All barristers in England and Wales are represented by the General Council of the Bar (Bar Council), of which I have been a member for over 4 years. Barristers under 7 years’ Call (i.e. who have been barristers for less than 7 years – roughly equivalent to years in practice) are represented by the Young Barristers’ Committee (YBC), of which I was Chairman during 2012.
The YBC has 30 members from all areas of practice and from all parts of England and Wales, led by a Chairman and Vice-Chairman. It has a paid Secretary who is employed by the Bar Council. There has been a YBC for nearly 60 years and its role is to represent and promote the interests of young barristers (i.e. barristers under 7 years’ Call). This means arguing in favour of young barristers at meetings of the Bar Council, as well as representing the position of the Young Bar on professional, political and other issues to members of the judiciary and the Government. For instance, during my year as Chairman, I had regular meetings with senior judges, as well as the Attorney-General and the Solicitor-General, both of whom are Government ministers.
Amongst the YBC’s wide range of activities, we organise an annual conference in October and we publish an annual magazine. Last year’s conference focussed on advocacy and included specialist workshops to help develop the advocacy skills of young barristers in particular courtroom situations (e.g. vulnerable witnesses, cross-examining experts and so on). The keynote speech was given by one of the greatest living English advocates, Sir Sydney Kentridge QC, KCMG, who is still in practice at the age of 90 and who was part of Nelson Mandela’s defence team in South Africa in the 1960s.
Last year’s magazine included a range of articles written by members of the committee, judges, lawyers and others, about the work of the YBC and some of the topical issues affecting young barristers (e.g. how to improve advocacy in the county court). In addition, there were two major interviews: one with Lord Judge who is the Lord Chief Justice (England’s most senior judge); the other with Ken Clarke QC MP who, until September 2012, was the Lord Chancellor and Secretary of State for Justice (i.e. the Government minister in charge of the justice system).
The YBC is represented at many events internationally and it was a great pleasure for me to attend the Opening of the Legal Year in Paris, Brussels, Geneva, Montreal and – of course – Luxembourg. We also regularly attend international legal conferences (such as the International Bar Association conference, the Commonwealth Lawyers Conference and the American Bar Association conferences) and we organise our own international conference for young lawyers from overseas in London at the end of September. Known as International Weekend, this is a joint collaboration between the YBC, the Young Lawyers’ Division of the Law Society (i.e. the young solicitors) and the European Young Bar Association (of which I am the Vice-President for 2012-13). Bertrand Christmann and Tania Hoffmann were among the Luxembourgers who attended International Weekend in 2012: I hope many more of you will be able to attend this year in September.
Being Chairman of the YBC was hard work but a great experience. I continue to be interested in the work of the YBC and I am confident that my successor, Hannah Kinch, and her Vice-Chairman, Max Hardy, will have every success in continuing the YBC’s important and valuable contributions.
David Nicholls is a practising barrister in chambers at 11 Stone Buildings, Lincoln’s Inn, London (www.11sb.com). He is the Chairman of the Young Barristers’ Committee of the Bar Council for England and Wales for 2012. He is also the Vice-President of the European Young Bar Association, 2012-2013.