What is the public image of a barrister? Wigs, courts and fat fees? Rumpole of the Bailey or Kavanagh, QC? People tend not to think public service, human rights, access to justice – far less, the export of legal services. But this is equally the reality of the Bar today. And it’s a message that the profession’s leaders want to drive home when 500 of the rank and file meet this Saturday for their annual conference in London.
The ethos of the Bar, argues Geoffrey Vos, QC, its chairman, is public service: half the profession is doing legal aid work – representing people accused of crimes, families, children and immigrants and challenging official decisions. As for the rest, the Commercial and Chancery Bars are driving the £2 billion export business in legal services.
But if the ethos is public service, then the common thread through all barristers’ work is human rights. This will be the theme of the conference, with every session – commercial or family law, criminal or international – geared to the impact of human rights.
Catherine Addy, a young Chancery practitioner chosen to chair the board organising this year’s event, said: “We wanted something of universal appeal to all members of the profession, in whatever field of work and whether in private practice or employed, such as with the Crown Prosecution Service. This seemed to be the one area of law that does transcend all specialisms as well as being topical and making the headlines.”