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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30 April 2021

China

The ScotsmanThe LawyerLegal FuturesPolitics HomeGlobal Legal PostLaw Society GazetteLaw.comNew Law JournalLegal Cheek; Scottish Legal, Irish Legal, Citizen News (HK) – There’s widespread media coverage of the news that the Bar Council, along with the Faculty of Advocates, the Bar of Ireland, and the Bar Council of Northern Ireland have signed a letter condemning the sanctions issued by the Chinese Government against barristers.

The joint letter states that the imposition of sanctions on lawyers for providing a legal opinion contravenes the UN Basic Principles on the Role of Lawyers and that the naming of a barristers’ chambers within the sanctions is a further indiscriminate attack on legal professionals, which is inconsistent with respect for the rule of law.

Derek Sweeting QC, Chair of the Bar, is quoted in the coverage. He said: “We must be robust and call out this attack for what it is – a threat on the work of lawyers globally and on the rule of law. Providing independent legal advice is the fundamental role of lawyers.

"There should be no place for the use of bullying and punitive measures by a state because it disagrees with a legal opinion.”

Bar Council meeting

The Times, Legal FuturesApple Daily (HK) Hong Kong Free PressPolice Professional – National, international and legal media report on the weekend’s meeting of the Bar Council, covering different aspects of the session.

The Times and Hong Kong media focus on the Bar Council meeting speech from Hong Kong Bar Association Chair, Paul Harris SC, whilst legal press report on the speech made by Max Hill QC, Director of Public Prosecutions.

Charter for Black Talent

International Employment LawyerPolitics Home – The media reports that an initiative aimed at increasing the number of talented Black professionals in senior positions in the UK’s professional services sectors has been backed by the Bar Council of England and Wales.

The barrister profession’s representative body joins the City of London Corporation, the Inns of Court, Magic Circle law firms, Big Four accountancy giants, along with Brick Court Chambers, 4 Pump Court, 3 Verulam Buildings, Matrix Chambers, and the Commercial Bar Association in supporting the Charter for Black Talent in Finance and the Professions.

Derek Sweeting QC, Chair of the Bar, said the charter will play an essential role in addressing the need for the Bars to pave the way for Black professionals to progress into more senior positions in their areas of practice.

The charter is the brainchild of Brick Court Chambers’ Harry Matovu QC, who has been working in partnership with Michael Eboda, CEO of Powerful Media, to extend its reach.

Pupillage

Legal CheekLaw Society Gazette – The legal media reports that the number of graduates competing for pupillages rose by over 1,000 this year as the impact of Covid-19 on an already over-subscribed system begins to show. 

According to Bar Council figures, 3,301 candidates applied for just 246 positions via the pupillage gateway in 2021. On average, applicants submitted around six application each. In 2020, 2,142 applicants competed for 237 pupillages. 

The figures do not include applications submitted outside the pupillage gateway.

BTAS Sanctions Guidance

Legal FuturesLaw Society Gazette – Legal Futures reports that plans to “beef up” the sanctions imposed on barristers for serious offences – including sexual misconduct, harassment and discrimination – have been unveiled.

A review carried out by the Bar Tribunals & Adjudication Service (BTAS) found that many of the starting points recommended in its current sanctions guidance were on the “lenient” side.

On average over the past three years, only 28 barristers a year were made subject to sanctions.

Chair of the Bar, Derek Sweeting QC, said: “It’s no secret that many at the Bar feel that the current sanctions do not reflect the seriousness of cases concerning sexual misconduct and the Bar Council has raised concerns with both the BSB and BTAS on this point.

“We hope that in assessing the sanctions guidance the impact on victims of harassment at the Bar is considered.

“Now is the time for the Bar to get its views heard on this matter and the wider sanctions review and respond to this consultation. BTAS is listening.”

English commercial law

Le nouvel Economiste – The French equivalent of The Economist reruns an article from the latter publication that quotes Chair of the Bar, Derek Sweeting QC, looking at the growing competition faced by London’s commercial courts and Britain’s legal services.

“London is attractive, for English judges don’t take bribes, are seen as not favouring home litigants over foreigners and don’t generally get leant upon by politicians. They are often specialists, which means judgments tend to dig more deeply than those elsewhere, says Derek Sweeting QC, Chair of the Bar Council, the barristers’ professional body, and the common law can “adapt and develop embryonically” to new kinds of business dispute. Formats have been tweaked to speed up big cases.

Mr Sweeting says Britain’s reputation for the rule of law, on which it trades, risks being tarnished by the government’s fights with lawyers and threat to break the Brexit treaty.”

BAR COUNCIL TWEETS

Photograph of International Bar associations to condemn China's sanctions tweet

A photograph of the economist tweet

23 April 2021

English commercial law

The Economist (print and online) – The Economist quotes Chair of the Bar, Derek Sweeting QC, in an article looking at the growing competition faced by London’s commercial courts and Britain’s legal services.

The Economist reports that: “English commercial law, like football, has been exported around the world. The game has been honed, and star players signed. Globalisation is bringing more business to London…That means jobs for British lawyers, and new competition for London.

“The number of commercial cases in London has more than doubled since 2015, to 292 in the year to April…The number of barristers serving foreign clients has doubled in a decade too.

