For many months BarTalk readers have read our reports on the Bar Representation Fee, that extra fee barristers pay through Authorisation to Practise after the Practicing Certificate Fee (PCF) and before the Advocate/pro bono donation. They have been told of the direct benefits they receive for paying the fee (add link), the indirect benefits through supporting our core policy and lobbying work (add link) and they have been told that it's s tax deductible, VAT inclusive (at 6.9% fee).
But barristers are nothing if not astute and prone to scrutinise the detail. So much of the feedback I got over my past two years at the Bar Council has been articulated in questions such as "Isabel: what exactly is a representation fee?" And "Am I not paying for this "representation" already as part of my PCF?"
Now, careful BarTalk readers will remember that we told them that two-thirds of their PCF goes to the Bar Standards Board (BSB) to regulate the Bar, and only one-third to the Bar Council to represent the Bar. But what about the other things the Bar Council does to support barristers in need, to promote the Bar both as an attractive profession and as a provider of legal services in these jurisdictions and abroad, to offer training and opportunities for career development for young barristers and to support employed barristers, both publicly funded and not? PCF funds cannot always be allocated to these activities, nor can they be allocated to research that enables us to lobby government on behalf of the Bar. That's why we need these additional funds.
So "Bar Representation Fee" is a bit of a misnomer. Many of you may remember it as Member Services Fee, which was also not an accurate name. To correct this lamentable inaccuracy, the whole Bar Council team (Policy, Communications, Marketing, Governance and Services) and the relevant governance committees that advise us and hold us to our promise to represent, support and promote the Bar, have been working hard to re-brand the BRF with a more suitable and representative name. We're working on it, but if you'd like to express views, thoughts or ask questions - and indeed suggest new names for the Bar Council's voluntary fee, please email me IDiVanna@BarCouncil.org.uk. Small prizes fully compliant with the Bribery Act are available for the three best suggestions.
Dr Isabel DiVanna, Commercial Director, The Bar Council