News update from The Bar Council

The Bar Council provides a regular News Update on general legal issues that will be of interest to our members.

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Friday 29 May

Covid-19 – impact on the Bar

The Sun, The Scottish Sun, The Daily Telegraph, FR24 News (France), Independent Eagle, The Washington Time – The Sun and other media, including overseas media, report on the impact of Covid-19 on the justice system and points to recent Bar Council research on the effect of the pandemic on barristers.

The Sun and other media outlets report: A survey saw three-quarters of 3,400 barristers admit they do not think the public can currently access justice at an acceptable level, while just seven per cent thought access was acceptable.

The Bar Council survey also indicates the financial impact of the pandemic — with 53 per cent of self-employed barristers reporting they cannot survive six months.

Amanda Pinto QC, Chair of the Bar Council, is quoted. She said: “If we fall into the trap of routinely delaying hearings, adding to the ever-growing backlog of cases and taking work away from those whose livelihoods depend on it, we might very well find there are no barristers left to help pick up the pieces after the crisis subsides.

“Then access to justice in England and Wales will be in real trouble. Our findings highlight the fear that this is already happening.”

Separately, The Daily Telegraph looks at the impact on Covid-19 on different sectors. On justice, the Telegraph quotes Amanda Pinto QC, Chair of the Bar Council. She says: "In just two months, Covid-19 has struck at the heart of the operation of the entire justice system.

"Because many courts are closed and others are not operating at anything like full capacity, the existing backlog of cases has increased at an alarming pace, even with the judiciary conducting remote hearings.

"These ever-growing delays mean witnesses, victims and defendants who are waiting to go to court, are left in limbo, losing engagement with the system and connection to their case."

She also warned of the impact the lockdown was having on the legal profession, with a recent survey suggesting that over three quarters of criminal barristers will have gone out of business by October.

#MakeTheCase

Basingstoke Gazette, Andover Advertiser – Regional media of Hampshire and Yorkshire report that local barristers are calling on the Treasury to give urgent financial backing to the Bar in order to prevent it from collapse post Covid-19. 

Chair of the Bar, Amanda Pinto QC, appeared on BBC Sheffield to explain why barristers are urged to #MakeTheCase for justice. Hear more about it here

As part of a campaign, ‘Make the Case’, The Bar Council is urging barristers to write to and Tweet their local MP to press the Treasury on a package of five measures to help the profession.

Pupillage Fair

The Brief (The Times), Lawyer MonthlyLegal media report that the official Bar Council Pupillage Fair has been given the green light for 2020 and is set to go entirely online this year with more students than ever expected to attend as a result of the move to a virtual format.

Malcolm Cree CBE, Bar Council Chief Executive, said: “The Pupillage Fair is part of the Bar Council’s wider commitment to ensuring fair access to the Bar, regardless of background, and provides chambers and other organisations an opportunity to invest in the future of the profession. Now, more than ever, it is essential to demonstrate to aspiring barristers that the profession is committed to providing opportunities for pupillage, and that they will be able to build a career at the Bar in the post-coronavirus era.

“It’s essential to embrace technology and modern ways of working in the current crisis. By going entirely online we can diversify what we can offer to both students and exhibitors and open the Fair to more students than ever.”

Remote working

Law Society Gazette – The Gazette reports that barristers’ chambers are considering downsizing their offices in the wake of coronavirus to cut costs and encourage more remote working. However, the Bar Council has stressed the importance of physical space for career support and wellbeing.

Amanda Pinto QC, Chair of the Bar Council, is quoted by the Gazette. She said there may be ‘immediate advantages’ to downsizing, such as lower costs and greater flexibility for barristers with caring responsibilities.

“However, those advantages will need to be balanced against the very important role a physical chambers plays in all barristers’ careers: chambers provides training, support and career development, all of which are harder to foster at a distance,” she said.

The Gazette reports that “the pandemic has placed severe pressure on some barristers’ sets and the Bar Council has urged the Treasury to extend business rates exemption relief to cover chambers. Counsel have also been asked to lobby their local MP’s for greater financial support.”

Vice-Chair and Treasurer

The Brief (The Times) New Law Journal – NLJ reports that Mark Fenhalls QC, 23 Essex Street, becomes Vice-Chair of the Bar next year. He was previously Vice-Chair and Chair of the Criminal Bar Association, from 2014 to 2016, and is currently the leader of the South Eastern Circuit. Mark was called to the Bar in 1992 and took silk in 2014.

Criminal barrister turned in-house commercial lawyers Lorinda Long is elected Treasurer of the Bar. She was previously Treasurer of the Bar from 2015 to 2019. Lorinda is currently a managing director for the Bank of America and heads up the legal team.

Wellbeing

Law Gazette – John Petrie, Chief Executive of Serle Court writes about mental health and wellbeing initiatives in the legal profession.

He writes: “At the Bar, a dedicated wellbeing website was created in 2016 by the Bar Council to promote mental health and wellbeing, not only for barristers but also for clerking teams and professional support staff, something of a breakthrough in the industry as many don’t feel encouraged to open up about mental health.” 

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Date posted: 29 May 2020