This week, another in the series of updates to members on the Bar Council’s priorities for the remainder of 2018, which replaces my usual President’s Message while I am on leave in July.
Last week, I reported on the Bar Council’s ongoing comprehensive review of its various pro bono duty barrister schemes.
This week, an example of some of the work going on to respond to the lessons we learned from the results of the State of the Bar report released earlier this year.
The State of the Bar report revealed that, since 2006, the proportion of work barristers do for the top eight law firms has roughly halved, as has the proportion of work barristers do for corporate clients. Over the same period, work done by barristers on a direct access basis, whether for corporates or individuals, has increased only incrementally.
These results suggest that law firms have been very successful in capturing the loyalty of corporate clients, despite the economies that corporate clients could achieve by coming directly to barristers in many circumstances. It also suggests a trend of firms briefing later and doing more of the traditional work of barristers in-house. It leaves no doubt that past initiatives to increase direct access briefs for members have not achieved their potential.
Corporate Direct Briefing Working Group
The Bar Council believes that there are significant untapped opportunities to increase the volume of work that barristers do for corporations on a direct access basis. While efforts have been made in the past to ‘crack’ that market, we have not undertaken a concerted and integrated campaign that explains the benefits of direct access work both to clients and barristers, or developed adequately the resources necessary to assist clients and barristers to brief directly.
In order to tackle these issues, the Bar Council has established a Corporate Direct Briefing Working Group.
Chaired by Senior Vice-President, Wendy Harris QC, the working group has been tasked with recommending and developing actions to educate members, corporations and in-house counsel of the advantages and opportunities for direct briefing, and developing ‘toolkits’ of resources that can be used by corporations, in-house counsel and barristers to unlock those opportunities.
The terms of reference for the working group tie directly into the purpose of the Victorian Bar as stated in the Bar’s Strategic Plan: ‘to ensure the Bar and its members thrive and continue to do so’, as well as to one of its key objectives, ‘to maintain and expand market share’.
Among other things, the working group will also look at improvements to the Vicbar website to enable corporations and in-house counsel to identify more easily barristers who are prepared to accept direct briefs, and at developing CPDs and networking events.
Another important part of the equation, however, is educating our own members about the many circumstances in which we can accept direct briefs; the advantages of doing so; and the irritations which corporations and in-house counsel feel when they attempt to engage directly with barristers only to find them non-responsive, reluctant, or misinformed about the circumstances in which they can accept a brief.
Barrister Connect Review
The Bar Council is also conducting a review of its BarristerCONNECT portal, which enables people facing criminal charges in the Magistrates’ Court to brief barristers directly to represent them.
A working group has been formed, chaired by Justin Hannebery, to provide advice to the Bar Council about the operation of BarristerCONNECT and the experience of clients and members in using (or not using) it. The working group will also look at whether there are opportunities to expand BarristerCONNECT to other areas of direct access work.
There will be much more information to members about both of these initiatives in coming weeks and months. They are great examples of the very practical actions that go on behind the scenes that are directed at providing services to members to support and enhance their practices.
The Governor-in-Council has made the following appointments:
Justice Terence Michael Forest as a Judge of Appeal of the Supreme Court of Victoria, effective 10 July 2018.
Justice Karin Leigh Emerton as a Judge of Appeal of the Supreme Court of Victoria, effective 10 July 2018.
Lesley Ann Taylor QC as a Judge of the Supreme Court of Victoria, effective 10 July 2018. The profession extended a welcome on 17 July.
Steven James Moore QC as a Judge of the Supreme Court of Victoria, effective 10 July 2018. The profession will extend a welcome on 26 July at 9.15am in the Banco Court.
Andrew James Tinney SC as a Judge of the Supreme Court of Victoria, effective 16 July 2018. The profession will extend a welcome on 31 July at 9.15am in the Banco Court.
Simon Guthrie, Mia Stylianou and Sharon Lea McRae as Magistrates on 26 June 2018. The profession will extend a welcome to Magistrate Stylianou on 2 August 2018 at 9.15am, in Court 1 of the Melbourne Magistrates’ Court. Welcomes for Magistrates Guthrie and McRae were held this morning.
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