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EVENTS AND ROUNDTABLES

EVENTS AND ROUNDTABLES > Roundtable > 'Shaping the future of the Bar'

EVENTS AND ROUNDTABLES

  Junior Barristers: Shaping the future of the Bar

The Legal 500 Roundtable Discussion

London, 2017

The increased profile and modernisation of the UK Bar over the past five to ten years has been remarked upon across the legal profession, but of course it does not come without its challenges. In this roundtable discussion, The Legal 500 hears from the change agents driving the Bar forward; at a time when competition is at its fiercest, we have brought together a group of junior barristers (six years’ call and under) to discuss what it takes to survive current market conditions, what makes a modern-day barrister and what the future holds for the profession.

In order to have a full and frank discussion, it was essential that this was done under the full cloak of anonymity. So, in September, we gathered at a secret location in London – read on to find out what we discussed.

Hayley Eustace, Bar and Asia Pacific editor, The Legal 500

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Hayley Eustace: Thank you very much, everyone, for coming along todayand welcome to The Legal 500 roundtable on shaping the future of the Bar. I will be chairing today’s discussion, but it is a conversation that we very much want to be led by you. It is an anonymous event, and for that reason, we hope you can feel free to speak your mind.

This discussion follows on from a similar event that we held last year with chief executives and senior clerks, again, focusing on the future of the Bar. It is about getting a view from people on how they and their chambers are adapting and modernising. We have been thinking for some time about what we can do to engage more with the junior Bar, so really this is a new dimension to the directory. We hope you will find it useful and interesting, but equally, we want it to be an inspiration to barristers across the country as to what makes a 21st century barrister. It should also be useful for clerks, in giving them the tools they need to help you develop your practice and an insight into how you are working with them to drive the profession forward.

Everyone participating in this roundtable was called to the Bar in England and Wales between 2011 and 2014, and we have people present from a number of different practice areas, including civil, criminal, family and public law (handling privately and publicly funded work). What I am trying to say is that this will be a macro-level discussion, rather than practice area-driven.

The first question I have is fairly broad and should set the tone for the event today: what do you think it takes to be a modern-day barrister at the modern-day Bar?

Participant 1: I would say stamina, being able to take on the work, put in the hours and keep going when required.

Participant 2: You cannot be too precious. The range of things that barristers, especially the junior Bar, are asked to do is wider than it once was and you cannot get away with saying, ‘That is solicitor’s work’. You also cannot get away with not having what would – more traditionally – have been solicitors’ skills if they want you to do that work. I feel that that means that you have to have a wider range of skillsets, in some ways, than people 30 years ago had to have.

‘You have to have a wider range of skillsets, in some ways, than people 30 years ago had to have.’

Participant 3: Following on from that, you often end up in situations now where you need to be much more proactive in managing your cases. There was a tendency, perhaps, 20 or 30 years ago that you turned up on the day you were in court and you said, ‘That is the set of witness statements or things that I have and I will do my best with that’. Whereas now you are involved in the process much earlier, you are the conduit if you are being led between the silk and the solicitors and you have to be quite a good communicator, which is a surprising thing to have a question mark over when your job is about communicating, but outside of the courtroom that kind of role and linking people together is really quite important, particularly as a junior barrister.

Participant 4: Following from that, a short-term memory is very useful, because there is a huge amount of information to digest in, quite often, a short space of time and that information is there for one purpose, which is usually a court hearing or a piece of work and then it does not need to be in your head until it gets resurrected for the next hearing. It is about attention to detail but also being able to prioritise some forms of information over others.

Participant 5: And one of the reasons for getting those papers very late and having to absorb it so late, at least in the areas I have been exposed to, is because solicitors have been trying to do everything, including advocacy, themselves and it has reached a point where everything has gone wrong or they have started to panic. Then it gets dumped on you at the most challenging moment, so being able to firefight that issue as well as absorb it is something that is important.

Participant 6: Basic tact, social skills and manners are important and, again, are the kinds of thing that you would expect anybody would just automatically assume to be important at the Bar, but there is a particular kind of etiquette that barristers need or ought to practise but do not always. Solicitors will often say to me that one of the things that frustrates them is if the barrister will come on a call or come into a conference without checking with the solicitor what has been said previously in advice, for example, and then just contradict everything the solicitor said and make them look silly. You do not need to do that. You can always go about something in a way as to manage all the relationships. Relationship management is one of the key things of the junior Bar, because there are so many of us and we are all, more or less, at this stage, at the same level of experience and skill. The thing that can distinguish you is your ability to get on with people and not alienate and make them look silly to make you feel good.

‘Relationship management is one of the key things of the junior Bar, because there are so many of us and we are all, more or less, at this stage, at the same level of experience and skill. The thing that can distinguish you is your ability to get on with people.’

Participant 7: In some ways, that is easier and, in some ways, harder with the technology that we all use now. Much more of our communications with solicitors are done by email or over the phone rather than in beautifully presented formal advices. On one hand, it makes relationships easier because there is more contact in an informal way, but on the other hand, it is much easier to be a bit thoughtless if you are just pinging out an email and perhaps not being quite as tactful as you would if you were presenting something in a more formal way. That can have its pros and cons from that point of view.

Hayley Eustace: Do you see the importance of business development and client relationship management as something that has increased over time?

Participant 6: The honest answer to that is I do not know, because I can only speak anecdotally from what leaders tell you and everyone speaks with rose-tinted spectacles and says, ‘Ah well, in my day’. Technology means that there is a higher degree of client contact with solicitors and it must be the case that more contact means more opportunities for annoying or aggravating people. I expect that at the junior end of the Bar there is the tendency, because you are new, to try and assert yourself and show your solicitor that you know your stuff and you are robust, and that might create space to overstep the mark and just annoy people.

Participant 8: It is about knowing your audience. In terms of crime, you have a client in the cells, then you have to deal with the solicitor, and you have to deal with the judge and the jury, and that takes a flexible approach to who you are talking to. Too often you see hoity-toity old-school barristers flouncing around in the robing room and they are talking to the client like they are their cleaner, it is extraordinary.

Following from what Participant 2 said about being precious about what you do, I have realised that the service you give to your solicitor is really important. Ultimately, your solicitor gives you the work and so the service you give to them is absolutely crucial. Sometimes, when you first start, you come in thinking I am the barrister, you are the solicitor, you work for me and, of course, it is the other way around. That is really important to grasp pretty quickly if you want to have a decent practice.

‘Sometimes, when you first start, you come in thinking I am the barrister, you are the solicitor, you work for me and, of course, it is the other way around. That is really important to grasp pretty quickly if you want to have a decent practice.’

