The history of the Bar Council intervening to help criminal lawyers has not been an entirely happy one. It was the Bar Council that initially pushed the now-much-hated QASA (see here and here for my consultation responses, which set out with some of the problems with it) a few years ago, and it was the Bar Council who (from memory) lead the way on Carter. That was the first time that I really got interested in Bar ‘politics’, and it wasn’t a happy start.
Since then, they have welcomed the Jeffreys Report, despite this being less than positive about the future of the criminal bar (once one gets through the platitudes). So it was that I was a bit concerned for my colleagues who undertake family law when I saw on 19th July 2015 that the Bar Council and the FLBA had sent a letter to the MoJ requesting that they conduct a similar exercise to Jeffreys, but for family law (thanks to Nigel Edwards for keeping me up to date).
I don’t want to be too critical of the Bar Council. I recognise that there are a whole lot of very intelligent people there, and that they are able to take a good overview of the wider picture. Also, although the Chair and Vice Chair get paid very well, most of the people there are putting in a lot more time than I am, and they are doing it for free. Nonetheless, if you’re a family lawyer (I don’t do family) I’d be getting a little bit twitchy.
The Carter negotiations are a good example – I remember being in a meeting with the Bar Council where it was pointed out that Carter was a really, really bad idea for the criminal bar, and that the immediate consequence would be a large amount of work going in house. We were told not to worry, and that there was no chance of that happening at all. I’m not claiming any great insight then – it was obvious to anyone who looked at it that this was a risk. Likewise with QASA.
It may be that I am worrying unnecessarily – it’s just a review after all. And the FLBA has historically been pretty good at looking after their members. But once bitten, twice shy and all that. Whatever does happen, I would urge the Bar Council to make sure that they listen to their members during any discussion in relation to this. And, most importantly, keep an open mind. When someone raises an objection, it may be that they are right …