News


PIBA Support for the Criminal Bar

Posted by · June 23, 2022 10:41 AM

 

The Personal Injuries Bar Association recognises the overwhelming public interest met by proper legal representation before the criminal courts and fully supports @TheCriminalBar in all that it is doing to ensure adequate funding for the criminal justice system.

PIBA Chair

23 June 2022

PIBA Chair Conference review and Easter e-message – 13 April 2022

Posted by · April 17, 2022 6:54 PM

 

It was a privilege to take up the reins as the newly elected PIBA Chair at our first in-person Conference since 2019, back at St Catherine’s College, Oxford. So many attendees commented about what a pleasure it was to be amongst friends from the PI Bar again.

The Annual Conference presentations were all the more insightful and interactive for having the speaker and audience in the same room (slides and handouts are available on this link). The variety and quality of speakers was as impressive as ever. It was great to meet many new attendees, enjoying their first PIBA residential conference and taking advantage of the heavily subsidised prices, particularly for the most junior members. Regular parallel sessions meant there really was something for everyone, however junior or senior. We also enjoyed the hospitality laid on for us by the College. The feedback confirms our impression that the Conference was a great success. The event was quickly sold out, so book early for 2023!

The Association’s huge thanks goes to our tireless organising team and administrators as well as all who presented sessions from the Bar, the Bench and the expert witness community. PIBA is particularly grateful to Nicola Davies LJ who not only delivered an erudite keynote address on Vicarious Liability (the text of which is available here) on the Saturday morning, but also joined us on the Friday night to chat informally to members in the bar and over dinner.

Steven Snowden QC: can I pay tribute to Steven who has done all the hard graft of being Chair for two years without the fun aspects. Steven took over in the early weeks of the pandemic and maintained the energy and resolve of his predecessor as Chair, Darryl Allen QC, to make sure members were kept informed and supported through the unique challenges of the pandemic. The Association is very grateful to Steven for his long service to PIBA, both in his two-year term as Chair; Vice Chair before that; and previously as Secretary for many years.

Thank you: We are also grateful to others who are stepping back after being long-standing contributors to PIBA’s activities, including Chris Kennedy QC and Anna Symington.

Welcome: to all the new officers and representatives, whether they are remaining in post or are new to the Executive Committee (listed here). PIBA’s new Vice-Chair, Emily Formby QC, and I look forward to working with you all over the next two years.

Priorities and Bar Council Engagement: Further bulletins will follow about the ongoing work of PIBA and its officers, but I will focus on particular priorities in this note. I have arranged to meet with the Chair of the Bar, Mark Fenhalls QC, later this month, to discuss PIBA’s priorities and enlist Bar Council support to drive them forward. We will continue to have maximum engagement with Bar Council initiatives/ resources. Let’s continue our increasing engagement on numerous levels: EDI; listing; fee levels; opposing LSB/BSB mission creep; access to justice, silk process etc.

Education: We are proud of PIBA’s long-standing track record as the leading SBA for the quality and frequency of its educational provision. Those efforts were redoubled in the pandemic lockdowns to ensure that members stayed connected and informed. At one stage in spring 2020, the Association was putting on no less than two webinars a week, available both live and to watch later. Our commitment to PIBA’s education programme remains strong.

Circuits: As we transition back to in-person events, such as the Annual Conference, we will ensure that we remain connected to our digital audience. We are also making sure our Circuit audience does not miss out on in-person provision. The first of a series of Circuit education events kicks-off in Leeds on 27 April, with an event on Social Worker liability: all the details are here. I look forward to attending to hear the presentation and meet up with more of the Association’s Circuit members, large numbers of whom were at the Annual Conference too. We are committed to working with our Circuit reps to ensure that all our members shape our priorities and e.g. engaging with DCJs on concerns such as listing, extended hours etc.

Fixed costs and listing: PIBA is facing the challenge of getting its voice heard to ensure that fixed costs and in particular Fast track trial fees, unmoved for a decade, are addressed and not left to languish again, especially in an era of high inflation. Rest assured that remains top of the PIBA priority list, as does a concern across the circuits about listing practice. PI work being given lower priority than family, housing and other work in our County Courts. Junior practitioners are still being badly affected by last minute adjournments, usually for no fee, in a system which takes no account of availability Counsel for a fresh hearing. Often that unpaid preparation is never compensated for, as case moves to other Counsel for the next hearing.