Participant 9: The other point about communication is that we have to be much more available than barristers were. People will email when you are on holiday, at the weekend, in the evenings. If you have a number of cases on at the same time, you cannot just say, ‘I am away on holiday’, there are more things to deal with.

Participant 7: For all that you have your ‘out of office’ on, they know that you have read the email, or they know that you could if you wanted to. That has changed everything.

Participant 10: I also think it is quite important to set boundaries with people. If a solicitor expects a response at 3am, which some of mine sometimes do at the start of the case, you need to establish that that is not an acceptable way of working in the long term. Maybe that is more of an issue in some areas than in others. I have found that everything goes a lot more smoothly if you just say to people, ‘This is how I am going to communicate’. People generally take that quite well.

Participant 6: That is the flipside of the point I was making earlier about etiquette and manners. You also have to be robust enough to make it clear that you expect that from your solicitor as well, particularly if you are in a big case and you are being instructed by a Magic Circle firm. There is a power imbalance between the partner in the firm and you, the junior barrister, because he or she knows and you know that you are replaceable, you are expendable. That can lead to people thinking if they email me at 3am, I have to email back and if they email me on Sunday, I have to reply and I have to stay around in August. I have found that if I just refuse to respond to people they get the message. As long as you are polite and they like you, and you do the work alright, your practice is not going to disappear.

Hayley Eustace: For those of you handling international work or communicating with clients overseas, how do you manage the view that while they are working you should also be up, despite the time difference?

Participant 10: You alter your working day a little bit, but you still do not end up working 20 hours a day. Juggling your time is important, as is setting boundaries.

Participant 2: I do not disagree, it is not sustainable, but sometimes you have to be aware of who the client is. If it is an American firm that expects their associates to be working at 2am, it is quite difficult to say, ‘I am not going to be working at 2am’. You try to manage the hours and none of us want to be working very late or very long on a regular basis, but I would not always be confident that it would be well received if I tried to push back on it.

Hayley Eustace: Moving on, what do you find best and worst about working with different leaders? Is there is anything that you find irritating?

Participant 3: This session is an hour, right?!

Participant 10: The worst thing is people who prepare at the last minute. If you are going to go into a massive trial, you would think that they would be preparing at least a month in advance, but I have done some cases where it is very last-minute. That is very hard when you are junior, because you do not have the same level of experience to do things as quickly, so that is quite stressful.

Participant 11: The most important thing, for me, in a leader is just knowing that they have your back. They are all different and they all prepare in completely different ways – whether they are very hands-on, paranoid, very detail-orientated, or whether they are very hands-off – provided that when they ask you to do something or you are doing work for them, when it comes to it they are going to stand behind you and say, ‘Yes, I agree’, if they have read it or not.

Participant 12: There is also a consideration to try to play to your leader’s strengths. It might take some time as you get to know someone, but particularly in cases where you have effectively chosen the leader, there is a significant amount of responsibility or culpability for you to make sure that your leader matches the case, so that when he or she is starting to bone up for the hearing, you know how to put the ball in their hitting zone. Choosing your leader is not always achievable, obviously; sometimes you get put together in a team that you do not have any control over or you do not know the individual very well. But the relationship is a two-way street. It is obviously not very convenient to a trial to have someone turn up on Friday, when the hearing starts on Monday, saying, ‘So what’s this all about?’ But, equally, mistakes can come from juniors and I know I have made my fair share!

Participant 3: Following on from some of the points that were made before, it is very important to be able to try to manage your own time as effectively as you can, both in terms of getting the work done and your personal life. Therefore, leaders who are quite clear about what they want, so you can plan around them, are good. Leaders who perhaps leave it much more last-minute and are overtrading and then, suddenly, they are like, ‘What about this? What about this?’ and they are asking you all of these questions that could have been dealt with in a structured manner and then they say, ‘I must know by Friday, because I am flying off to go skiing for a week’. You are like, okay, I understand that you want to manage your free time, but so do I, so can this work both ways, please? One of the things that is changing at the modern Bar is a recognition that juniors are the engine room of chambers and there is, perhaps, a slight shift away from the QCs and towards the juniors. In terms of setting boundaries, that is something that can be played on by the junior Bar in order to achieve a better set of working practices.

‘One of the things that is changing at the modern Bar is a recognition that juniors are the engine room of chambers and there is, perhaps, a slight shift away from the QCs and towards the juniors.’

Participant 11: It is just about good communication. I work with a lot of different leaders in and out of chambers and I have found with all of them that just being really open and saying, ‘When are you going to have time to look at this?’, so that I make sure that things are ready for then and, ‘What is your availability like in the next week or two weeks?’ If they say, ‘I am going away skiing for a week’, you know where you stand. That is quite reassuring to leaders as well, to know that you are planning time and that you are not going to drop a draft on them midway through their ski holiday or something like that. I have found that if you do that early it is quite easy.

Hayley Eustace: Going back to marketing and business development, whose responsibility do you see marketing as? Clerks’ or barristers’?

Participant 7: It has to be a joint responsibility. On a chambers-wide level, it is the responsibility of the whole clerks’ room working in collaboration with steering groups. Individually, it has to be about you speaking to your practice manager and working out which events you should be going to, which solicitors you should be targeting, etc. It has to be a joint thing otherwise it is not going to work.

Participant 3: Your clerk is the most important relationship that we have not mentioned when we were talking about relationships before, and at the modern Bar there is no excuse for seeing the clerks, because they have a different skillset, as not on the barrister level. If you do not see your clerk as your business partner, you will effectively create a bad working relationship and that person has the ability to make or break your career. You have to take that seriously. Therefore, on the marketing side, you need to be working with them, playing to their strengths and to your strengths.

Hayley Eustace: You talked about the shift in power that the junior Bar now has within chambers to instigate change, and again I realise your experience is going to be limited to the amount of time you have been in chambers, but do you see the clerks having more power now within chambers?

Participant 10: They have always been powerful, but they do have lots of power.

Participant 6: I think junior barristers tend to fear clerks more than they ought to be feared. I agree entirely with what Participant 3 said; you should never view a clerk as being lower than you in the pecking order because they are not a barrister. Basically, they should just be your mates, but when you come into a set of chambers you make relationships with people just because you do work for people, they see your work and that sets you up to get into various workstreams. You then are introduced and meet solicitors and it is from that point on, from the point of the introduction, it is more or less down to you. The clerks’ power is in making that initial introduction.

Participant 10: My clerks say ‘this case will be good for you, as an individual, to progress’, so in that sense I listen to them, because they have always been right in the past.

Participant 6: Yes, like in a pastoral sense, but when we talk about power I think of it as less me being able to advise you and you have the choice, the freedom to take that advice or not, but more being ‘this instruction has come in and I do not like that person, so I am not going to give it to them’. Many barristers believe that clerks have that power and, in the first instance, maybe, when you first come on, however, once you have had an introduction or once a leader has made the introduction, there is nothing that a clerk can do really. I accept that they give advice and that is why it is important to maintain a good relationship with them.

