Incoming Bar Council chair Desmond Browne QC has said that the Government’s plan to increase in-house advocacy will have a detrimental effect on the self-employed bar.
Browne, who is joint head of chambers at 5 Raymond Buildings, told The Lawyer that Director of Public Prosecutions Keir Starmer could create a diversity problem at the referral bar by backing his predecessor Sir Ken MacDonald’s strategy.
“Sir Ken would like a backwards and forwards movement between the employed ;and ;self-employed bar, which would lead to a system not much different from the Australian model,” explained Browne.
He said that, while the Australian system seems to work, the feeling is that it would not fit so well with the model in England and Wales.
“It has implications for diversity,” argued Browne. “Those who are financially able will get to the self-employed bar, but those with debts would find it more attractive to stay with the CPS [Crown Prosecution Service] or in-house.”
In his inaugural speech last week (TheLawyer.com, 8 December), Browne said: “As more and more of the smaller work is taken in-house, the young and self-employed will have less and less on which to cut their teeth. How, then, are the sturdy, experienced silks and senior juniors of the future to gain their training? Brain surgeons do not start their careers doing craniotomies.”
Starmer’s current answer, according to Browne, was that the only way to be guaranteed such work was to join the CPS.
Browne said the bar should be optimistic for the long-term, but added: “[This is] provided we start to confront our demons right away. We cannot afford to act like ostriches.”