Over-regulation: We continue to push back on mission creep by the Legal Services Board and the BSB, looking to ramp up quality control of barristers against an inadequate evidence base to justify it, with consequent increases in practising fees. PIBA recently put in a robust consultation response and continues to support the Bar Council’s opposition to these moves.

Outreach, Equality, Diversity, Inclusion and Retention: I am passionate about PIBA doing more in this area. The constitution was changed a year ago to embed ED&I into PIBA’s objects and allow us to commit funds to its furtherance. It is not just about money, it is about time and a change of mindset. I have chaired our ED&I sub-committee for the last year and am confident that the energy of those working to further PIBA’s important work will continue. Recent Bar Council statistics reiterate the scale of the challenge. PI work should lend itself to flexible working. But the gender pay gap is worse in PI than the Bar average. Racial (and other) diversity is a major PI Bar issue. The Executive Committee would be a good place to start. Let’s embrace the Bar Council’s new toolkits on fair allocation of work; mentor and help fund a generation of diverse students; mentor existing members to reverse the loss of talented juniors; and support diverse silk applicants.   

Junior PI work: the MR’s recent speech shows that the importance for litigants and junior members of small claims, portal and FT work needs reiterating at senior judiciary and government level. These cases shouldn’t be devalued or side-lined in favour of higher value or higher profile litigation outside our field.

Pandemic recovery: I have already written about tackling listing problems and judicial/HMCTS engagement. But preserving the benefits of remote working, promoting members’ wellbeing and the collegiality of chambers are also top priorities.  

Thank you for entrusting the helm of PIBA to me and Emily for next 2 years. After a successful Annual Conference, we are busy getting stuck into the challenges and meanwhile we wish you an enjoyable and restful Easter break.

Charles Bagot QC

13 April 2022

Book Discounts

Posted by · May 26, 2021 9:10 PM

 

We are pleased to announce that Thomson Reuters  / Sweet & Maxwell have agreed extensive discounts on some of their books for PIBA members.

They have confirmed that:

  • The discount will apply to a range of existing as well as new titles;
  • The 15% discount will apply to both hard copy and ebook;
  • The discount will be available from 1 June to 31 Dec 2021;
  • It will be 20% on Facts & Figures as this is a long-standing arrangement.

Please see the flyer here for further details.

If you need your PIBA membership number, please do ask Jo by emailing [email protected]

Chair's Update - GDPR and AGM

Posted by · March 29, 2021 2:45 PM

 

1. Contractual terms proposed by solicitors / GDPR / BMIF indemnity

It has come to PIBA’s notice that some firms of solicitors are again seeking to introduce contractual terms which could expose PIBA members to uninsurable liabilities.  In particular, terms which

(i) provide that the barrister will indemnify the solicitor in respect of (potentially unlimited) losses to the solicitor arising from breaches of the contract, including breaches of GDPR;  and

(ii) provide that the barrister is a data processor.

The Bar Council has previously given clear advice that:

1. It is each individual barrister’s responsibility to ensure that bespoke contractual terms do not leave the barrister exposed to liabilities which are not covered by BMIF, and that practising without full insurance may amount to professional misconduct.

See the BC’s Standard Contractual Terms Guide: https://www.barcouncilethics.co.uk/wp-content/uploads/2017/10/Contractual-Terms-Guide-202003.pdf

It is PIBA’s current understanding that BMIF will not cover a barrister in respect of a contractual liability unless it would have arisen in law in any event or it was incurred under a contract which was in a form which had previously been approved by BMIF.  See the exclusion at Clause 3.1(x)(b) of the BMIF’s Terms of Cover.

The Bar Council’s standard contractual terms are here:https://www.barcouncilethics.co.uk/documents/contractual-terms/

PIBA is aware that BMIF have previously approved contractual terms devised by COMBAR (https://www.combar.com/about-us/contractual-terms/) which provide for an indemnity for up to £100,000 and it is understood that several chambers have agreed the use of these terms when the issue of contractual indemnities has arisen.