Participant 8: There is give and take, is there not? I do not think it is favouritism. There are people in chambers who will always say yes to stuff that nobody really wants to do and there are people in chambers who will always say no. The truth is, if the clerk has the choice between the one who always says yes and the one who is a bit difficult, they are probably going to choose the one who says yes. That is just human nature.

Hayley Eustace: Chambers have to monitor fair allocation of work and I assume everyone here is aware of this policy in their chambers, yes? Is anyone here not aware of a fair allocation of work policy in their chambers?

Participant 7: Policies exist, but fair allocation of work is very difficult to monitor. Within my chambers at least, we are doing everything we can, but I do not know how reliable the information is. I do not know what others think. On a personal level, I certainly feel that my practice is being managed very fairly, but I am not sure that I could look at any data and say objectively whether that is, in fact, the case. It is such a subjective thing what the clerks do in terms of allocating work and it is very difficult to measure whether it is being done in an appropriate way, even if you try really hard to do that.

‘On a personal level, I certainly feel that my practice is being managed very fairly, but I am not sure that I could look at any data and say objectively whether that is, in fact, the case.’

Participant 11: At my chambers we have a tracking system, which you can look at any time you want and/or it gets brought out at practice development meetings to discuss. It tracks all the work that comes into chambers that you are qualified for as a junior and when a solicitor has specifically asked for you, then whether you take on that job or, if you are unavailable, it goes to someone else; or if it comes in and the solicitors are just looking for any junior, who it gets allocated to. My chambers take the allocation of work policy really seriously. It is more information than I need, because I feel very comfortable that there is a fair allocation of work happening across the board. However, looking behind that, you can see that there is quite a lot of time spent on making sure that that is accountable as well.

Participant 1: There is room for manoeuvre in that as well. In my set, we are in court every day, on different cases, with different solicitors. There is a lot of clerking on a weekly basis with a lot of junior members. In those circumstances, there is a lot more room for pushing cases certain ways or others. I do not really know if that happens. I have not heard that it has happened in my chambers, but I can see that there is more room for doing that in the structure we have in our chambers, rather than perhaps where you are working on slightly larger cases over a longer period of time. There are just so many more instructions coming in on the little cases. People might be doing two cases a day in our chambers, at the junior end, and they are going to be different solicitors, clerked by different clerks and all of the clerks are going to be working together to figure out who can take what, on what day, at what time. There is definitely room there for favourites, in theory.

‘Whatever the symbiotic clerk-barrister relationship you might have, there is just no substitute for going out and trying to take control of your own practice and doing your own marketing.’

Participant 5: Whatever the symbiotic clerk-barrister relationship you might have, there is just no substitute for going out and trying to take control of your own practice and doing your own marketing, because if a solicitor rings up and they have met you or whatever and they say they want you, they are going to get you whatever sort of allocation is going on. That is likely to be something decisive and I just do not think there is any substitute anymore, at least in the sort of things I do, for taking that initiative yourself.

Participant 1: I agree, but you have to be a team with your clerk in that circumstance. You have to build a lot of trust between you and your clerk. They have to trust you that you are going to meet the deadline that they set you and they can go back to the solicitor and say, ‘Yes, that piece of work is done’. You have to trust them that they are speaking to your solicitors, keeping them up to date and making sure that everything is in place and that you have everything you need, and those sorts of things. That team relationship, particularly in a chambers like mine, is very important.

Participant 12: I do not disagree, but what Participant 5’s comment highlights, and following your starter question, Hayley, about marketing and business development, is that the junior Bar tends to translate a discussion about that very quickly into internal marketing and development. That is natural enough at the junior end, but following Participant 5’s point about there being no substitute for external business development and marketing and so on, it feels to me now that the big change is that if you want a practice that is growing and directional, the pressure is applied much more early on in your career to go out there and shape your position in the market and to shape the market, ideally, around you. I know that is a challenge and that is a very big, scary thing to do. It is associated with what silks do. But it does seem to be that, once upon a time, until you got those two letters at the end of your name it probably was not a worry of yours. However, now it feels, to me, as if it is getting lower and lower down the chain and I would be surprised if there was anyone around the table, even when wanting a very collaborative relationship with one’s clerks, as we all do, who would not, given the opportunity, speak directly to a client with the prospect of a new case coming in directly to them. This means that the flow of information in chambers reverses: instead of the phone call going from the clerks’ room to your office, it goes the other way around. When that flow starts to reverse, what I think is happening is the shift of moving from internal marketing to external marketing. For my part, that is now really the focus and the challenge at the junior end of the bar, to start creating that reverse cycle flow.

‘If you want a practice that is growing and directional, the pressure is applied much more early on in your career to go out there and shape your position in the market .’

Hayley Eustace: Other than regular communication, what do you find are the most effective marketing/business development techniques?

Participant 13: You have to be very entrepreneurial and look at a whole range of things. That is a big change from ten years ago, from speaking to the old-timers. I co-edit a blog, and we do roundtable discussions and seminars, whether in-house, at solicitors’ firms or having people come to us. We spend a lot of time doing all sorts of different things that I think really work and I completely agree with Participant 12 that you start doing that from the off, in your first month of being a tenant, if you want to accelerate your practice, to get to the place you want to be in 15 or 20 years.

Participant 7: And speaking at events, because the best substitute for seeing you in court or seeing you in conference is seeing you speaking on a topic that you purport to be expert in. That has led to instructions on several occasions, so I have found that to be a really good way of extending marketing as well.

Participant 3: The effectiveness question is very important, because we have a finite amount of time outside of our court or working practice in order to do this. We all have ideas about what we do that we think may work, but it is very anecdotal. It is very difficult to see the return from something that you do delivered later as work. There are plenty of good ideas about what we could be doing, but what we should be doing is a bit more difficult.

Hayley Eustace: Participant 7, you make a valid point about being able to see who you are instructing. Personality is very important and it seems as though expertise is now almost a given. If a solicitor is in a situation where they have lots of different options of who to instruct, and they know that – through seeing someone at an event or meeting up with them or getting to know them in some way – they are going to get on with them, that counts for a lot, right?

Participant 7: Definitely. I have had instructions, yes, from speaking at events, but also from sitting next to somebody at dinner. The problem with asking solicitors what works for them is that I think they would be very embarrassed to admit, ‘Oh, I sat next to this person at dinner and she was able to crack a few jokes and did not irritate me, so I sent her some good work’, which is basically what happens, because, trust me, at dinner we are not talking about law. I am not sure whether asking people is the best thing to do, because you probably would not get an accurate picture.

