Re-think training and support of junior barristers, says incoming bar chief

WhatsApp teams no substitute for chambers camaraderie

Mark Fenhalls QC — picture by way of @Centwistle1

The incoming chair of the Bar Council mentioned final evening that the career owes pupil and junior barristers a “duty” to re-think the training and support they obtain of their early years.

In his inaugural speech delivered at Grey’s Inn, Mark Fenhalls QC touched on a variety of subjects impacting the bar, resembling authorized assist, range, courtroom capability and backlogs, in addition to tradition within the context of the coronavirus pandemic.

“We owe our pupils and junior tenants a duty to think again about their training, and how we support them in their early years,” he mentioned. “Many of us have done our best to help our recent intakes with WhatsApp groups and the like; but it is just not as good. We must ask ourselves how we can recreate that sense of chambers where you could walk in, find people, and knock on any open door.”

Fenhalls acknowledged in his deal with that “there are no easy answers” and “the challenge only grows because the average age of pupils approaches 30 and the average barrister is now approaching 50”.

He continued:

“I suspect a common theme will be the need to recognise that spontaneity will not work. There is little point dropping in to chambers as one might have done not so long ago, expecting to bump into any number of friends to have lunch, a cup of tea, or an early evening drink. I think we are all going to have to be a lot more organised if we want the culture of the bar to survive.”

The Bar Council examined the impacted of Covid-19 on the junior finish of the career in analysis earlier this 12 months.

The overwhelming majority (82%) of pupil barristers mentioned the most important problem they confronted is the dearth of networking alternatives in consequence of the lockdowns and transfer to distant methods of working. Different areas of concern highlighted within the Bar Council’s survey of pupils in March 2021 included interruption to courtroom work (55%) and a scarcity of contact with pupil supervisors (51%).

Pupils mentioned on the time that they needed extra contact with their pupil supervisors in addition to different members of chambers, common tea/espresso mornings and extra publicity to courtroom or distant hearings.

It’s not simply junior barristers which might be feeling the pressures of the pandemic, as stories final 12 months confirmed bar college students struggled with distant educating and assessments.

Fenhalls was previously chair of the Legal Bar Affiliation and practises from 23 Essex Avenue Chambers. He replaces Derek Sweeting QC as chair of the Bar Council subsequent 12 months.

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