Heather Hallett QC has mounted a powerful bid to become the first female leader of the Bar Council.
Hallett and Douglas Day QC, both senior criminal barristers, are the only contenders for the post of Bar Council vice-chair. Both are strong candidates, and both have been nominated by senior figures.
But Hallett, as one of only two candidates, stands the best chance yet of breaking the male stranglehold on the profession's leadership.
Last year Hilary Heilbron QC lost out in a three-way tussle with the current vice-chair, Robert Owen QC, and she had been expected to have another stab at the post this year.
Hallett, currently leader of the South Eastern circuit, is standing on a pro-circuit platform and claims the Bar has a battle on its hands if it is to preserve the system. “There's a lot of talk about not having High Court judges going out on circuit and the CPS must also be persuaded to continue supporting the system,” she said.
As leader of the South Eastern circuit, she will be counting on the support of the other circuits, which are strongly represented on the council.
Hallett was nominated by Richard Wakerley QC, the leader of the Midland and Oxford Circuit, and Steven Hockman QC, the organiser of this year's Bar conference.
History would also appear to be on her side as the current chair, David Penry-Davey QC, was also leader of the South Eastern circuit when he was elected vice-chair.
Day is currently vice-chair of the influential legal services committee and has been nominated by the committee's chair, Christopher Clarke QC, and Bruce Holder QC, a leading figure in the Criminal Bar Association.
Day said: “I was asked to stand by several members of the CBA and will be keen to ensure the association is adequately represented by the Bar Council.”
Unlike the Law Society, the Bar Council continues to restrict the ballot for its leadership to members of its ruling council. Traditionally, the vice-chair stands unopposed for the chair of the council and Robert Owen QC, the current vice-chair, will take his place as Bar Council chair at the end of the year in the normal way.