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 reform – pregnancy and maternity discrimination
Working Mums – The Working Mums online magazine picks up on the Bar Council’s response to the Department for the Business, Energy & Industrial Strategy’s consultation paper on Pregnancy and Maternity Discrimination: Extending Redundancy Protection for Women and New Mothers.
Working Mums reports that the Bar Council has come out strongly in favour of extending redundancy protection for pregnant women and new parents to the period after return to work.
In its response, the Bar Council, which represents all 16,000 barristers in England and Wales, suggests that doing so could lead to an overall reduction in the gender pay gap, as well as an increase in the diversity of the workplace.
The Bar Council says: “The benefit is likely to be increasing the diversity of the workplace, boosting the economic productivity of maternity returners, ensuring a better return on the investment in women at work who have children, reducing the attrition of skills and talent and overall reducing the gender pay gap in many instances. It would also ensure a greater understanding of rights and obligations, which would avoid misunderstandings, grievances and possibly also litigation, which would save time and costs for individuals and businesses alike.”
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Bar Mock Trials
The Leyland Guardian (print) – A Leyland student stood out at this year’s coveted national Bar Mock Trials competition. Rebecca Lea, of Runshaw College, was presented with the individual advocacy award.
Organised by Young Citizens and funded by the Bar Council, the competition involves schools competing across the UK to reach the finals. This year, 24 schools made it to the final in Edinburgh’s Court of Session. King Edward VI Handsworth School were the winners.
Chair of the Bar Council, Richard Atkins QC, said: “It is marvellous to see the dedication and commitment of the pupils taking part in this competition and that of their teachers. They have all worked so hard to reach the finals and it is a pity that there can only be one winner. I hope that the competition inspires many of those taking part to consider a career at the Bar.”
Legal Futures - The Asian woman barrister who was disinstructed after her client wanted a white man to represent her has said she does not blame the solicitor involved.
Rehana Popal said reporting the solicitor would not address “the root cause of the problem”, which ultimately was the client’s perception that the judge would more likely be persuaded by a white man.
Ms Popal, the only female Afghan-born barrister practising in England and Wales, received national media coverage last November when she tweeted about being disinstructed, which led the chair of the Bar Council to issue a strong warning to solicitors.
Ms Popal said:
“When you’re trying to build your practice, the last thing you want to be known as is a troublemaker. A barrister is only as good as their next brief. As a self-employed counsel, building a good relationship with solicitors is crucial. So how to handle awkward situations with instructing solicitors? I do not think there is a simple solution.
“The only way junior counsel may feel confident in raising such an issue is by having strong, formal and institutional support networks at the Bar eg chambers, the Inns of Court, Bar Council and circuits.”
Law Society Gazette - At the bimonthly meeting of the Bar Standards Board (BSB) the regulator sought approval of its strategic aims for 2019-2022. But Richard Atkins QC, chair of the Bar Council, said some of the specified aims appeared to ‘duplicate work the council is already doing’.
The BSB’s aims include ‘advancing access to justice in a changing market’ and ‘encouraging an independent, strong, diverse and effective legal profession’.
Atkins said these are ‘obvious areas that the bar council has an interest in.’
He added: ‘We [the Bar Council] don’t want to be in a position where we work on something only to find out it is already being done.’
A BSB board member said some of the aims noted might be better off being carried out by the ‘trade union as opposed to the regulator’. They added: ‘We should avoid this mission creep of doing things we should not be doing.’
Atkins noted that the council had already done a large amount of work on advancing access to justice and on creating a more diverse profession.
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Law Society Gazette, The Times – The legal media reports that traditions for would-be barristers, including mandatory ‘dining sessions’, will continue after the Bar Standards Board (BSB) said it recognises the ‘vital’ role played by the Inns of Court.
The BSB confirmed it signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) with the Inns last night, which includes new requirements for them to self-evaluate qualifying sessions for new entrants.
The Gazette reports that the Inns’ “influence had been threatened by the BSB’s proposed training overhaul, but representative body the Bar Council opposed the plans. The Bar Council lauded the Inns’ ‘fundamental role’ in ‘nurturing and developing the shared culture of the bar’.
“Subsequently, in a change of heart, the BSB said the Inns should retain their role but that there should be ‘greater BSB regulatory oversight and assurance’ in the process of calling to the Bar and administering fit and proper person checks. It has now outlined these proposals in the MoU.”
Disability at the Bar
LexisNexis – Future of Law blog - Faisel Sadiq, Chair of the Bar Council’s Disability Sub Group, blogs on the ongoing reforms to disability access, the unique difficulties facing the Bar, and the impact of inaccessibility on our justice system and society.
Faisel writes: “For the last decade, the Bar Council, the Bar Standards Board, and the Inns of Court have collectively sought to improve the diversity of the practising Bar. This is viewed both as an end in itself (it being accepted that the Bar ought to reflect the community from which we are drawn and that we seek to serve) as well it being understood that as the senior judiciary are still predominantly drawn from the Bar, increased diversity at the Bar will have an impact on the make-up of the judiciary too.”
Faisel also points to specific work of the Bar Council and the wider Bar to make the profession more inclusive and ensure equal opportunities for those with disabilities.
The Times – The Times reports that the government’s drive towards digital courts has left lawyers concerned over the quality of some services and access to justice.
The Times points to recent court IT system failures, problems with an online probate system and a Times survey last year which showed that more than 80 per cent of surveyed barristers predicted that moves towards online courts will lead to “justice being trampled on” and “cheap”.
Bar Mock Trials
The Barrister – The Barrister reports that the coveted Bar Mock Trials National Champions title has gone to King Edward VI Handsworth School after its team won the Bar Council backed contest which sees non-fee paying schools compete against each other in mock court trials.
The competition, which includes real judges adjudicating the trials, also recognises individuals who impress in the competition. This year, Rebecca Lea of Runshaw College, Leyland, Lancashire, was presented with the individual advocacy award.
Richard Atkins QC said: “It is marvellous to see the dedication and commitment of the pupils taking part in this competition and that of their teachers. They have all worked so hard to reach the finals and it is a pity that there can only be one winner. I hope that the competition inspires many of those taking part to consider a career at the Bar. The Bar Council of England and Wales is proud to support the competition.”
BAR COUNCIL TWEETS @thebarcouncil
- 10 April 2019 Bar Council News Update (PDF)
- 04 April 2019 Bar Council News Update (PDF)
- 29 March 2019 Bar Council News Update (PDF)
- 25 March 2019 Bar Council News Update (PDF)
- 22 March 2019 Bar Council News Update (PDF)
- 20 March 2019 Bar Council News Update (PDF)
- 15 March 2019 Bar Council News Update (PDF)
- 13 March 2019 Bar Council News Update (PDF)
- 11 March 2019 Bar Council News Update (PDF)
- 8 March 2019 Bar Council News Update (PDF)