Last night’s speech by incoming Bar Council chair Maura McGowan QC was full of diplomatic turns of phrase. But make no mistake, it contains some strong warning messages to rookie barristers hopeful of pursuing careers in publicly-funded areas…
The exerts from McGowan’s speech are in bold italics, with commentary in standard text.
1. “The priority of the Government is and will remain the inadequacy of public funds properly to meet the demands placed upon them. That leads to the necessary acknowledgement that liberal state funding of expert representation in some proceedings is a thing of the past.”
Translation: The money has run out for crime and publicly-funded family work at the junior Bar.
2. “[The publicly funded Bar’s] outstanding qualities are internationally recognised. Often, and bizarrely, more abroad than at home. However, it is not seen by anyone as the favourite of Government. It is extraordinary and extraordinarily sad; that the Government’s attitude to each [the publicly funded Bar and the commercial Bar] seems diametrically opposed and apparently influenced solely by what makes money and what costs money.”
In other words: The secret is out in this country, if not abroad, that the publicly-funded Bar doesn’t provide any way near the same level of value as the commercial Bar.
3. “All sections of the Bar can only survive through a symbiotic balance.”
Decoded: The commercial Bar may have the better barristers, but it’ll suffer without the constitutional clout afforded to it by its association with criminal justice.
4. “In recent years we have seen massive expansion in the number of entrants to the Bar. That has been a force for good as it has promoted social mobility and greater diversity but it presents real difficulties now as we now seek to cope, as painlessly as possible, with a reduction in the volume of work available to the Bar and for many, substantial cuts in the fees paid for that work. We have to face up to that problem and meet it constructively.”
Put more simply: The Bar’s shrinking, kids – and it’s last in first out.
The full speech is here.