Skip to main content

CBA Monday Message 19.02.18

Chair’s Update:
Angela Rafferty QC

The Junior Legal Profession
The Bar and the Solicitors’ profession face an unprecedented recruitment crisis and we must act now to avoid future decimation of both.

Richard Atkinson the chair of the Law Society’s criminal law committee has warned this week that the successive cuts to criminal legal aid has led to the near extinction of young criminal defence solicitors in some areas.

The Criminal Bar’s recruitment crisis is reaching a similar point. Highly talented and committed junior barristers are leaving crime in droves – most citing the lack of financial certainty. Without investment in criminal legal aid both barristers and solicitors will see our numbers continue to hemorrhage.

Our assistant secretary Emma Fenn, described new recruits as the “lifeblood” of the independent Bar.  It is exactly the same for solicitors. As the recent disclosure fiascos have shown without committed solicitors and barristers miscarriages of justice are inevitable.

We are working with Richard Atkinson in starting to tackle this problem in a unified and strategic way. We have and will consult the Senior Judiciary, the MOJ, the wider government and all the professional bodies about this issue in our campaign to raise awareness of this crisis.

The CBA will continue to campaign to improve conditions for junior barristers and to work with solicitor groups on the wider crisis in legal aid. Our wellbeing initiatives, social mobility work, diversity projects and the bursary scheme are all aimed at the junior profession.

One thing we can all do today is to welcome and encourage those who are interested in a career with us.  We could highlight the fascinating aspects and high importance of our work and take a few minutes to talk. We could join with our solicitor colleagues in discussing ways to resolve this problem rather than giving up and giving in to a sense of despair (as justified as this would be).

We could also try supporting those young lawyers who are committed to a career in criminal law. Many report disheartening conversations and a real lack of inspiration from more senior colleagues. Those of us who are senior will remember how important guidance and encouragement was when we started. Optimism and determination to help costs nothing and can go some way in improving morale.

On a more practical note we will be asking every criminal Silk in the country to make a contribution towards our bursary fund for pupils and very junior barristers. We intend to set up an award, which is an investment from the top of the profession to the bottom.  It will help those in the early years get on their feet, buy essentials for practice and survive.

Junior remuneration in the Magistrates
A recurring theme in these messages is the still profound difficulties very junior barristers still have in getting paid at all. We remind everyone of the findings of the Rivlin Report at Chapter 5  and the extreme pressures the very junior bar faces.

A long-term solution must be found. We are considering our next steps in relation to payments to young counsel in the magistrate’s court. Can all of those Chambers who have not yet responded please do so forthwith. It may be necessary to seek to involve the regulator in this if this issue is not resolved.

The Quality of our Working Lives
The South Eastern Circuit and Criminal Bar Association commissioned empirical research by the University of Portsmouth on the Quality of Working Lives (QoWL) and the Flexible Operating Hours proposal (FOH).

It will come as no surprise to many of you that a substantial majority of respondents indicated that they did not believe the FOH proposals were practicable, likely to achieve stated aims or well thought out. Importantly respondents also reported significantly lower levels of Quality of Working Life, lower satisfaction with home-work balance, working conditions, and higher levels of stress at work compared to the benchmark sample of UK NHS staff.

We undertook this survey for two reasons, firstly to consider whether our view of anecdotal evidence was correct and secondly to provide us with empirical and persuasive evidence with which to counter a further assault on our working lives by the FOH proposal.

You can read the results of the survey and an introduction to it in full here.

Women In Law
The 1st March 2018 will see the launch event of “Women In Law”.

This organisation sets out to connect and promote professional women across the criminal justice sector. Its patron is The Rt. Hon. Lady Justice Heather Hallett who will speak at the launch.

It is sponsored by the CBA.  It aims are to support, inspire, mentor, empower and encourage women in criminal law.

This is an important event, do please attend. It will start at 19.00 at the Law Society and is free to attend but booking is advisable. Find details of the organisation and how to join it here.

Find the invitation details to the launch event here.

View more news