As more barristers litigate and solicitors advocate, the old question of fusion is resurfacing. But when a junior lawyer raised it last week at a conference organised by the UK Law Students’ Association, it was clear she had touched a nerve.
‘Absolutely not’, was bar chair Chantal-Aimée Doerries’ fervent response: ‘What makes us the best justice system in the world is because we are a split profession. Why would you fix something that is not broken?’
She warned that the country would lose independent advocates if there was a merger, ending her answer with another emphatic ‘no’.
Hilary Heilbron QC, barrister and international arbitrator at Brick Court, spoke of how well the two branches complement each other and cited New South Wales as an example of the difficulties in trying to merge.
High Court judge Sir Robin Knowles CBE, meanwhile, also backed Doeirries, before adding that the profession is no longer just two but multiple branches when you take account of chartered legal executives and paralegals. ‘A merger is not desirable,’ he said. We get the message.