The Bar Council has appointed Sir John Collyear, a senior figure from the engineering industry, to head up a committee to respond to the Government's plans to end the Bar's virtual monopoly of higher court advocacy.
Last month, the Lord Chancellor, Lord Irvine, published plans to give all solicitors and barristers full rights of audience immediately upon qualification providing that they meet certain training requirements.
A primary role for Collyear's new “Way Ahead” committee will be to determine what the qualifications and training requirements should be for barristers under the new regime and the extent to which such qualifications should be co-ordinated with the Law Society.
The Bar's new committee will also investigate the other proposals put forward in the Government's consultation paper, such as giving barristers the right to conduct litigation and the abolition of the Lord Chancellor's Advisory Committee on Legal Education and Conduct.
Collyear, formerly chairman and chief executive of AE plc, said he was looking forward to playing a role which would help guarantee standards for the consumer.
“My experience of change in the engineering profession will be useful in tackling the challenges faced by the legal profession,” he added.
Bar Council chairman Heather Hallett QC said: “His experience and the independent view that he will bring to the Bar's deliberations will be of great assistance.”
Membership of the committee, which the Bar Council said would report “as soon as possible”, is yet to be finalised but it is certain to include Mark Sheldon, former president of the Law Society, and Stephen Bacon, senior vice-chairman of the Bar Association for Commerce, Finance and Industry (Bacfi).
Susan Ward, chairman of Bacfi, said: “Our fear is that the committee will recommend a continuation of the current rules relating to employed barristers, leaving us in an even worse position relative to solicitors and barristers.”