The Bar cannot continue to grow at its current pace and it is "inevitable" there will be a "significant contraction" in its size in coming years, the chair of the Young Barristers' Committee has warned.
Addressing a forum on the future of the profession, Brian O'Neill said there were too many practising barristers and the "glut" was most significant at the junior level of the profession.
O'Neill, of Desmond De Silva's 2 Paper Buildings, claimed there were "many reasons to be pessimistic" and there was "little room for optimism and none for complacency".
He said the obstacles encountered by young barristers could be traced to the initial point of entry and the growing numbers practising in chambers – 5,944 in 1988 to 7,835 in 1994.
The hovering threat posed by the rights of audience now available to solicitors added to the problems, he said.
"That increase, almost one-third in just six years, lies at the root of the problems facing the young Bar," said O'Neill.