“London is attractive, for English judges don’t take bribes, are seen as not favouring home litigants over foreigners and don’t generally get leant upon by politicians. They are often specialists, which means judgments tend to dig more deeply than those elsewhere, says Derek Sweeting QC, Chair of the Bar Council, the barristers’ professional body, and the common law can “adapt and develop embryonically” to new kinds of business dispute. Formats have been tweaked to speed up big cases.

“But that dominance is under pressure, from Brexit and tougher competition. The clientele in London is growing, but also becoming more domestic: Brits accounted for more than half of litigants last year, for the first time since Portland’s survey began, while those from Europe and the rest of the world have fallen as a share, to 12% and 35% respectively.

“British lawyers have lost the automatic right to practice in Europe, and migration will become harder.

Mr Sweeting says Britain’s reputation for the rule of law, on which it trades, risks being tarnished by the government’s fights with lawyers and threat to break the Brexit treaty.

“Competition is growing elsewhere, with new courts emerging in the United Arab Emirates, China and Singapore since 2004.” 

Crown Court sitting days

Politics Home, PA Media, Law Society Gazette – The media reports that a funding cap on how many days judges can sit for hearings will be lifted in a bid to tackle the backlog of cases in crown courts.

The Ministry of Justice (MoJ) is removing the limit on sitting days for the 2021/22 financial year as part of efforts to clear the thousands of outstanding criminal cases waiting to be dealt with.

Derek Sweeting QC, Chair of the Bar, said: "This is a cause we've been campaigning for, publicly and in discussions with the Ministry of Justice, since 2019 when we opposed the Government's decision to cut sitting days.

"The criminal justice system has been paying the price ever since, with the backlog of cases in the crown courts mounting." He praised the "positive step" but said it would only work if "matched by sufficient court staff and resources to support the anticipated rise in cases going" and will need courts working at maximum capacity, alongside Nightingale courts and with a "long-term strategy" in place.

Backlog

Swindon Advertiser, Hampshire Chronicle, Shropshire Star, Basingstoke Gazette, This is Wiltshire, Wiltshire & Gloucester Standard, Wigan Evening Post, York Press, Lancashire Telegraph, Warrington Guardian, Hillingdon Times, Times Series, Lancashire & Morecambe Citizen, News & Star, Whitehaven News, Ledbury Reporter, Westmorland Gazette - Further regional media coverage of the Bar Council’s response to the most recent criminal court quarterly statistics and of regional court backlogs across the country.

Print editions of local media report on backlog statistics in their local courts.

Chair of the Bar, Derek Sweeting QC, is quoted across all media. He says: “With an end to social distancing in sight the Government needs to seize the opportunity to allow the courts to deal with as many cases as possible by investing in more court capacity, more court staff and adequate sitting days.”

BAR COUNCIL TWEETS

A photograph of the bar census tweet

9 April 2021

Backlog

Southern Daily Echo (print, p2), Reading ChronicleOldham Times, Bucks Free Press, Planet RadioThe Telegraph & Argus, Lancashire Post, Times and Star, North West Mail, Hereford Times, News and Star, Bolton News, Cumberland & Westmorland Gazette - Further regional media coverage of the Bar Council’s response to the most recent criminal court quarterly statistics and of regional court backlogs across the country.

Chair of the Bar, Derek Sweeting QC, is quoted across all media. He says: “With an end to social distancing in sight the Government needs to seize the opportunity to allow the courts to deal with as many cases as possible by investing in more court capacity, more court staff and adequate sitting days.”

‘Census’ of the Bar

Law Society Gazette, New Law Journal – Legal media report that the Bar Council is to undertake a profession-wide ‘census’ to help establish its priorities after the pandemic.

The voluntary survey, Working Lives, will ask barristers to answer questions about their working lives, including career progression, working practices, wellbeing, and remote hearings. The Bar Council said the anonymous results will help it better meet the needs of the profession.

The survey will open on 20 April and will play a part in shaping Bar Council policies, training programmes, and how it seeks to influence government policy and other decision makers on issues affecting the profession.

China

Financial Times (print and online) – The FT gives further coverage to the news that China has imposed sanctions on British lawyers and others accusing them of “gross interference” for their comments about Xinjiang, where more than 1m Uyghurs and other Muslims have been interned since 2017.

Derek Sweeting QC, Chair of the Bar, is quoted by the FT as describing China’s move as “an attack on the rule of law”.

Diversity

Law GazetteLegal Futures - The Chair of the Bar has questioned the legal profession’s tendency to group black, Asian and minority ethnic lawyers together, saying the BAME label may ‘disguise the fact that there's massive under-representation of black members of our community at the bar’.

Giving a Gresham College lecture about diversity, Derek Sweeting QC said ‘progress has been very slow in some areas’. ‘I think we need to be honest about why that's the case and why sort of some bits of the bar are still what people thought they were years ago… dominated by people from private schools, perhaps Oxbridge, and also from a particular ethnic and social background.’ Sweeting backed the introduction of diversity targets to improve the situation.

The Chair added that the profession should consider whether BAME is ‘actually a cosmetic category’ to disguise a ‘massive under-representation of black members of our community at the bar still’.

BAR COUNCIL TWEETS

A photograph of the Sky news tweet

A photograph of the MOJ tweet

 

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Date posted: 30 April 2021