'Barristers and solicitors to achieve parity of pay'

I want 1995 to be the year in which the Bar takes concrete steps to establish its reputation as a robust and competitive professional service.

The Bar can be justifiably proud of its integrity, professionalism and excellence. I want to build on that by implementing reforms that ensure that education, training and working practices at the Bar lead to a truly efficient and competitive service, meeting the modern client.

In January, I will put before the Bar Council detailed proposals for the validation of other institutions in the provision of the Bar's vocational course, and to provide a competitive stimulus to even better teaching.

I also want to press ahead in 1995 with plans for a pupillage applications clearing house. Michael Beloff QC will lead a working group to see a pilot scheme on offer in time for those pupillage applications made later this year.

February will see the launch of a pilot scheme of management training for chambers. It will cover strategic planning, marketing, client care, finance and personnel management. The Bar will support this initiative with practice management guidelines designed to give chambers a real competitive edge.

We need also to bear in mind the value of good working relationships with solicitors. It is time for a new partnership with solicitors, working together in the client's interest. To do this means co-operation and communication. Barristers and solicitors must know what each expects of the other. The client then has the assurance of getting the best service from both.

We want the advice and advocacy provided by the Bar to be of the highest quality. The ultimate assurance of that quality is an effective complaints system. In bringing forward proposals for a new complaints body for the Bar, to operate from January 1996, we will listen to, and learn from, the criticisms levelled at the Solicitors Complaints Bureau, as well as the concerns of the practising Bar.

I want to see in 1995 the introduction of a new fee structure in the Crown Court based on the principle of parity of pay for solicitors and barristers. The solicitors' plea of higher overheads meaning higher costs for the taxpayer cannot be accepted in the age of compelling public spending restraints. I would also like to see confirmation from the Law Society that referral fees for advocacy cannot form part of a system of justice which has regard for the highest ethical standards.

1995 will be a year for making a constructive input into Lord Woolf's review of civil justice. We will also be making our own contribution to the long-awaited development of a criminal cases review authority, which we hope will provide an effective mechanism for reopening convictions about which there is uncertainty.