2. Self-employed barristers will normally be data controllers, not data processors; it will not normally be appropriate for self-employed barristers to sign an agreement to be regarded as data processors for work carried out in the normal course of practice; and it may be in conflict with a barrister’s duties under the Code of Conduct.  See:

https://www.barcouncilethics.co.uk/wp-content/uploads/2018/04/Signing-Controller-Processor-Agreements-with-Solicitors-Firms.pdf

And see para 4 of this:  https://www.barcouncilethics.co.uk/wp-content/uploads/2017/10/GDPR-BC-Guide-for-Barristers-and-Chambers-Jan-2021.pdf

An individual’s status in respect of GDPR will be relevant to the obligations which they must meet, and the fines or penalties to which they may be exposed.  It is PIBA’s current understanding that BMIF will not indemnify barristers in respect of anything which is a penalty or a fine.

These are potentially very serious issues, and we strongly encourage all PIBA members, their Heads of Chambers and their clerks to check, and fully understand, the terms on which they are undertaking work.

 

2. Chair’s update

The 25th PIBA AGM took place on 18th March.  The link to the AGM Minutes is here (you will need to be logged in) and they provide a useful update on what PIBA has recently been doing.  Please read them.  And please don’t hesitate to communicate with us directly or through the circuit reps.

 

Message from the Chair - 21 December 2020

Posted by · December 21, 2020 12:27 PM

 

This is not a normal Christmas email or end of term letter, but I do want to bring you up to date with what PIBA has done as 2020 draws to a close and what we will be doing in 2021.

We have not yet completely abandoned hope of keeping our Annual Conference as an in-person event in Oxford, over the weekend of 27th and 28th March 2021, but we are holding lightly to that prospect.  We have a terrific line-up of speakers in place and, if regulations relax significantly and vaccination becomes widespread, I would dearly like to return to holding the event in person.  I’ve missed the weekend of meeting friends, colleagues and opponents, learning together and enjoying each other’s company.  If it can’t happen in person, we will roll out as many of the sessions as possible remotely, as we did this year.

We have had a year of online continuing education seminars of astonishing quality and quantity.  Thanks are due to all our speakers and to those who devoted so many hours behind the scenes to setting them up and running them.  Our Annual Richard Davies Lecture, given in November by Justice Basten, is now available on our web pages in video form, as is the text of his lecture.  We are very grateful to him.  Do look at the PIBA webpage and watch out for emails about our seminars in 2021.

Our most recent seminar was given by Russell Wallman of Queen’s Counsel Appointments, and I hope you will find what he said about the application process helpful.  We continue in dialogue with QCA to help them understand what their standard of excellence looks like, in real terms, in our area of practice.

On that subject, commiserations to those who were unsuccessful in this year’s competition but huge congratulations go to James Arney, Judith Ayling, John Coughlan, Andrew Davis, Emily Formby, Farrah Mauladad, Nick Moss, Rachel Vickers, Paddy Vincent and Angus Withington - all of whom are PIBA members who were successful this year and will take silk in 2021.  Apologies if I have missed out any other PIBA members.

PIBA have tried to work with the Bar Council this year through all the effects of covid and lockdowns.  Derek Sweeting QC, a former member of the PIBA EC, takes up the reins as Chair of the Bar for 2021.  We wish him well and look forward to working closely with him.  High on our agenda for next year will be trying to get the level of fees for FT and similar hearing, which were set years ago, raised for inflation and index-linked going forwards.  Also trying get some recognition of abated brief fees and aborted hearing costs within the fixed fee regime.  And continuing to feed back about what is working well or badly about remote hearings.  And keeping an eye on how extended or flexible operating hours are deployed in response to covid backlogs, while opposing them in principle as a way of working in the future.

PIBA’s Honorary President, Sir Stephen Irwin, has retired from the Court of Appeal this year.  His outstanding career at the Bar and on the Bench came to a fitting end with his ground-breaking judgment in Swift v Carpenter.  We wish him well in his retirement and are grateful that he has agreed, pro tem, to remain our Honorary President.  One of our Honorary Vice-Presidents, Edis J, has been elevated to the Court of Appeal in his place and we wish him every joy and success there.  We are delighted also to see that Siobhan Kelly, a former member of the PIBA EC, has been appointed as a Specialist Civil Judge in Leeds.

PIBA simply wouldn’t work as a Specialist Bar Association without the hours which are put in by EC members and other volunteers, and we are indebted to them all.

I hope you have as good a Christmas and New Year as is possible this year, and look forward to meeting when we can next year.

Kind regards

Steven Snowden QC