Participant 12: For my part, coffees, dinners, talks, they are all very good and if you are lucky, they do convert into work opportunities. However, what I get a bit suspicious about with those types of engagements, even though I will constantly say yes to giving talks and going for coffee, is that it feels to me that conversion from that point of a relationship to a work opportunity is often based on luck: whether he or she next to whom I am sitting happens to have a case. In that context, the second stream of what works for business development, even though it is much harder to generate, is the subliminal understanding of ensuring the market knows who you are and what your position in the market is. Hayley, I think you used the crucial word, which was ‘personality’. When you look at the very top people in your respective areas, you may well think they were brilliant on a particular case or not, you may well think that they always seem to go for a coffee or to a conference and come back with a case or not. Typically, though, the people at the very top, there is almost an aura around their name. One can think of individuals in every chambers and, yes, they are excellent, yes, they convert relationships into work opportunities, but what they have achieved is something broader and more subliminal than that. That is where, for me, meeting one on one is great and it certainly builds your network, but more important is examples of marketing where you are in front of a large number of people, or people pick up the paper or The Legal 500 and read about you. In my view, that is the more powerful driver of your practice.

Participant 6: The importance of external marketing in the sense of just being one-off ad hoc opportunities to meet and make contact with people, at the junior Bar that is something that we overstate. I am not as friendly as Participant 7, so I cannot just turn coffee into work, but from my experience, the only effective marketing that I have ever seen or experienced myself is where you are building on a successful piece of work. It is where you have randomly been allocated a piece of work for a decent solicitor, you do well in it, you go and meet them and then you build the relationship from there. Fundamentally, though, the bottom line is that the solicitor is only going to use you if they think that you are competent and capable and then the additional stuff is an add-on, so you need to establish that. Therefore, if you have won a case that is good and you go and talk to solicitors about ‘look at this thing that I won, I am great and I am also nice’, then that will work, but if it is just, ‘I have never met you before, I have never worked for you before, let’s have a coffee’, you try to talk to a partner in a busy firm, they are probably not going to be interested and they might not remember. I imagine it does change massively from chambers to chambers and the type of work that you are doing. If you are in a place where there are set workstreams that you are trying to get into, there are going to be ways that are effective. If you are in an area where briefs come in on a solicitor’s desk every single day and they think ‘I had coffee with this person yesterday and they can do this case’, crack on.

Hayley Eustace: It is something that builds over time as well and, at the end of the day, it is about visibility, being out there. Of course, the expertise is crutial and often cases come as a result of a domino effect when you build a name for yourself in a particular area. Going back to the point about visibility, one thing that comes up a lot in conversations I have is online presence and how much more people are going on LinkedIn and Twitter now. It is something that comes through from the feedback that we receive from solicitors about the Bar as well. Where do people stand on social media?

Participant 2: I am going to be critical and say that most of what I read on LinkedIn is pretty inane. Sometimes there is stuff that is worth it; much of it is people sharing pretty uninteresting articles, things about achievements of their own set or their own practice or whatever, which I, frankly, do not need to read; a series of awards that they have won, which I am unlikely to be that interested in. I do not find that is a particularly useful forum for me to engage in. There are some people who can really make it work, but the quality of the content that is put on there is not as good as the quality of the content on some of the more independent platforms. There are some really good blogs now in particular areas of law and some firms have good practice notes, and those do not always seem to make it onto LinkedIn. Much of the stuff that I do read on there I find less valuable.

Participant 4: There is something quite tragic about an unmaintained Twitter account and I do not want to be that person who last posted in 2015.

Participant 10: LinkedIn is quite useful for people just to look you up. If you have spoken at an event or had coffee or dinner with somebody, it is quite good for them to be able to find you quickly, see your CV, see if you have posted anything. For me, that is the main benefit of LinkedIn.

Participant 11: I do not use LinkedIn or Twitter and I have no regrets about it. For the looking you up, profile-type thing, all chambers’ websites now are quite sophisticated and are very good for that. There is the profile, the CV, the recent cases and if I have written an article, there will be lists there and people can find them if they really want to. In terms of maintaining a LinkedIn profile, I thought that that would be replicating what I already have in a much nicer format on the chambers’ website.

Participant 3: I would disagree on the Twitter point. There would be a good reason for having an unmaintained Twitter account, which is that you can collate there, by the people you are following, a lot of very interesting information. For instance, if you were interested in all of the specialist blogs, they usually have Twitter accounts following them, there they are all popping up in one place. You have a decision to make as to whether you are actively attempting to contribute anything, but even as a place that pulls in a lot of up-to-date information from the subject matter that you are interested in, Twitter is valuable.

‘As a place that pulls in a lot of up-to-date information from the subject matter that you are interested in, Twitter is valuable.’

Participant 8: A ‘lurker’ they call that. I find it useful for notifications of stuff that has been published elsewhere, but I agree with Participant 2 there is an awful lot of self-obsessed noise on Twitter, which is very tedious.

Participant 6: The only thing that is useful on LinkedIn is the ability to see who is looking at you. That is the only thing that is a positive that it would be worth having it for, because if you go and do a talk and you were to ask your clerks to bring up the metadata on your website, they could tell you if people have looked at your profile. It is a way of measuring how effective marketing is, because you can just go the next day and say, ‘Has anyone looked me up?’ I go on it and I am very sad when I see zero and I think, well, that was a waste of time, I will not do that again. Other than that, I agree with what everyone else has said, it is otherwise useless.

Participant 15: Putting the other side of the argument, perhaps, is if you go to any chambers’ website, they are all the same, they are all quite bland, everything is very straightforward and dull. It has your CV, it has all your bits and pieces. Twitter, LinkedIn, whatever platforms you choose, show how, potentially, you stand out from the crowd. There is something different about you, that you are engaging. Do you not think that that is useful? Otherwise it is just any junior, they are all relatively the same. Do you not think that you could use social media in such a way that – obviously you have to be careful, without saying ‘look at me, I am wonderful’, but there is a way of saying there is something about you: I am engaged or interested in this or I am commenting on somebody else’s content. Do you not think that is useful at all?

Participant 14: My point is in respect of a cost-benefit analysis. If you can keep it maintained, updated and relevant, but also filtering out inanity, then that is probably a good thing, but in terms of the time it takes you to do that, you then have the issue of, well, maybe I should have been using my time to do a case or to prepare a letter or go and meet someone. For me, I do not see that it has that direct benefit that other areas of marketing do.

