Michael Harwood, Chair of the Young Barristers’ Committee, explains the interesting and varied programme organised for this year's Anglo-Dutch Exchange.
From 5 to 8 June 2023, the Young Barristers’ Committee (YBC) were delighted to welcome a 21-strong contingent of Dutch lawyers to England and Wales for a continuation of the Anglo-Dutch Exchange (‘ADE’) programme. Our guests were drawn from the young Bars - or Jonge Balies - of Amsterdam, Rotterdam and The Hague.
Tracing the origins of the ADE is not easy, though we know that it existed in one form or another as far back as 1966, and that many more senior members of our profession participated themselves when they were young barristers, including the current Chair of the Bar. Following a hiatus during COVID, I was delighted to spend a week in October last year being hosted by the Dutch Young Bar as part of the exchange. The experience reinforced for me the importance of the ADE to young lawyers here and in the Netherlands, as well as a firm desire to return the favour in 2023 as Chair of the YBC.
Our programme was comprehensive. Firstly because I wanted - in the short time available - to show our guests the very best of the Bar - its people, places, history and modern-day challenges. But also, I was aware that in some quarters the ADE had been perceived as a bit of a ‘jolly’ between our respective young Bars; whether this was previously true or not I don’t know, but I was determined to set it right either way by putting forward a programme that would inform, challenge and educate our guests, as well as provide them with opportunities to socialise amongst themselves and with young barristers.
In this spirit, I’m delighted that for the first time, we were able to host some of our guests outside of London for the start of the programme, offering them the choice of a stint in Manchester or Cardiff before joining us all in London. This was important because we needed to show our guests that the Bar is a truly nationwide profession and (in respect of Cardiff) that ours is the Bar of England and Wales. Our colleagues in each city outdid themselves in providing the Dutch lawyers with court visits, tours of cultural and political sights and opportunities to speak to young and senior barristers locally.
Once the whole group had assembled in London, we set about two full days of activities. These included: an introductory talk on the unique role and function of the barrister (delivered in fluent Dutch!); a visit to the Law Society; a tour of the Old Bailey from the Sheriff of the City of London; a tour of Middle Temple; a visit to the House of Lords to hear about the life of a peer and to watch a debate; and a lecture on the tort of misuse of private information (as well as a sneaky peek at the media circus assembling at the Rolls Building for a certain trial…). Our programme culminated in a black tie gala dinner at Middle Temple, where our Dutch guests, select members of the young Bar and representatives of our sponsors and partners enjoyed a reception in the beautiful sunshine and a three-course dinner at the Inn.
I am proud of the programme we put together for our guests and thoroughly hope they enjoyed themselves. It would not have been possible however without our sponsors and partners (in no particular order): The Bar Council of England and Wales, The Law Society, The Honourable Societies of the Middle Temple and Gray’s Inn, The City of London Corporation, Quadrant Chambers, 4PB, Twenty Essex Chambers, Guernica 37 Chambers, The 36 Group, 4-5 Gray’s Inn Square, 5RB, The Netherlands British Chambers of Commerce, and the Academie voor de Rechtspraktijk. Thanks also to the Wales and Chester Circuit and Apex Chambers in Cardiff; and to the Northern Circuit and St John’s Buildings in Manchester. Thanks, lastly, to all those who volunteered to host our Dutch guests locally - this is another important and novel aspect of the exchange which I was pleased to continue this year.
So now the baton passes back again to our Dutch colleagues - I hope that in a year or so we are able to continue this important tradition between our jurisdictions. Bedankt, en tot snel.