Ruffling employed barristers' feathers

Employed barristers are beginning to ruffle their feathers over the Bar Council’s approach to campaigning on rights of audience on their behalf.

Some feel that there is a distinct lack of enthusiasm from the Bar Council for the fight, and that while the right noises are being made in public, there is rather less going on behind the scenes.

One barrister equated the fight for employed barristers to get rights of audience to turkeys voting for Christmas. To date, the Bar Association for Commerce, Finance & Industry (Bacfi) has toed the party line and followed the Bar Council’s lead on the matter.

However, the rumblings are beginning to be evident, as employed barristers compare their lot with those of their solicitor colleagues. Not only are they worse off, they fear that the situation will not change unless the powers that be fight their corner.

No one knows exactly how many barristers are employed – some guestimates believe there may be around 5,000. But they feel that their support for the Bar Council has not been acknowledged and that stronger action may be necessary.

It is easy to understand why they are now looking at taking a stand and hitting where it will hurt. As one employed barrister pointed out, they have watched chartered patent agents get rights of audience while they sit on the sidelines patiently waiting. They feel that the Bar Council is singularly lacklustre because it fears that employed barristers will take work away from the practising bar.

For this reason, they are considering putting their complaints the way of the relevant competition authorities, while taking the momentous step of briefing solicitors as opposed to barristers in protest. One thing is for sure: this issue needs more attention from the Bar Council. Otherwise, employed barristers will take matters into their own hands.