Participant 7: I am on Twitter, I do not tweet very much at all and it is rarely about work, but I see lots of people who are very active and, for them, the most active people, I know who they are and that means that surely solicitors are finding them as a result of their Twitter activity as well. There are two problems with it. The first is that you have to do so much in order to be within that category that, as you say, the cost-benefit analysis then becomes a bit tricky. It is also very risky, because if you are putting yourself out there in such a thoughtless way – tweet, tweet, tweet – you can very easily be polarising, for instance, by being a bit political in a way that some of your solicitors might not appreciate, or properly overstepping the mark. Indeed, I can think of examples of people who have been in difficulties with their chambers because they have said something that they should not have said, because it is such an easy thing to do when you are on social media. I am very cautious about it, although I do dabble in both Twitter and LinkedIn.

Participant 12: That turns into something broader: familiarity breeds contempt. If someone can see your website, your Twitter, your Facebook, your LinkedIn – and I am not on any of those, full disclosure – they might start to think, okay, well, I know what that person is about. I have seen everything, from his web profile to what shorts he wore to his last barbecue or whatever. Then, when they go and look at someone else, they go, okay, well, we have that first person’s measure, but we are now looking at another barrister and he or she just has a very nicely maintained website, I’m going to call his or her clerks and get to know some more.

Participant 11: Participant 15 is right, there has to be a way that you can inject your personality in a professional way so that you are more than just the same profiles on different websites. For me, the way that you do that has to be in person, so that you can meet people and they get a better sense of you. It is much more professional, meeting someone in person than them getting to know you through your tweets or whatever. There has to be a way you distinguish yourself, but I do not view LinkedIn or Twitter as the way of doing that.

‘There has to be a way you distinguish yourself, but I do not view LinkedIn or Twitter as the way of doing that.’

Participant 8: On our website, we show short either training videos or little pieces about recent cases and that is quite good, in between a full-blown training session and something that is LinkedIn or Twitter. It is slightly more human.

Hayley Eustace: Touching on something we have briefly mentioned, which is the value of clerks and practice managers, what do you think that they could do differently?

Participant 2: One of the difficulties that I have is that that is a really hard question to answer. It is a business model that works well for us, where we have these people, who are very good at negotiating, at more of the business side of what we do. However, it means that we do not have as much of an insight into how that works and, really, how do I know how they can improve that? That is asking me a question about a world that I am not that familiar with and I pretty much have to take it on trust.

Participant 3: I would agree with that. The clerks’ room, for me, is a bit of a black box and you know that things come out of it, but what happens in there is a bit mysterious. There is something to be said in terms of opening up the clerks’ room so that there is a bit less mystique in there. Maybe we need to do some of the same to our clerks about what we are doing, because they do learn organically, through listing hearings and things, a bit about what we are doing, but maybe we need to demystify the court and our side of things a little bit more. Then it can seem like a trade rather than us saying, ‘Can we look under the bonnet and decide if you are necessary or not?’, because there is a risk, if you pitch it wrong, that they are very defensive about that.

‘The clerks’ room, for me, is a bit of a black box - what happens in there is a bit mysterious. There is something to be said in terms of opening up the clerks’ room so that there is a bit less mystique in there. Maybe we need to do some of the same to our clerks about what we are doing.’

Participant 13: I have a different experience of that. I do not see it as a black box, my clerks are always very transparent and that is because I am always down there keeping an eyeball on them to make sure they are doing what I say. I cannot speak to what they should be doing differently, but certainly the model, in theory, works very well and that is that I have, effectively, one clerk who is the rainmaker, who is the, as he puts it, ‘blue skies guy’. He goes out there and he does a lot of the marketing stuff. Then I have another clerk who manages the day to day nuts and bolts, you know, ‘You are meant to be here, you are meant to be doing this, you are meant to be doing that’. There is a massive disparity in seniority between those two people, but they are both my clerks and it works brilliantly. The blue skies guy has the time to do what we were talking about earlier, organise marketing stuff and, yes, make it rain.

Hayley Eustace: Do you think that there is anything more clerks could do, either internally or externally, in terms of training to help develop certain aspects your practice?

Participant 10: Ours generally steer us towards good training opportunities. They recommend advocacy training courses and summer schools and things like that.

Participant 6: The thing with clerks and the Bar, full stop, is that this is an archaic institution. There are lots of things that by accident of history have arisen and we still have. However, it is hard to think how, in the model, clerks could do things better than they currently do. I like it, long may it continue. It is good having that relationship where you have one person who does everything for you and you grow and develop with each other.

In terms of bringing in people to do training, if they were to bring people in to train us to do the things that they do, then they would be putting themselves out of a job, would they not?

Hayley Eustace: Earlier, we talked in some depth about work/life balance and general wellbeing. Barristers are frequently criticised in the press for the money they earn but you work extremely long hours that I am sure most people would struggle to keep up with. This is topical with the proposed amendments to the court sitting hours as well. Do you feel as though there is an effective wellbeing support mechanism there if you ever were to need it?

Participant 4: I get the sense that there is something in the background, that if you wanted to rely on it you could. However, until you need that support, you do not actively search it out. There is information on the Bar Council website about wellbeing and they are offering wellbeing classes, but they are an optional thing. You might only need them if things start to go wrong rather than being a precautionary measure.

Participant 9: I read an article about this recently. One of the things mentioned was the positive difference that having a mentor can make. When I think about my experience in two chambers, having somebody in my current chambers who I can go to for advice on a whole range of things has made life much easier.

‘Having somebody in my current chambers who I can go to for advice on a whole range of things has made life much easier.’

Participant 12: That personal support is important. But I do not have a great sense of the systemic support that might exist at the Bar here. If there is something on the Bar Council website, I am personally not aware of it. In another country with a strong Bar, for example, there is quite a prominent anti-depression campaign for barristers. That helps because we are, on one view, at the bottom of the food chain. We might get paid a lot, but we are the repository for responsibility and even liability.

Participant 11: It is quite a difficult, intangible thing to pinpoint where the support system is, because we are not in a law firm, we are not part of a team that works under a partner or a broader litigation team or anything like that, so where does the responsibility lie? You are a self-employed individual. In one sense, it is your responsibility to look after your mental health and wellbeing. However, in the same sense, we are all human beings and colleagues in a chambers and across different sets of chambers, at the Bar generally, so that responsibility has to come in at a lot of different levels. It means, on a colleague-to-colleague basis, checking in, making sure that when members of chambers are working very hard on long, difficult cases for sustained periods of time you take some responsibility for making sure you are just being a good colleague to them, checking in and taking them out for lunch or to the pub or whatever; making sure that that kind of awareness exists and the problem is not just pushed onto individuals, because in those difficult periods they are not able to really manage that. It is about everyone taking a small amount of responsibility and sharing it.

