The insurance bar has been issued with a stern warning that it faces a bleak future unless it dramatically improves the service it offers to solicitors and insurer clients.
Martin Staples, senior partner of Vizards Staples & Bannister, told The Lawyer's chambers management seminar last week that there will be less and less work going out to the Bar, as panels and costs continue to be cut.
The junior bar, says Staples, will be hardest hit because insurance work has traditionally provided a lot of work for barristers in the early stages of their careers.
"It is difficult to see where the training ground for junior barristers will be in the future," he adds.
"Costs will be so restricted solicitors will be loath to share costs with the Bar, not because they don't want to but because they are very limited. It means there will be fewer actions and fewer hearings."
Staples says the Bar is not doing enough to develop relationships with both insurer clients and solicitors, with whom the insurers are increasingly placing decision-making powers.
Angela Griffiths, practice development manager at Devereux Chambers, is more upbeat. She argues that there is a great deal of work for the junior bar in employment, and that many sets are already flexible with fees and appreciate the need to work in partnership with solicitors.
The extent of reform facing the Bar was clarified by Chris Owen, senior clerk at 9 Bedford Row, who chaired the seminar.
He predicts a future without silks, the introduction of a common legal education for solicitors and barristers, the end of pupillages, multidisciplinary partnerships between barristers, solicitors and accountants, and the end of the present clerking system.