In our fifth Spotlight, both members of the Bar Council's International team share their top three picks of work from the last year, and look ahead to the next. 

Christian Wisskirchen, Head of Policy: International, lists his: 

  • Brexit: Since the referendum on the UK's membership of the European Union, we have worked to ensure that the public interest and the practice of our members are not adversely affected by the UK's withdrawal and that we take advantage of any opportunities that arise. As part of the Bar Council's Brexit Working Group, I lead on matters related to EU legal market access. This involves developing policies and advocacy strategies on market access under the Withdrawal Agreement and for Phase II of the Negotiations, as well as contributing to other policy issues such as securing an effective succession regime for civil and criminal justice cooperation and ensuring the profession's input to the transposition of EU law into domestic law. Things will be getting very busy from now on - negotiations on the new relationship with the EU are about to begin and we will be liaising more frequently with HMG's negotiators as well as lobbying directly for our positions with the EU27 bars and governments.

  • International business development: In the wake of Brexit there is both a need and an opportunity to re-establish England and Wales as the jurisdiction of choice for international legal practice in a coordinated fashion. I am working with other stakeholders such as the Judiciary, the Law Society and Ministry of Justice to develop policy and projects that highlight the comparative strengths of this jurisdiction vis-à-vis its growing competitors. As a result, we have for example agreed two joint trade missions with the Law Society to Kazakhstan and Mexico, a set of core messages for HMG ministers to take abroad as well as online promotional materials.

  • Convention on the Independence of Lawyers:   The Bar Council is very supportive of a unique project, currently underway in the Council of Europe, to draft the first ever binding instrument in international law aimed at safeguarding the independence and core values of the legal profession. I am co-ordinating and developing the advocacy efforts of the Bar Council vis-à-vis the Ministry of Justice, the Council of Europe and the other legal professions in Europe. See our work on this so far  here. 

Jessica Crofts-Lawrence, Policy Analyst: International, shares hers:

  • Expanding our work in Latin America:  Over the last three years, our focus on Brazil and campaign to raise awareness of the international legal services the Bar provides, included events in Sao Paulo, Rio de Janeiro, Belo Horizonte and Recife. Through our visits, the Bar Council has supported the launch of Lex Anglo Brasil, established an exchange scheme and developed a strong relationship with the Brazilian Bar Associations. In 2017, we also hosted events on opportunities in the Latin American legal market both in London and on Circuit.  Our focus on Latin America continues this year with a visit to Mexico City in early September. The three-day programme will include sessions on international arbitration, shipping, oil & gas and corruption. We have also expanded our Young Lawyers' Exchange Programme to include Colombian and Mexican lawyers. The four-week scheme will include an academic programme, placements in chambers and law firms and a visit to Birmingham. Please do join us in welcoming the young lawyers to London on 3 May.

  • Speaking up for the rule of law:  We continue to speak out whenever rule of law crises occur, and have issued letters expressing concern for the situation of lawyers and judges in  Turkey, Poland, the Republic of Cameroon, Tanzania, Zimbabwe, Egypt and Iran. We joined the Bar Human Rights Committee and lawyers organisations around the world to mark the  Eighth Day of the Endangered Lawyer and identified four other  countries where lawyers are currently at risk of human rights abuses for simply doing their jobs. The Bar Council is committed to upholding the rule of law around the world and each year I organise an Annual International Rule of Law lecture to promote greater awareness among members of the profession and beyond of these important issues.

  • Barristers are GREAT in Kazakhstan:  We have teamed up with the Law Society and HMG to organise an  English Law Summit in Astana and Almaty. The event is supported by the government campaign 'Legal Services are GREAT', which was launched by Lord Keen in Singapore last year. Kazakhstan produces a significant number of disputes both in the Commercial Court and in arbitration, and is the largest legal market in the CIS region after Russia. The visit comes hot on the heels of the opening of the Astana International Finance Centre (AIFC) Court which is based on English common law principles and is comprised of an entirely UK bench. The event will promote barristers' expertise in all forms of international dispute resolution and raise awareness of the ability of foreign law firms to instruct the Bar directly. 

Find out about the work of the Bar Council's International Team here.

Much of this important work by the Bar Council's Policy Team would not be possible without funding from the  Bar Representation Fee (BRF), a £8.34 per month subscription fee. Read more about what BRF funds  here.