AS AN employed practising barrister, I have been following the debate about rights of audience for employed lawyers with interest.
As a busy in-house lawyer, I have neither the time nor the inclination to pop on a wig and dash off to the High Court or the Court of Appeal, but find it more convenient to pay for external expertise. As with other in-house lawyers, there are areas in which I have specialist knowledge and experience, and areas where I farm work out to external specialists, be they counsel or solicitors.
I do, however, object to being treated as a second-class citizen and being denied the opportunity to represent my clients in a superior tribunal should I consider it appropriate to do so.
I have read suggestions that members of the employed bar are not truly "independent" when acting for, or representing organisations who employ them, as opposed to "clients" who instruct and employ the Bar through solicitors or directly in return for the payment of fees.
This is patent nonsense since along with colleagues in private practice, we are bound by the Bar code of conduct and act according to professional standards which we have been trained to apply in our practices.
Might I suggest that rather than expending energy in seeking to preserve a historic monopoly, the Bar should be concentrating its energies on seeking new areas of work (from in-house lawyers, for example), rather than relying on the traditional relationship between the Bar and solicitors.
In my view this is the only realistic way in which the Bar is going to survive as a truly independent body.