IBC Committees End of Term Report July 2021
I am pleased to report that the accounts have remained healthy during the pandemic which means that there are funds available to invest in the new education programme. Membership numbers have held up well this year although there has been a small drop off in the category for Junior Clerks <8 years’ experience.
As ever I remain very grateful to Rosie, our Administrator, who does all of the heavy lifting with our accounts, payments and seminar management.
What a last 12 months! The Education committee has been working very hard putting together some fantastic and interesting virtual seminars, that have been very well received and attended. The eagerly anticipated replacement course for the BTEC in Chambers Administration is now being written with a view to it being ready to launch on the 1 October 2021.
The IT committee has been working on the IBC website over the past year and have migrated over to a new website team to ensure that all of our members have a fully functioning resource available to them.
There are lots of plans in the pipeline for future developments to the website and we are always keen to hear from the Members what they would find useful.
The IT committee are also looking to roll out a programme of education in IT, making resources and handy tips available to all members who may wish to get more out of their IT than they currently do, including diary software.
The IT committee are very keen for members interested in IT to be a part of the group. If anyone is interested, please get in touch with Rowan Caffull at firstname.lastname@example.org
Bar Council Pro-Bono & Social Responsibility Committee Report 2021
One of the committee’s main focuses this year has been the development and launch of the Sustainability Network. At the time of writing around 30 sets have signed up to the scheme. The guiding aim of this initiative is to help the Bar become carbon neutral by 2030.
A more formal accreditation scheme, similar to the Wellbeing at The Bar scheme, is currently being developed which is it felt will add value to chambers when contracting with bulk purchasers of the bar’s service, such as Local Authorities. The accreditation scheme will help demonstrates a chambers’ “green credentials” in satisfaction of any requirements provided for by the tender.
Pro Bono Week this year takes places 1st-5th November and will have a focus on environmental matters and climate change. The IBC are proposing a session during PBW aimed at clerks covering the advantages for their members of undertaking pro bono cases.
Justice Week is being finalised for end of February 2022.
A new guide to undertaking pro bono work is currently being drafted and is hoped to be published and circulated by the end of the year.
Reports from Advocate confirm that due to the continued remote working practice they are being able to place record numbers of cases with barristers who are available remotely. Ongoing discussions with HMCTS and Senior Judiciary to see if there is a way to maintain the position of remote representation at hearings for pro bono clients going forward.
22nd July 2021
The Family courts are still very busy. Child protection cases are prioritised by the courts which has the knock-on effect that it is far more difficult to get a court date for financial remedy cases and children cases where there is no risk of harm to children. Non court dispute resolution services are likely to rise considerably, and neutral evaluations and arbitration are likely to become much more popular for these types of cases. The Nuffield Family Justice Observatory has published its findings into remote court hearings post pandemic https://www.nuffieldfjo.org.uk/resource/remote-hearings-post-pandemic
The President of the Family Division has not yet formally responded to this report, but his response will shape the future of remote hearings in family courts and is one to watch out for when it is published.
HMCTS are gradually rolling out the pilot of the Family Public Law digital service. Eventually all bundles will be accessed through this service and all documents which have to be served on the court will have to come through the online portal. More information including training documentation should be provided by your local courts as and when they start to use the service. It’s very simple to set up, you need to set up an account for your chambers https://manage-org.platform.hmcts.net/register-org/register and then invite each barrister to join https://manage-org.platform.hmcts.net/
Due to the pandemic the LAA introduced temporary changes to the evidence required to claim fees in FAS cases and removed the requirement to provide an AA form and allowed instead the details of the court hearing times, uplifts etc to be recorded in the court order. The LAA have indicated they will be consulting on whether to make this change permanent. This change provides massive time savings not just for those who deal with billing FAS claims, it also saves the courts, judges, and the LAA huge amounts of time. When the consultation appears please ensure that as many of you as possible respond.
Career Development Committee
The CDC aims for 2 education events and 1 social event yearly.
One education event was hosted by Zoom in March ’21. We were hoping to now focus on a summer social however the committee have decided it’s better off to postpone any social event until Christmas time in the hopes that mass gatherings are the norm then.
The committee have also been heavily involved with the Education Committee in helping with the new BTEC replacement this year, sharing our thoughts on what should be included in the course, the accreditation and the name. This has all now been decided and is underway solely with the Education committee.
We have loosely discussed our second and final education event of the year, in that it should take place around September time and will hopefully be held in a ‘hybrid’ fashion, so we have some clerks join in person and other clerks joining from home by zoom. The topic of this education event is not yet decided, we will be discussing this properly in our July meeting.
International Work Reports
German Bar – This happened on 9th June. Bar Council (BC) did a seminar as part of the conference, this was relating to practice rights and working together on civil justice, so post Brexit related.
UK/Middle East – This happened 6-8 July. The report was that the event was not great, but the bar council had very little input. The MOJ made their own approaches. BC & Law Society did a joint seminar which they thought went well.
BC China Training – 20th July – this is being pushed off to the middle of September. July was not good for the Chinese, domestic celebrations.
Mexico – Postponed – Request of Law Society because of staff shortage and freeze on recruitment.
CLA Conference – This is being held in The Bahamas and will be going ahead. 5 – 9 September, it will be one of the first international conferences happening in person and therefore a big turnout is expected.
Opening of Legal Year – This will happen but will be very small scale.
Russian Law Week – This will be online in November.
Cyprus – end of April 2022 – this will happen in person.
