updated on 24 July 2023
The Young Barristers’ Committee (YBC) is part of the Bar Council of England and Wales, representing barristers in all areas of practice who are in their first seven years at the Bar.
The YBC was established in 1954 and although it started as an ‘experiment for a period of one year’, it continues to flourish. It counts among its former chairs Sir Terence Etherton, former Court of Appeal judge Lord Justice McCombe, Mr Justice Lavender, the former Recorder of London HHJ Hilliard KC, and the current Chair of the Bar, Nick Vineall KC.
What do we do?
The Young Barristers’ Committee is the voice of the Young Bar. The members of the Young Barristers’ Committee are working to represent and promote the interests of the Young Bar, on everything from career development opportunities to addressing issues around bullying and fair allocation of work. They are committed to making sure junior barristers are well-equipped to master their practice and face the future.
The YBC’s work includes meeting stakeholders and providing the invaluable perspective of the young Bar, hosting and being a part of events that offer young barristers the opportunity to network and grow, and developing guides and manuals, such as the Insider Guide to Life at the Bar, to provide support and advice to new practitioners. Some YBC members are elected, while others are invited – to ensure that membership is diverse and includes representatives from across the circuits and from all areas of practice.
Young Bar communications
The main source of information for young barristers is the Young Bar Newsletter, which is published quarterly. The YBC also has its own Twitter account (@YoungBarristers), and the Young Bar section of the Bar Council website offers further information about the committee and its members, as well as blogs and press releases on the committee’s work.
Fees remain the lifeblood of any barrister’s practice. The increase in publicly funded fees has not kept pace with inflation, and so the work on which barristers have traditionally ‘cut their teeth’ has now come under threat.
During our negotiations on the Criminal Legal Aid Independent Review, we were pleased to receive an uplift of 15% in fees for barristers taking on certain publicly funded matters. However, there's still more to be done.
Stories of practitioners in their first few years scraping by on what amounts to less than a liveable wage have come close to forcing a sustainability crisis at the Bar – some who might want to come to the Bar will find that it's unaffordable in the short term.
The YBC has been working as part of the Bar Council to make the case for fair and proper fee increases, while on the privately funded side of matters, it's acted to ensure that juniors have all they need to build a successful practice in the early years.
The YBC was also involved in developing the Bar Council’s strategy for pressing the government for financial support during the coronavirus pandemic.
Working practices and wellbeing
The Life at the Young Bar report showed how hard young barristers were working; some of them were sacrificing their wellbeing in order to do their jobs.
The YBC has been clear that nobody should be sacrificing their mental or physical wellbeing to sustain a life at the Bar. We've advocated for better working culture within chambers, including time made available for juniors to recharge and recuperate. We have been buoyed by the support of clerks and the Institute of Barristers’ Clerks in these matters.
As part of the Bar Council’s Accelerator Programme, the YBC is working to overhaul working culture at the Bar so that things like returning to work after parental leave, raising a family, caring responsibilities, and personal disability are all accommodated within the profession. The YBC also fed into the new practice review guide, launched in July 2023, to support barristers and practice managers to undertake regular, thorough and effective practice reviews.
A young barrister’s opportunities are as broad as their horizons. Because we believe this, the YBC has worked to re-establish the International professional and legal development grants programme, which offers juniors of up to seven years’ practice the chance to apply for part funding for overseas programmes. One-third of this funding comes from the Specialist Bar Association, while another third comes from the Bar Council Scholarships Trust.
Our long-running Anglo-Dutch Exchange, which has been active since 1966, offers young barristers the opportunity to visit the Netherlands as part of a cultural exchange programme. During the following year, they host young Dutch lawyers in England and Wales, meaning they can build longstanding professional and personal relationships and get a foot into the legal culture of another jurisdiction.
The YBC seeks to uphold the provisions contained within the BSB Handbook, which is the one-stop shop for barristers when it comes to their ethical duties.
We've worked with the Bar Council Ethics Committee on issues that are relevant to the Young Bar, making sure they're aware of their duties and obligations and know what they need to do for a successful career where they cooperate with their regulators.
Engagement and networking
The Life at the Young Bar report, published in January 2022, found that the pandemic had a “significant negative impact” on young barristers’ working relationships with colleagues. This was because “informal discussions were more difficult, there was less networking and the peer and social support they rely upon reduced, hitting the newest entrants hardest”.
The YBC has been working hard to raise these issues with the profession at large and work towards solutions to the problems that have been identified. One of the ways in which we've been seeking to tackle this is through more direct engagement to make young barristers aware of what's on offer to them.
We've organised a number of networking opportunities throughout the year, to assist new practitioners in expanding their networks and seeking out new opportunities. These include the International Weekend, in which junior lawyers from across Europe come to London for a weekend programme, which includes a day-long conference and social events.
If there’s anything on which you’d like further guidance or support, please visit the Young Bar website, follow the YBC on Twitter (@YoungBarristers) or contact the YBC executive at [email protected].
This information is supplied by the Bar Council Young Barristers’ Committee.