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Monday Message 23.01.17

Chairman’s Update: 
Francis FitzGibbon QC

The Future of the Bar & Future Bar Training
Research by the Bar Council shows that in the last ten years the junior Bar has shrunk: the 10-15 years call bracket is down by 10%; 5-10 years by 20%; and 0-5 years by 30%.  Our profession is aging and not replenishing itself. There may be several reasons for it, including reduced career prospects in publicly funded work, and the attractions of other career paths for intending lawyers. One reason, however, may be the sheer cost of getting through Bar Exams. Some course providers charge £19,000 for the BPTC. Add that to student debt and the cost of living especially in London, and you have a basket of disincentives. There’s a high attrition rate after the BPTC. Hence the BSB’s review of Bar training.
Now consultation fatigue may have set in long ago, but I’m going to repeat the call for responses to the AGFS consultation, below. But if you care about who comes after us, if anyone, please give your thoughts to the BSB on this. The Bar and the Council of the Inns of Court (the successor to the Advocacy Training Council) have made their own proposal: a course in two parts, the first of which is entirely web-based and consists of acquiring knowledge of civil and criminal procedure and evidence. Those who pass an exam at the end will go on to an intensive classroom-based course in skills in advocacy, opinion writing, drafting, alternative dispute resolution, and ethics. Part 1 will be inexpensive, with materials supplied on line. The whole course would cost significantly less than the courses now available. The pinch-point would come at the end of part 1, thus sparing people who have no real chance of making it a good deal of money and time, while making the proposition more attractive to talented people without money behind them.
The BSB make three proposals of their own, all of which entail classroom teaching across the whole course.
The future of the Bar is not wholly in its control, but it needs to take down barriers to entry while retaining the highest standards of ability and integrity.
So please make time to read and respond to the consultation. It closes on 31 January.
Ditto. Apathy won’t work. MOJ need to hear what we think.
Our solicitor colleagues are worried about the future of the Litigator Graduated Fee Scheme, the counterpart to AGFS. What will happen to the 8.75% cut to their fees which Chris Grayling imposed and his successor suspended? They look at the AGFS consultation and feel nervous. A functioning criminal justice system needs excellence in advocacy and litigation, and money should reward the real work that people do in each sector. Solicitors bear the brunt of ‘early engagement’, and should be properly remunerated for it. I want good solicitors firms to thrive. I don’t want to see them de-skilling because they can’t pay for good people, and I don’t want economic pressures to drive them unwillingly into advocacy. The choice to do advocacy should be a matter of vocation. If I were a party to discussions between the solicitors’ representatives and the MOJ on reforms to LGFS, I would urge both sides to take the same strategic and long-term view as with AFGS reform.

Travel Expenses
The Legal Aid Agency have had another look at St Albans and Burnley: they will resume paying advocates’ travel expenses from London to St Albans and from Preston to Burnley.
CBA Elections
The elections for 3 Executive Committee members will open at 4pm on 27 January. Ballot papers and candidates’ statements to follow. The nominated candidates are 

Narita Bahra  2 Hare Court 1997
Abigail Bright Doughty St 2010
Helen Easterbrook 2 KBW 2011
Sebastian Gardiner  25 Bedford Row 1997
Eleanor Laws QC QEB HW 1990
Louise Oakley 2 Bedford Row 2001
David Wood Charter Chambers 2007

As no one stood against Chris Henley QC and Emma Fenn for Treasurer and Assistant Secretary, they are elected nem. con.
Common Platform
HMCTS researchers will be at Liverpool Crown Court on 25 January to test aspects of the Common Platform – the new IT system designed to connect all parts of the criminal justice system. They invite practitioners to help.
Address by the Recorder of London
For those not able to attend the opening of the 2017 session at the Old Bailey, here is what the Recorder of London said, including touching words about the too many members of the criminal Bar who died last year.

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