What will the Bar Representation Fee do for you in 2019? 

Firstly, the Bar Council would like to thank those members of the Bar who have already subscribed to the Bar Representation Fee ('BRF'). If you read Bar Talk, you're statistically more likely to fall within this category and we are now asking you to help us communicate to your colleagues at the Bar why the BRF is an important source of income for the Bar Council, and what it is that we're doing for them. To that end, if you find yourself attempting to persuade other members to pay the BRF, then you will hopefully find the following FAQs of some use to you. 

1)     Why should I pay the BRF?

Ultimately, the Bar Council is your voice and it needs your support.

The Bar Council is the barristers' representative body and our core work focuses on lobbying the government and Whitehall on matters of relevance to the present status and future of the Bar. Unlike the Bar Standards Board, which is the regulator, we do not set regulatory frameworks for the profession; we use our (often loud) voice to ensure that the Bar's interests are kept in mind. This is particularly important during a time at which over a decade of austerity has created challenges around access to justice, and domestic and international developments following Brexit threaten the rule of law both at home and abroad. Paying the BRF means a supporting the Bar Council's core work in these areas and many more.

2)     How much is it? Why are these funds important?

Until the end of this year's authorisation to practice process ('AtP') the BRF will be available for £100 per annum (which includes VAT at 6.9%) and can be paid as one lump sum or through a direct debit of £8.34 per month.

After the end of this year's AtP, and for the first time in 10 years, the cost of the BRF will rise to £150 per annum. Due to the limited funds received by the Bar Council through the practising certificate renewal process, we are reliant on the BRF to support our work and ensure that we can continue to lobby and campaign on behalf of the Bar.

It is notable that, had we raised the BRF in line with inflation, it would currently cost circa. £160 per annum.

3)     How is the BRF good value for money?

The BRF is the major source of funding for the Bar Council in the areas which go beyond the "permitted purposes" of the Legal Services Act, which restrict how the practising certificate fees can be used. It enables us to invest in new initiatives which cater for the present and future needs of the Bar, and to secure capacity and resources to deliver our representative policy work. In addition, the BRF can save you money because the value of what you receive in return outweighs the original expense.

4)     What will the BRF funds pay for in 2019?

Our work on ethics, equality and diversity at the Bar, social mobility, wellbeing and our support to the young Bar are funded in part by the BRF. This means they are also funded, in part, by practising certificate fees, subvention from the Inns of Court and/or other avenues of income (for example, through sponsorship). 

The BRF funds various special projects, which vary on an annual basis. In 2019 the BRF will fund: 

  • The Bar Mentoring Service to help barristers develop their career and secure Silk and judicial appointments

  • Research into Alternative Dispute Resolution

  • Further research into AGFS (Advocates Graduate Free Scheme)

  • Research and work into Family VHCC (Very High Cost Cases)

  • Publications and newsletters on important practice management issues such as remuneration, taxation and business efficiencies

  • Support to help shape the entities and business models of the future Bar

  • Promotion of Public Access and the benefits of directly instructing the Bar to gain access to specialist advisory and advocacy services, and

  • The Social Mobility Placement Scheme to promote wider access to the Bar by working with talented students who might not otherwise have that access.

  • Elements of our Ethics Enquiries Service

  • Aspects of our International business development

We very much hope that you will use this information to help communicate to your colleagues at the Bar why the BRF matters. If you haven't already subscribed to the BRF and reading this post has inspired you to do so, please email MemberServices@BarCouncil.org.uk, call 020 7611 1329, or follow this link to MyBar: https://www.mybar.org.uk/login.html

Carolyn Entwistle is Head of Services to the Bar at the Bar Council