Employed barristers set for top posts

EMPLOYED barristers have won the right to stand for election to the Bar Council posts of vice-chairman and chairman after a widely-supported vote for constitutional change.

The change could also lead to the Bar having its first employed chairman in around two years from now, in the form of Michael Blair, head of policy and legal affairs at the Securities and Investments Board. He is the first employed barrister to be Bar Council treasurer and is tipped as a future Bar leader.

Before his seven years at the SIB, Blair was at the Lord Chancellor's Department for 21 years, eventually becoming private secretary to the Lord Chancellor. He has extensive committee experience in and out of the Bar Council.

The vote, taken at the last Bar Council meeting, overturns traditional Bar rules ensuring that only private practice barristers could win the top jobs.

The move is applauded by employed members who see it as a step towards one profession by reducing the discrimination against in-house lawyers.

A nearly unanimous show of hands indicated that the motion was well-supported by independent barristers as well as those in employment.

Peter Goldsmith QC, Bar Council chairman, says: “The Bar Council firmly believed that there was no justification for the restriction.”

Neil Addison, the employed Bar representative who proposed the motion, says he is “pleased with this advance for the employed Bar”.

He says the former state of affairs created two tiers of members on the Bar Council, “with the employed members being inferior to the private practice members”.