New bar chair Vos QC presents post-Clementi vision

The incoming chairman of the Bar Council Geoffrey Vos QC announced a consultation into who should be regulated by the Bar following the changes expected when the Legal Services Bill is passed.

In his inaugural speech to the Council last night (Monday 11 December), before he takes over as chair from Stephen Hockman QC on 1 January, Vos set out five key initiatives for 2007.

In additional to the consultation, Vos said, the Bar would continue to lobby on the issue of the Bar’s ability to retain jurisdiction over complaints handling, instead of transferring complaints to an Office of Legal Complaints, as expected under the Legal Services Bill, which received its second reading in the House of Lords last week.

On a more general theme for the year, Vos, who was called to the Bar in 1997, explained, the Bar must be devoted to “the pursuit of quality”.

“The quality of the Bar is what ensures the quality of the justice system we operate. We must never condone the inefficient conduct of trials, poor preparation, and unfocussed and excessive advocacy,” he warned.

More specifically, a major issue next year, will be the review of access to the profession, which is led by Sir David Neuberger.

Vos, who took silk in 1993, explained that the Bar is “still seen by many as exclusive and elitist” so needs to ensure that talented people from all social and racial backgrounds are equally able to come to the Bar.

He added: “We must make it widely known to those from less privileged backgrounds that the Bar is not a profession of toffs, but that it encourages those of the highest calibre from every walk of life to join its ranks.”

Vos, who was named The Lawyer’s Barrister of the Year in 2003, also plans to launch a special scheme to address the needs of smaller chambers which “the Bar Council has historically paid too little attention to”.

On the Government’s announcement last month that it would introduce a Single Graduates Fee Scheme in response to the Carter review Vos, who is the head of 3 Stone Buildings, warned “that a system of ‘one case one fee’ would not be in the public interest,” and that he intends to argue against it.

In relation to civil legal aid, he is keen to persuade the Government to undertake a complete review of the fees paid to advocates in civil litigation, saying “the payment structures and the payment rates are long overdue for reform”.