Participant 7: And using your clerk as well. Not that your clerks are going to be giving you therapy or anything, but if you go to your clerk and say, ‘I need a week off’ and if they really believe you, certainly my clerk would do that for me and do everything to try to make that happen. That is really important and it goes back to your old-fashioned clerks’ room no longer existing. I do not think there is a situation where a clerk would ever say to me, ‘No, that is not going to happen, sorry. We do not take that seriously’. That view of clerks beating you until you die, certainly in my experience, does not exist.

Participant 11: That is certainly right and that should happen. The bigger danger is when you have these very A-type personalities, high-achieving individuals who are not able to put their hand up and say, ‘I am struggling, I need some help’. There are quite a lot of people at the Bar, I think, who are in a position where they either cannot identify it or they cannot articulate it. That is the danger zone and that happens across the board quite a lot, just because of the personalities involved.

‘The bigger danger is when you have these very A-type personalities, high-achieving individuals who are not able to put their hand up and say, ‘I am struggling, I need some help’. There are quite a lot of people at the Bar, I think, who are in a position where they either cannot identify it or they cannot articulate it.’

Participant 3: That flows from the idea that the Bar is operating, to some extent, in its own silos, by practice area or by chambers, and the individuals within it are generally very resilient, but therefore do not feel that they can say, ‘I have a problem’. Part of that idea of everyone knows about health and safety but not everyone knows about wellbeing is the training that you would need to recognise problems in people around you, so that you could alert them to that type of issue. The Bar Council has been doing a lot of work recently on wellbeing. Perhaps it is worth just asking a question: how many of you, if any, are aware that the Bar Council has just had a major half-day or one-day wellbeing conference? [None.]

One of the things that the Bar Council struggles with is communications, because you split into two camps: ‘why are the Bar Council sending me 40 emails a week’ versus ‘the Bar Council never tells me what they are doing’. One of the things that we really need to work on is how best to speak to people, particularly on issues like this that affect everybody and are not just practice area-specific.

Participant 11: It is about sharing responsibility. I had not heard about the Bar Council’s half-day workshop, but I am very aware that the Chancery Bar Association does a lot with mental health and wellbeing. They have organised yoga sessions for £5, which I have been to and tried out and they were quite good. If it happens at a lot of different levels – you have the Bar Council, you have individual practice area groups, the Chancery Bar Association, the Property Bar Association and all those kinds of things, then you have the chambers’ level and an individual level – if you have something happening at all of those levels, then you have a web of support. However, it is quite difficult to pinpoint where responsibility lies, because really it is at all of those levels.

Participant 6: Do you think it is like a culture change that has to come from the top? To me, it does not seem like wellbeing is a training problem, because all of us, individually, in our personal lives, I assume, are aware of when our mums or partners or friends or whatever are feeling sad. We can all see that and we probably can all have conversations with people. Outside of the Bar, we are all normally functioning human beings, but then when it comes to our practice and our work, it is true that there is a culture where we cannot talk about things or do not admit that we are sad or stressed, because that looks weak? For me, there has to be people at the top of chambers who are able to have those conversations and be open about the fact that, yes, I find this difficult, I find that stressful, and make it normalised, make it seem okay and not like you are a weak failure at the bottom and you should not have got through pupillage.

Participant 11: It has to happen at both levels, for example, going back to the Chancery Bar Association yoga sessions I mentioned, one of the QCs in my chambers who I work with quite a lot and who I get along with very well said to me, ‘What is this yoga nonsense?’. At the same time, the same QC has told me about his struggles with depression in the past, in a very open manner, in a way that he wanted to be open about the fact that he struggled with that and he does not see any issue with that. People can view mental health and wellbeing in very different ways, so the modern view has to come also from the bottom up – us – just talking about things openly with senior people.

Participant 12: The profession is obviously a combative one. The default position we have is to think do I agree with what was just said to me and, therefore, I am going to say that I do not. That is quite hard to switch off, generally. I get home from work sometimes and my wife will say, ‘Did you like that show we just watched?’ and my reply will be, ‘Well, I thought it had these three problems’. It is hard to switch off and it is obviously even harder to do so in the middle of the day, if a conversation about wellbeing becomes relevant or possible. However, if someone is in a position where a colleague wants or needs to discuss wellbeing, being able to stop that and go, ‘Okay, I need to put on my other hat – my home after a glass of wine hat – and be receptive to this conversation, is a systemic change that has to come from the top while also growing up from the bottom as well.

Participant 14: One dialogue that does not exist at all as one of the main contributors of stress is solicitors. You would never say to a solicitor, ‘Could you not email me, please, at 11pm or 3am, because it is stressful and I cannot deal with it?’ You just have to take it, basically. Obviously, barristers can be a source of stress for solicitors as well, but there has never been any investigation, as far as I know, into how that could be managed.

Hayley Eustace: Thank you. I am keen to cover a couple more topics before we finish. Diversity is one of them. Do you think the Bar will ever get to where it needs to be in terms of diversity and do you think the profession and judiciary will ever properly reflect the communities they serve?

Participant 11: Ever is a very long time. Eventually. It is quite slow moving.

Participant 2: It is structurally impossible. In order to achieve good diversity outcomes you have to have an element of risk and reward-sharing, so as to even out the effect on people who are in positions that make them less money or generate fewer resources as a result of all the various reasons that we want to avoid creating an impact on the makeup of the profession. You have to have an ability to move some resources from people who are better off to some resources for the people who are worse off. I do not see how that can really happen in a profession that is entirely composed, as far as the service providers are concerned, of people who are in business on their own account. If there is a way out of that, it is by trying to do some of it within chambers, but there are real pressures against that kind of risk-sharing within chambers and it is going to take us a very long time to get to a point where we do have that kind of equality and it is going to involve changing what the profession looks like if we are to be able to get there.

Hayley Eustace: Do you also think that raising awareness of it sometimes puts people off coming to the Bar?

Participant 7: Because you make it sound very difficult?

Hayley Eustace: Yes, exactly.

‘Some chambers will make a £20,000 drawdown available, which will basically fund you through Bar school. In some areas of the Bar, such drawdowns are not available. This is such a big problem and until we do something more along those lines the solicitor profession will always be ahead of us.’

Participant 7: Yes, I do. The problem we have is, if you want to be a lawyer, you have the option of being a solicitor or a barrister. If you have the prospect of going into a good City firm, you are going to have everything funded in advance and that is the huge difference. If you are risk averse and do not have a family to be able to support you, why on earth would you say, yes, I am going to get myself into loads of debt and try to fund going that way when I can go this way? Some chambers will make a £20,000 drawdown available, which will basically fund you through Bar school. Therefore, if you have done a law degree, you can pretty much go to the Bar without getting into debt on top of your law degree. At that point, it becomes quite an interesting choice between the solicitor profession and what we do. In some areas of the Bar, such drawdowns are not available. This is such a big problem and until we do something more along those lines the solicitor profession will always be ahead of us.

