In focusing on perceived competition between the two branches of the profession (‘"Baby barrister" threat to solicitors’), what Catherine Baksi overlooks are the opportunities for co-operation between barristers and solicitors created by the Public Access Scheme. The bar’s code of conduct requires barristers instructed on a public access basis to constantly assess whether the case requires the involvement of a solicitor. If the need arises, barristers will recommend appropriate law firms.
Furthermore, the scheme does not extend rights to conduct litigation to the bar. The litigator’s role is preserved, and there may be a need for a solicitor to provide finite pieces of work, such as collecting evidence or preparing witness statements. Widening the pool of barristers who can undertake public access work does not threaten solicitors, but creates more competition and increases consumer choice.
It is misguided of the Law Society to suggest that entrants to the profession lack the level of maturity and expertise required to deal directly with clients. Let us not forget that it is the ‘baby’ barrister who undertakes vital, low-level criminal, family, civil and other work often without meeting their instructing solicitor. Experience of this independent working begins in pupillage. The quality of the bar’s advocacy and advisory services will not be compromised by the proposed rule change because barristers with less than three years’ experience will remain supervised by a qualified person, unlike solicitors on completion of their training contract.
Should the Legal Services Board approve the Bar Standard Board’s application for a rule change, the junior bar will not be ‘let loose’, but will be properly trained and subject to rules which prevent any real or perceived risk to the public.
Susan Jacklin QC, Ross Burrows, Access to the Bar Committee, Bar Council of England and Wales