Chinese Sanctions – BC trying to keep this in the public eye. Chinese Law has now been passed. It does have a legal effect but does not offer any clarification.
Next meeting: 6th October 2021.
As you are aware, last year’s conference had to take place remotely as we were unable to meet in person. We are very pleased to confirm that our next annual conference will be taking place in Birmingham on Saturday 26th March 2022 and will be chaired by Joe Wilson from St Philips Chambers. The conference committee look forward to welcoming as many of you there as possible and will be circulating a flyer in the Autumn with further details.
IBC Conference Committee
Jackie Ginty/Joe Wilson
Legal Services Committee
The Terms of Reference of the Committee are:
a. To keep under review the development of the work of the Bar in England and Wales;
b. To consider matters affecting the administration of justice, rights of audience for people other than barristers and other matters affecting the interests of the Bar;
c. To maintain relations with and making representations to government, and others with a common interest in the administration of justice;
d. To monitor and liaise with the BMIF;
e. To support the strategic aims of the Bar Council, as published.
Its recent activities have included:
- Responding to the challenges presented by Covid-19, such as addressing the rapidly developing situation over the course of three nationwide lockdowns and working to mitigate its impact on barristers and their practices, the move to remote working and remote hearings, and safety and hygiene across the court estate
- Responding to various consultations, including on alignment of the fees for online and paper civil money and possession claims, reforms to arrangements for obtaining permission to appeal from the Upper Tribunal to the Court of Appeal, and devolved tribunals in Wales
- Liaising with HMCTS on its ongoing court reform and digitisation project to ensure they are aware of the impact proposed changes will have to members of the Bar
There are 6 meetings per year.
Chambers and Social
Unsurprisingly there is very little to report on this front this year! All we have done it move planned events further and further back. However, we do now have a new date for the IBC dinner which is 17th November so are keeping fingers crossed that we can go ahead.
The drinks social that we had planned for July is likely to go off into next year, but we will update on that in due course.
Race Working Group
The Bar Council’s Race Working Group is having a summit which will report it’s findings by the end of 2021 about the issue of Race at the Bar.
Access to Clerking
The Access to Clerking group is looking at how it can promote the clerking profession to a wider audience away from the usual channels of IBC newsletter and Legal recruitment firms. We’re also looking at how we could help to setup a clerking apprenticeship to enable those aged 16-18 to enter the profession.
As published on the Bar Council website.
The Terms of Reference of the Committee are to provide support to the Bar Council in taking forward the aspects of its strategic plan that relate to remuneration and taxation and to advise its members on remuneration matters generally. This will include:
a. Leading Bar Council consultation responses on remuneration and taxation issues;
b. Hosting and attending stakeholder meetings and proactively lobbying decision-making bodies;
c. Monitoring the effect of changes to legal aid and private funding regimes;
d. Considering and revising the terms upon which barristers accept work;
e. Overseeing an efficient Fees Collection and Joint Tribunal Service;
f. Providing advice to the Bar in remuneration matters, including legal aid, private funding and barristers’ taxation and pensions;
It’s recent activities have included:
• Responding to the challenges presented by Covid-19, such as addressing the rapidly developing situation over the course of three nationwide lockdowns and working to mitigate its impact on barristers and their practices, the move to remote working and remote hearings, and safety and hygiene across the court estate
• Responding to various consultations, including on alignment of the fees for online and paper civil money and possession claims, reforms to arrangements for obtaining permission to appeal from the Upper Tribunal to the Court of Appeal, and devolved tribunals in Wales
• Liaising with HMCTS on its ongoing court reform and digitisation project to ensure they are aware of the impact proposed changes will have to members of the Bar
• There are 6 meetings per year
An interesting year which started with the court system shutting down due to Covid and ended with a greater volume of work being listed in the crown courts than we have seen for the last 4 or 5 years.
A backlog of cases in excess of 38,000 existed prior to the pandemic due to the underfunding of the whole criminal justice system over the last 10 years. This culminated in the reduction of court staff, judiciary and inevitably led to almost non-existent sitting days being made available to Recorders. All of this was largely unnoticed by those outside of the profession. The pandemic has highlighted these facts and obviously the number of outstanding cases has dramatically increased over all offence categories.
There is now a big directive by the Government/MOJ to counteract this position and additional funding has been allocated to the court service. Nightingale courts have been deployed across the country and the 30 day limit for Recorders sitting days has been abolished and many Recorders are now booked to sit for weeks on end. Unfortunately Counsel’s availability is largely ignored by the new listing protocols and cases are being listed for the benefit of court statistics. Many cases are bought forward from their original fixture/warned list dates not necessarily in the interest of justice and little consideration is given to what Counsel is unable to claim for, if they inevitably are not able to accommodate a revised listing schedule.
The Criminal Legal Aid Review has also been running in the background with a huge amount being done by the Bar Council and the CBA with the assistance of various clerks, to try and improve the level of remuneration across the criminal justice system. Unfortunately, without greater investment from the government on funding than is currently planned this is a little like re-arranging the deck chairs on the Titanic or robbing Peter to pay Paul.
A new digital case system is currently being rolled out called the Common Platform, this system will in time replace the current digital case system. The Common Platform will hopefully join all parts of the criminal justice system digitally together starting at the point of charge in the Police station, following through the magistrates and crown court proceedings finishing with the Probation service. The system is being piloted across a number of sites but once implemented countrywide should greatly assist with the sharing of case information and improve the timely delivery of justice.