Participant 6: The bigger problem is that the structural barriers or impediments to access to the Bar come much sooner than the kinds of things that we are talking about, where the Bar can intervene. The structural barriers that would need to be removed in order to ensure proper diversity at the Bar and a proper reflection in the judiciary of society would have to occur way before people are doing a law degree and deciding if they want to be a solicitor or a barrister. The bottom line is the Bar is and has to be composed of the most academically competent people, so you are selecting from a pool of people who are essentially very bright and have done very well at school and those people are going to be ones who have had good opportunities to get a good education, have not been held back by family issues or poverty or things like that. Therefore, unless you have an education system in our society that ensures that everybody has equal access to good schooling and the same opportunity to get into the Oxbridge universities, you are never going to do away with the fact that there is going to be a particular class demographic or ethnic demographic at the Bar. Those problems start when kids go to playschool; they come in long before the Bar can do anything at all to intervene.

‘Unless you have an education system in our society that ensures that everybody has equal access to good schooling and the same opportunity to get into the Oxbridge universities, you are never going to do away with the fact that there is going to be a particular class demographic or ethnic demographic at the Bar.’

Participant 1: I agree that that is a fundamental foundation, but also there is an enormous amount of discouragement in going to the Bar. All the time you are going through the process you are being told, ‘Do not do it, it will not work out’ and certain people are more susceptible to that discouragement than others. Others will just power on and others who are more sensitive to it will leave and do something else, decide that maybe they cannot make it, maybe they cannot do it, and that is again a background thing, confidence. Some people are innately set up with more confidence and, if they are, they do not listen to so much of that, whereas others do.

Participant 10: Even if you do not go to a particularly good school, there are things that can be done to make people more confident and realise that, yes, they can go to the Bar even if they have not been to a really good school or really good university. We could do more of that, like outreach programmes in schools, which would make a difference. It would not solve it, but it might help a few people to get through who would not get through at the moment.

Participant 3: There are diversity issues at a number of levels. Something like the male/female split on entering the profession is relatively even, but when you look at that in ten years’ time it is much less so. There is a big attrition problem with people leaving the Bar that then does raise the idea that Participant 2 was talking about of how would a chambers cross-subsidise things like maternity. That is a difficult question and one that needs to be thought about.

There are different issues on BAME in the profession and, again, at the lower end it is potentially under-representative, but that is probably something that could change with more targeted initiatives.

Participant 8: And chambers recruit in their own image; that is the truth of it. I absolutely agree with Participant 6 that it is a social inequality and social mobility issue way before you get to the Bar. However, as it currently stands, if you look at pretty much any chambers’ website, the last ten people have the same qualifications and went to roughly the same university.

Hayley Eustace: On that point, do you think blind recruitment works or do you think you just end up with the same people making it through?

Participant 8: As Participant 2 said, it is about being risk averse. Chambers think, okay, well, we have this person, who does not come from a university we are used to or comes from a different background, and this person, who is the same as the last eight people we have had, and the last eight people have been very good, so let’s take them. It is wrong, but that is the reality, people always recruit in their own image and it takes an awful lot to take that risk and say, ‘Let’s not do that this year. Let’s go down this route’. I, personally, do not think that barristers are the best people to recruit. We are not trained to recruit. We look at a form for five minutes and we read the Bar Council’s thing on recruitment and go, ‘Oh yes, first class degree from Oxford, yes, that looks alright.

‘We are not trained to recruit. We look at a form for five minutes and we read the Bar Council’s thing on recruitment and go, "Oh yes, first class degree from Oxford, yes, that looks alright".’

Participant 6: The problem is that I do not think chambers can properly be criticised for recruiting from the academically most able. I do not think there is a problem with chambers saying, ‘I am going to pick the people who I think are going to be the best able to undertake difficult legal analysis and articulate that analysis’, because the bottom line is we deliver an important service to our clients and the Bar should try to make sure that the people providing that service are the best that we can find. The problem is not that they are picked from Oxbridge or they are picked from redbrick universities or they only want people with first class degrees. That is not a problem, that is what the Bar should be doing. The problem is the people who get into that position, overwhelmingly, because of the structural problems that exist prior, are from particular backgrounds and that is getting worse now than it used to be. If you look at some top commercial chambers and you look at the economic background, the class background at least, of some of the silks, the type of school they went to, there is a higher proportion of people who went to normal schools or at least, say, to grammar, where they were not paying for schools, than there is now. That is a major problem.

Briefly on the subject of outreach, obviously it is an important thing and a noble thing for people to want to try to do, but there is a massive problem with it. That is, if you go into a school and you talk to a 16-year-old kid and you say to them, ‘Dream of the bar’ and that 16-year-old takes that seriously and thinks, you know what, I am going to. However, it’s a problem if that person has not been prepared. They get average grades, go to an average university, do the law degree and get an average law degree. You see it all the time with the Bar course, people spending thousands of pounds and getting into debt when they have little chance. Raising people’s expectation is important if you are doing it in combination with also raising their education standards. If you just tell a 16-year-old, ‘You can come to the bar, mate’ and they have very little chance, you are doing them a disservice.

Participant 13: I do not agree with that. You can raise aspirations by giving a talk, but you can also manage expectations at the same time. When you give a talk to a bunch of 16- year-olds, you do not say, ‘You are going to make it. Anyone in the room can do this with no effort. Just see what happens in your A Levels and see what university you go into’. You say, ‘You need to work extremely hard. It is very difficult to get through each step’. The guilty party in the situation you just described is the Bar course providers, who will take anyone so long as they have stumped up the cash from somewhere. They put through, I don’t know, hundreds or even thousands of people each year who have absolutely no chance of getting a pupillage. There is a test now to get onto it, but apparently it is very easy.

Participant 10: You need to start a lot earlier than 16, because 16 is far too late. You need to go into schools at 12 or 13 and encourage people that it is possible, because people from certain schools do not even know that it is a possibility and we need to change that.

Participant 6: What we can do, as barristers, and what the Bar can do is massively limited by virtue of the important part here, which is what the government ought to be doing to ensure that a decent education is provided to everybody. Not just education, all the problems of child poverty and these kinds of things that inhibit your growth potential. What can we at the Bar do?

Participant 3: That is an important effectiveness question again, which is obviously there are many things we would like other people to do, but what we can we, as the Bar, do? The most sensible approach that I have seen is working with organisations like the Social Mobility Foundation, which identifies high-performing people from non-traditional backgrounds and then bring them into the profession to understand what it is about, to meet a barrister, to meet a judge, who they may never have ever encountered before, and to tell them this kind of nuanced message, that, ‘You need to work hard, you need to achieve those grades, but if you do, then, with luck, there is not going to be a barrier to you coming into the profession’. That is the most effective use of an individual’s time, because going into one school and talking to 200 people of whom one may be interested is going to be a lot of work and not a lot of output. Helping these organisations might be the better way to do it.

