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.
The most recent News Updates can be viewed below. If you would would like to sign up to receive this News Update by email, please contact The Bar Council.
Law Society Gazette, Politics Home, The Barrister - The legal media report that a new Annual Chambers Membership has been launched by the Bar Council.
The package brings together 10 new courses, two new forums for Heads of Chambers and Chambers management staff, in addition to services which the Bar Council delivers for the Bar. For the annual subscription, chambers gain access to value for money benefits and services, including training credit hours. This, the Bar Council anticipates, will encourage barristers’ chambers to make greater use of the specialist courses the Bar Council puts together.
Malcolm Cree CBE, Chief Executive of the Bar Council, said: “This is an exciting initiative for the Bar Council. The creation of a new package of benefits and bespoke services to chambers is part of the Bar Council’s drive to work more closely with chambers to strengthen and better support and promote the profession.”
The Bar Council’s Commercial Director, Dr Isabel DiVanna, said: “The Bar Council’s Training & Events team have listened carefully to feedback from members of the Bar and chambers’ staff who are often keen to take training courses but feel many on offer are simply not relevant to them. The Bar Council courses are all customised by trainers for the Bar; trainers themselves are often barristers or chambers directors, so we are confident that the content on offer is both pertinent and appropriate.”
New Law Journal – NLJ reports that the Bar Council has produced a bite-sized guide to Brexit last week.
The three-part YouTube mini-series features barrister and Brexit Working Group member Anneli Howard of Monckton Chambers. NLJ reports that Howard looks first at the options available now that Theresa May's deal has been rejected by Parliament, and how they sit with the Government's red lines. Second, she explains why May's deal could have been considered impressive in terms of achievement even without agreement on services. Third, she looks at the WTO terms and why these are far from an easy fall back.
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Equality and diversity
Legal Futures - The Bar Council may work with the Law Society to influence solicitors and clients as part of a campaign to ensure a fairer allocation of briefs to women barristers.
Sam Mercer, its head of equality & diversity and CSR, also suggested that chambers are not always as supportive of equality policies for women barristers in practice as they may initially appear.
Writing in the Bar Council’s 100th edition of BarTalk, themed on ‘Women at the Bar –The Next 100 Years’ and on the Bar Council website, Ms Mercer praised chambers’ staff, clerks, equality & diversity officers and others “who devote huge amounts of time and energy to getting policies on subjects like flexible working, shared parental leave, harassment, fair recruitment and monitoring of unassigned work right”.
Last month, the Bar Council called on the Bar Standards Board to review the rules on fair allocation of work.
Ms Mercer said the Bar Council needed to continue as well with its focus on bullying and harassment, “encouraging and supporting individuals who come forward”.
She concluded: “Success and change isn’t going to be achieved overnight and our work programme will extend beyond 2019, but if we get it right we believe everyone – both men and women – will benefit.”
The Guardian – Millions of EU citizens could find it difficult to assert their right to remain in the UK after Brexit under Home Office rules denying them access to their personal records, the high court has been told.
The case has been brought by the London law firm Leigh Day on behalf of the Open Rights Group, which campaigns on digital issues, and the3million, a group representing EU citizens living in Britain.
They are challenging a section of the Data Protection Act 2018 that contains a new exemption permitting Home Office “data controllers” to restrict access to personal data if it would be likely to prejudice “effective immigration control”.
No evidence has been presented by the Home Office explaining why it has been necessary to introduce the restrictions on access to immigration files, the court was told.
Holly Stout, counsel for the Home Office, said the exemption was permissible under EU law.
Following the Windrush scandal, human rights groups, leading Labour MPs, the Joint Council for the Welfare of Immigrants, the Law Society and the Bar Council all opposed its introduction.
Legal Cheek, The Brief – Robert Buckland MP, the current Solicitor General, has stated he believes a free vote on any possible Brexit deal “should be a way through this” current confusion.
Buckland’s comments come as MPs must grapple with the extraordinary position they now find themselves in.
They could do worse than consult the chair of the Bar Council’s Brexit Working Group, Hugh Mercer QC, who on Wednesday posted his refreshingly optimistic summary of where things stand. The Essex Court Chambers‘ barrister said:
“[T]he door is now more open to a range of other options beyond the Prime Minister’s ‘deal or no deal’. Those options include substituting the Political Declaration for a Canada plus style arrangement, a Norway plus deal with the UK becoming an EFTA member or, conceivably, in light of the CJEU Wightman ruling, unilateral revocation of the Article 50 notice itself. Those options have different implementation risks with knock on effects for certainty as any new proposals will need to pass a majority in Parliament and some will also need negotiation and ratification with the EU27 and/or the EEA members.”
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Legal Futures - The Bar Council is still unhappy with the price transparency regime proposed by the Bar Standards Board (BSB), despite the regulator’s decision to limit publication of information about fees to public access work, reports Legal Futures.
The revised rules came under fire from the Legal Services Consumer Panel earlier this month for not going far enough.
While praising the BSB for shifting the focus from bespoke services to public access work, the Bar Council, in a consultation response, said the revised regime failed to make clear that barristers could refuse to give a quote – either because the cab-rank rule did not apply or because the instruction would need to be refused under the conflict of interest rules. The Bar Council said: “We note that barristers are required to explain to the client if they are not ‘able’ to provide the legal services in question, although this seems to pre-suppose that they should.”
The Bar Council said it had “significant concerns” about the quality of the evidence used to justify the proposals set out in the BSB’s September consultation paper, and in particular a pilot study suggesting that far from damaging barristers, price transparency could help them thrive.
Law Society Gazette, Politics Home – The Gazette and Politics Home report that the Bar Council has said today that the door is open to several options besides the binary ‘deal or no deal’ options that had been previously proposed, including ‘softer’ Brexits similar to arrangements the EU has with Norway and Canada.
Hugh Mercer QC, chair of the Bar Council’s Brexit working group, said it was “never going to be straightforward” as a ‘prime minister’s deal or no deal’ choice.
“The Supreme Court judgment in R (on the application of Miller and Dos Santos) v Secretary of State for Exiting the EU, means that completing the process of leaving the EU will require primary legislation passed by a majority of the House of Commons,” Mercer said.
Under section 13 of the European Withdrawal Act, MPs can indicate their preference for an alternative deal or, eventually, give instructions to the government as to how it should proceed.
Mercer said: “Those options include substituting the political declaration for a Canada plus style arrangement, a Norway plus deal with the UK becoming an EFTA member or, conceivably, in light of the CJEU Wightman & Others v Secretary of State for Leaving the EU ruling, unilateral revocation of the Article 50 notice itself.
“Each option would lead to greater scrutiny of the underlying merits of those options by reference to the government’s own negotiating red lines, the wider economy and other considerations in the national interest,” Mercer said.
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- 21 January 2019 Bar Council News Update (PDF)
- 18 January 2019 Bar Council News Update (PDF)
- 16 January 2019 Bar Council News Update (PDF)
- 14 January 2019 Bar Council News Update (PDF)
- 11 January 2019 Bar Council News Update (PDF)
- 9 January 2019 Bar Council News Update (PDF)
- 7 January 2019 Bar Council News Update (PDF)
- 4 January 2019 Bar Council News Update (PDF)
- 2 January 2019 Bar Council News Update (PDF)