Young Bar Blog: Duncan McCombe, Chair of the YBC, looks back at 2017

21 December 2017

Duncan McCombe

I am extremely grateful for the opportunity of being Chair of the Young Bar this year. It has been tough at times to balance the commitment with maintaining a full practice, but it has been immensely interesting and a huge amount of fun. If you believe that a thriving Young Bar is in the public interest, which I firmly do, it is also extremely rewarding. 

The Young Barristers' Committee (YBC) and I have certainly tried our best to represent the interests of the Young Bar this year. We have sought to raise the profile of problems in relation to fees for work in the Magistrates' Court (watch this space for more initiatives shortly). We also consulted widely amongst the Young Bar in relation to the proposed new Advocates' Graduated Fee Scheme, and the YBC submitted its own independent response to the government consultation on the subject. YBC also had extensive input into the Bar Council's responses to consultations on Future Bar Training, Youth Court Advocacy and Fixed Recoverable Costs. 

We have also held meetings with members of the judiciary and government to press the Young Bar's case. We have not pulled any punches. Those with whom we have met will have been left with no doubt that things need to change if the Young Bar, and therefore the Bar as a whole, is to survive in anything like its present form. The government must invest in the Young Bar if it wants a talented and diverse senior Bar and judiciary in the future. 

We have also organised a large number of events. The Young Bar Workshop,The Specialist Advocate, was a great success, with a keynote speech from Sir Brian Leveson, and substantive sessions on expert witnesses, cross-examining in fraud claims, vulnerable witnesses, advocacy in ADR and many more. The Annual Bar and Young Bar Conference was extremely well attended by young barristers. We also helped to organise International Weekend with our counterparts at the Law Society, which saw 35 young lawyers from around the world, including the USA, Hong Kong and all over Europe joining us in London for a series of talks and social events. The year was rounded off with a hugely successful Young Bar dinner which celebrated all that is great about the Young Bar. 

We also have an exciting series of events organised for the new year, including a new initiative. It seems to me that the Young Bar suffers more than most from the Rumpolean image of the Bar which is still widely held. There is much about that Rumpolean image to be proud of, not least a dogged determination to stand up for the underdog. However, an image of barristers as old and old-fashioned, aloof and impractical is not one which fits the Young Bar today (if it ever did) and can be off-putting to the Young Bar's potential clients.

That is why the YBC has teamed up with a number of other organisations to organise a series of events to raise the profile of the Young Bar amongst potential clients. The first of these events is taking place on the evening of 8 February in London and will be hosted with the British Association of Women Entrepreneurs (BAWE). The event will be a panel discussion with an even split of barristers and business people discussing the future legal challenges facing business. It will be followed by drinks to maximise networking opportunities. The event is free for those who pay the Bar Representation Fee, and £25 for others. Click here to sign up. Further events will be held for the media, in association with the Foreign Press Association (FPA) and international law, with the Royal Commonwealth Society (RCS). More partners are to follow.  

Ever since applying for pupillage and Inn scholarships, I have been aware of the impressive range of talent at the Young Bar; it is difficult to think of a more competitive profession or job to join. However, this year has confirmed this to me beyond doubt. It has been an immense pleasure to get to meet and work with such a large number of intelligent, engaging, fun, talented and above all, dedicated young barristers this year. It has been a source of great personal pride to represent such an impressive group of people. Thank you for the opportunity, and I wish the YBC and all young barristers a successful 2018. 

Duncan McCombe, Chair of the Young Barristers' Committee 2017.