Participant 11: Yes, and there are lots of organisations like that. There are a few that I have worked with as well and the Sutton Trust is another one. What they do is they identify 15, 16-year-olds who are high-performing but who do not come from the traditional background that would go to the Bar. They come in and they meet a barrister and they spend some time with you, and the kids that I have had sit with me have said things like, ‘I have never met someone before who has been to Oxford or Cambridge. I do not know any lawyers at all in my family or extended family’. Therefore, there is quite an important bridge that we can help with that takes very little effort at all. That is not going to solve any of the problems with diversity at the Bar, but it is going to help.

Participant 12: Diversity is also being challenged by the increasingly international flavour at the Bar – people coming to practise in the UK from other jurisdictions. The majority seem to be Australians, as well as people from New Zealand, some from South Africa, and every now and then North America. It seems to be much rarer to have non-white foreigners coming through and if that is the case and we are occupying some of the space that maybe is opening up for people who did not come from public schools and then Oxbridge here, that is not a very good outlook for some of the backgrounds that we are talking about.

Participant 9: We have not mentioned the role of the inns in this. The role of a particular chambers in funding Bar school has been mentioned, but the inns provide scholarships too. At my inn all the scholarships are means-tested. They pay for a number of people to go through Bar school. That role can certainly be expanded, we can work on that. The inns also run outreach programmes; I know because I have helped on one. So this an obvious way in which we can all contribute, either financially or by giving up our time.

Hayley Eustace: We only have a few minutes left, so the last question is: what do you think the future holds for the Bar? I am going to go there with the AI question: do you think artificial intelligence will ever have an impact on the Bar?

Participant 5: I started my career as a trainee solicitor at a commercial firm where all this AI stuff was all terribly exciting and everyone was talking about it. Everyone was saying at this firm that it was going to be the end of the Bar, but while I was there I began wondering if it was potentially the end of solicitors rather than the end of the Bar. That is because, at the end of the day, someone is going to have to stand up in court and that person is going to be either a barrister or an advocate. Therefore, advocacy as a profession is going to be exist forever. The more interesting question is what is going to happen to the legal processes and legal support surrounding getting an advocate to that particular point. I am perhaps more optimistic about the future of the Bar, despite working in a very legal aid-heavy area of law than perhaps some other people.

Participant 3: I think that is dead right. The bigger threat to the Bar is probably from poor policymaking, things like flexible operating hours or cuts to legal aid, which will impact disproportionately hard on particular areas of practice and also disproportionately on junior members. In fields that are more commercial, technology is going to blow law firms’ litigation models out of the water. They make a huge amount of money from very extensive document review. That is something that can be quite easily done technologically very fast and we are seeing those developments already, so they are going to have very big structural questions about how they proceed. What we do is more bespoke in terms of advice and advocacy, so if there is a technological threat coming, it will reach us later. That is not a reason to be complacent about it and certainly we can be early adopters of technology, if it is appropriate.

‘When the solicitors are all replaced by robots though, the humans are going to come and try to join the Bar, are they not? That is going to be the problem.’

Participant 6: When the solicitors are all replaced by robots though, the humans are going to come and try to join the Bar, are they not? That is going to be the problem.

Participant 8: Technology makes you more isolated. I get electronic briefs, so I do not have to go into chambers unless I make an effort. I email my solicitors, phone my solicitors and we have telephone conferences with court now, which I prefer, because I do not particularly want to go in for a five-minute hearing that takes me an hour to get to. However, it goes back to the wellbeing question, because it makes us more isolated and that cannot be a good thing. I like technology, but there is a danger that you end up sitting in a box and you do advocacy by camera and you do not have any interaction. The Bar is a very human profession, as it should be, but the danger of technology is that you become more separated and individual and I do not like that.

‘The Bar is a very human profession, as it should be, but the danger of technology is that you become more separated and individual and I do not like that.’

Hayley Eustace: I definitely agree with your point about the importance of human judgement, but eBay and Amazon, for example, now have online dispute resolution forums that resolve disputes using algorithms. Of course, they are going to be low-value disputes, but still it goes to show that it can happen and where does that lead us?

Participant 6: I do think we will be the last to be replaced when it comes to the legal profession. The bigger risk probably will be that when the solicitor side of the market shrinks, there will obviously be more people coming to the Bar.

Participant 5: I do not know if I agree with that. I think the legal profession is just going to shrink. I do not know that the Bar is going to expand. I do not see it expanding any larger than it is. In fact, it probably needs to retract a bit. Maybe the profession needs to shrink to the size it was a generation or so ago, just as a matter of reality, but perhaps people disagree.

Participant 2: There is an opportunity if AI means that some of the seriously costly bits, especially in my area of litigation, are reduced and you can have a large commercial case where you are not spending hundreds of thousands or millions of pounds on disclosure. That is going to mean commercial litigation becomes cheaper and, in that case, clients might buy more of that product. There are plenty of disputes that are not litigated, or not litigated to the end. The claimant may not be not getting particularly good value for the claim because they are settling, because they are so afraid of the cost. If we can take some of the biggest elements of that cost (and the least enjoyable for any lawyer, solicitor or barrister) off the table, I feel that for the work that will remain, there may be a bit more of it. However, I suspect that will be an expansion in the context of a broader shrinking legal profession.

Participant 12: There was a study on AI replacing about 300 jobs two years ago and barrister was, I think, only a 2% likelihood or something like that. I offer that as a titbit but it was something like 350 jobs ahead of us that would be replaced by robots first.

Participant 11: At its heart, what we are dealing with is very human. What it boils down to is disputes between individuals and individual personalities and until you stop people fighting I think we will be okay.

Participant 3: The online disputes court idea is an interesting one on the lower value end and, I suspect, what is going to happen there is there is a mismatch between what you can achieve in the private sector and what the government can deliver in terms of an online court. Certainly the development that I have seen so far in that field is a little bit underwhelming.

Participant 4: It depends on the practice area as well. Without wanting to do myself down too much, matrimonial finance does have scope for numbers going into a system and then an answer comes out at the end, which is a midpoint between two positions. Whereas practice areas that are more to do with meaning and interpretation, obviously computers are so far off, so there is potential scope in 20 years’ time for more and more lower value disputes being solved by an algorithm.

Participant 1: Maybe you do not need advocates anyway, maybe you just need a judge. You have technology, which is going to condense material more easily and file whatever the material there is that is available. Can a judge not just decide it all without any advocacy?

Hayley Eustace: Something to think about. Thank you very much, everyone, for your time today.