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Bar Chairman: We do not expect to be popular, but our role should be valued

Bar Council

3 min read Partner content

In a rallying call from the Chairman of the Bar, barristers have been told at the 31st Bar & Young Bar Conference that they are more than mere ‘economic actors’ and that, while not expecting to be popular the profession’s value should be acknowledged.

In her speech to the conference at Westminster Park Plaza in London on Saturday 15 October 2016, the largest annual gathering of the Bar in England & Wales, Chantal-Aimée Doerries QC, Chairman of the Bar, highlighted the profession’s ability and enthusiasm for innovation, but warned the profession’s commitment to independence, excellence and advocacy had to be protected.

Chantal-Aimée Doerries QC told delegates: “Barristers are not mere ‘economic actors’, using the language of Sir David Clementi many years ago. We are professionals whose role is at the heart of our justice system. As a profession we act not only in the interest of consumers, but also in the public interest. Acknowledging this does not mean that this profession is unwilling to continue to move with the times, but rather that there is an irreducible essence, which has to be protected. At the heart of this profession are three commitments: to independence, to excellence and to advocacy.

“These three tenets combined with the Bar’s high degree of flexibility are why the Bar has survived over centuries, and why in my view, despite the undoubted challenges which exist, it will continue to survive and thrive. But, we should not take this for granted. The essential elements of the profession need to be guarded and valued. They are central to what is best about our justice system, and our judiciary.”

Unpopular but valued

The Chairman of the Bar acknowledged that being a barrister was not about being popular, but that the profession’s role should not be undervalued. She said: “Perhaps the Bar should not expect to be popular – after all the hallmark of the profession is to represent all without fear, including litigants who are unpopular with Government, or with society. That is why this profession has fought so hard to keep the Cab Rank rule. But the profession should be valued. Not just for the money it contributes to the Exchequer, but because the justice system, and the Bar which plays a central role in it, are part of the glue which holds society together. We need to ensure that society and politicians understand what we do, and the important roles we play in ensuring our society is able to exist in its current form.”

Wellbeing and regulation

Chantal-Aimée Doerries QC used her keynote speech at the conference to announce a joint initiative between the Bar Council, Inns of Court and Institute of Barristers’ Clerks (IBC); the Wellbeing at the Bar Portal – an online wellbeing and mental health support tool for the Bar.

Read the Chairman of the Bar’s full conference speech here.


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