A focus on ‘public service’ is a better course than special pleading.
Demand for oral advocacy is unlikely to increase and securing a decent share is an immediate worry for many barristers. That is especially true for those at the start of their career.
The uncertainty and financial burden of launching a career at the self-employed bar constitute a built-in headache for anyone troubled by the enduring homogeneity of barristers. An over-supply of more experienced colleagues makes things even harder.
As a result, the choices made by Bar Council chair Andrew Langdon in 2017 will matter. He stresses the co-dependence of the profession’s barrister and solicitor branches. Common cause, he points out, can be made around plans for a blanket extension of fixed recoverable costs, cuts to advocacy fee schemes and changes in technology that could see the justice system migrate online.
Tensions remain though – the 10% hike for QCs instructed on criminal cases being one example. Another concerns protectionist attempts to protect the criminal bar at the expense of solicitor-advocates – though Langdon is quick to distance himself from Michael Gove’s incendiary call for the latter to be squeezed out entirely.
Securing the future of the bar will entail mature thinking. An unrelenting focus on the ‘public service’ Langdon insists drives him is a much better course than special pleading. So far he is making the right noises.