Bar council chair Stephen Hockman QC has called for unity in the profession, warning that the bar risks fragmentation if it does not adapt to the modern world.

Speaking at the annual Bar Conference on Saturday (4 November) Hockman told his audience that the profession faces the risk that the regional circuits become disillusioned with the London bar, that practitioners doing publicly funded work “leave the field of battle”, and that ethnic minority barristers also quit the bar because they feel they cannot receive fair treatment.

“A strong, collegiate and forward-looking profession will not succumb to these risks,” said Hockman, adding: “It is my firm belief that we have the capacity to adapt and thrive in a changing world.”

Hockman said the Bar would continue to monitor the progress of the Legal Services Bill and Lord Carter of Coles’s review of legal aid funding. He also said that for the bar the challenge would be to ensure that the “crucial role” of independent advocates is recognised in publicly funded work.

He told the conference that the Bar Mutual Indemnity Fund is to extend its cover to the defence of practitioners against whom disciplinary proceedings are taken.

The conference included a keynote speech from the Lord Chancellor, Lord Falconer, and topics discussed included pro bono work, the future of the criminal bar, and complaints handling.