12 Dec, 2012

Maura McGowan QC, the incoming Chairman of the Bar Council, which represents barristers in England and Wales, will this evening deliver her inaugural address at the Bar Council’s offices, in which she will set out a vision for a profession which is engaged and in control of its future.


She will become the first female Chairman of the Bar since the Rt. Hon. Lady Justice Hallett in 1998, and will succeed Michael Todd QC on 1 January 2013.


In a wide-ranging speech, which will touch on the importance of a unified Bar, the role of the profession in society, regulation, and the challenges and opportunities facing all legal services providers, Maura McGowan QC (pictured) will say:


“Taking control requires us all to become engaged and involved in seeking to determine how the future of the profession develops. The Rule of Law depends upon effective access to justice for all. In whatever discipline, we enable people to gain access to justice. We must all seek to play a part in shaping what happens by taking control of our future.


“One of the most important challenges of the year ahead is to ensure that the qualities, the levels of excellence in integrity and skill are recognised and appreciated.


“I see that as the main focus of my role as Chairman.


“We cannot be deflected from that by setbacks or defeats. There is no greater certainty than if we give up the task of persuasion we will lose. We are advocates and advisors of the highest standards and abilities. We must meet the challenges facing us all.”


On the values and purpose of the profession, she will say:


“We have to maintain our standards; we must continue to strive to be excellent and to place integrity at the top of our list of our qualities and qualifications.


“By engaging and offering constructive proposals we can properly establish ourselves as authors of change not its victims.”


On communicating more effectively with the public, she will say:


“For too long we, the judges and anyone who has ever quoted the Human Rights Act have suffered from being the butt of lazy journalism in certain sections of the press, often by Government ministers in search of a quick headline.


“As individuals it is depressing and irritating but on a wider level it may actually have a more pernicious effect. Are the fundamental rights of the individual or groups in society actually being damaged by the corrosive effect of coverage which seeks to persuade the public that rights are only ever upheld if pursued by dodgy lawyers in front of incompetent, or even worse, open minded judges on behalf of the undeserving?


“The reality is very different, members of the public who come into contact with barristers are, generally, impressed by our skill, our integrity and our capacity for work. That’s both the reality and the public perception we must continue to promote. If we are all portrayed as money grabbing and slightly dodgy then the publicity battle to justify the reduction of fees is half won already. We must make the true position known to the public.”

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