THE English Bar is to appoint up to six foreign lawyers every year as "honorary members of the Bar" in a bid to boost its profile and clients abroad.
The Bar Council's international relations committee proposed the idea to the Bar Council on 13 July and it was unanimously approved.
The selection from the ranks of "distinguished foreign lawyers" to recognise "particular acts of friendship to the English Bar", will be made by chair of the Bar David Penry-Davey QC; chair of the international relations committee Peter Goldsmith QC; chief executive Niall Morison and representatives from the four Inns of Court, to be nominated by each Inn.
Each honorary member will be assigned to one of the four Inns on a rotatory basis and his or her membership will be conferred at a specially arranged lunch or at a function like the Bar Conference Dinner.
Goldsmith, in his recommendation to the Bar Council, said the honour would be a valuable way of drawing in work and raising the Bar's profile, particularly now it had lost its monopoly on rights of audience. "Foreign lawyers and their clients may have less immediate understanding of what the role of a barrister is and why a barrister should be instructed.
"Much of the work of many parts of the Bar comes from international sources," he said. "Quite apart from the significant number of barristers who appear or advise in foreign jurisdictions, there is much litigation in London that comes from international clients.
"The commercial court survey showed that at one stage over 80 per cent of writs issued included some foreign element and a significant proportion of those included no English element at all."
He stressed that the post would not carry with it any rights of audience.