Jean-Yves Gilg

Editor, Solicitors Journal

Young lawyers adding value

Young lawyers adding value


Louisa Nye sees first-hand the varied contribution the young Bar makes to the legal sector and justice system, so the perception of it as naïve is misplaced

Louisa Nye sees first-hand the varied contribution the young Bar makes to
the legal sector and justice system, so the perception of it as naïve is misplaced

The term 'young barrister' gives the impression that lawyers at the beginning of their careers may be naïve or not add much value compared to their more experienced counterparts. The reality is very different and a young barrister requires initiative, drive, determination, and stamina.

As chairman of the Bar Council's Young Barristers' Committee (YBC), I see first-
hand the varied contribution
the young Bar makes to the
legal sector and justice system. Though not always visible, the value of the young Bar carries even more weight in this ever-changing legal landscape.

Cuts to legal aid, coupled
with a mistaken perception that lawyers cost too much, has seen an increase in the number of litigants in person and a rise in the numbers seeking alternate means of legal representation. Some are turning to paid McKenzie friends. Others are reliant on pro bono services.
The long list of problems associated with these choices has been consistently documented by the profession.

A key message that comes across is cost. Many young barristers are able to take on a case at the same or even lower cost than paid McKenzie friends. However, barristers not only have the rights of audience,
but also the right training, regulation, and insurance that protects the client. McKenzie friends do not.

I have often reflected on how disappointing it is that litigants struggle with legal problems on their own after reading media misrepresentations about lawyers. To describe any young lawyer as a 'fat cat' is simply outdated. No right-minded individual would chose to be a legal aid barrister on the basis of money alone. For those facing financial hardship, the young Bar can provide a valuable route to accessing justice without the public needing to represent themselves or pay for the
wrong type of help.

Young barristers play varied roles, which are vital for the legal services ecosystem. Our working lives differ from day to day, and I have no doubt that the lives of those solicitors represented by the Junior Lawyers' Division of the Law Society are as varied.

I juggle up to ten different cases a day. In the family courts, a typical day involves meetings with clients, who vary from
local authorities to parents and children. What is not always documented is the prep and follow-up work required for every case and a young barrister's role in dealing with queries from clients or judiciary.

Elsewhere, young barristers are helping the next generation take those first steps up the career ladder by providing mentoring via the Pathways
to Law programme, giving bright students from less affluent backgrounds a taste
of life at the Bar.

In addition, many young in-house barristers are
adding value by bringing
their expertise to support of government policy work and advising on Supreme Court cases, while also benefiting from the experience of
different practice areas.

Beyond the practice of law, young barristers are adding value, either on a voluntary basis or, in some cases, as employed policy analysts. Their skills are put to good use by promoting equality and diversity within
the profession, working to boost the Bar's visibility overseas,
and assisting barristers with
their ethical and regulatory obligations.

Brexit has provided another unique opportunity for young barristers. If ever the UK needed lawyers, the time is now. Getting to grips with the complexities of EU withdrawal will require the young Bar's knowledge and initiative. Of equal importance, the Bar as a whole will play its part, alongside solicitors, in helping clients - individuals
and businesses - to negotiate the impact of withdrawal.

We are also facing a rapidly changing justice system with the digitalisation of the courts and plans for further court reform. The experience of and impact on the young Bar will
be vital in shaping our future justice system.

When asked what value the young Bar brings, I point to the young barristers upholding the rule of law, acting in a client's best interests, helping shape policy, developing the next generation of lawyers, and playing a key role in the UK's smooth withdrawal from the
EU, to list but a few.

Louisa Nye is chairman of the Bar Council Young Barristers’ Committee and a barrister at Landmark Chambers @YoungBarristers