Ahmadiyya Muslim lawyers to practise in jurisdictions in Pakistan.

Professor Tetyana Antsupova was the keynote speaker at our annual International Rule of Law Lecture in November 2023. As a former Judge of the Supreme Court of Ukraine, in her talk she highlighted the Ukrainian Judiciary’s uphill battle to increase transparency, fair trials, and maintain public trust in a context of profound societal turmoil. Watch our previous Rule of Law international lectures on the Bar Council website.

We always appreciate feedback on our work, so if you would like to get in touch with the international team please email: [email protected]