Young barristers hear from solicitors, judges and senior counsel at conference

Over 100 young members of The Bar of Northern Ireland gathered at the Inn of Court for the Young Bar Association’s (YBA) annual conference, themed around “Delivering Excellence at the Young Bar”.

The event featured three panel discussions focusing on how junior counsel can enhance their engagement with solicitors, judges and senior counsel in the course of their own practice.

Young Bar members heard from solicitors, including Paul Dougan, Sinead Larkin, Kathy McGillie, Aoife McShane and Gareth Walls, who highlighted the competitive marketplace in Northern Ireland which means that clients always demand an exceptional service.

They told members that solicitors place a high degree of reliance on counsel - being responsive, communicating clearly, tailoring concise arguments and keeping up-to-date paperwork are vital in all cases.

Mr Justice McCloskey, Master Hardstaff, District Judge Brownlie and Presiding District Judge Bagnall stressed the importance of young practitioners familiarising themselves with the Bar’s Code of Conduct and any relevant Practice Directions.

They spoke of the need for junior counsel to prepare beforehand by way of a succinct and focused trial bundle whilst clearly identifying the facts and key issues when appearing before any judge.

The judges also emphasised the importance of lodging all paperwork within the correct time limits, reminding junior counsel to always make efficient use of the court’s time and to communicate with the opposing solicitor/counsel as appropriate.

The final panel, Monye Anyadike-Danes QC, Niall Hunt QC, Gregory McGuigan QC, Mark Mulholland QC and Moira Smyth QC, acknowledged that working with senior counsel can be demanding but that it also provides a rewarding learning experience for junior members.

They encouraged junior counsel to contribute fully to any case which they are working on with a QC, observing that ideas, opinions and opposing thoughts are to be welcomed. The QCs concluded that junior counsel must ensure that they know cases “inside and out”, stressing that they require a collaborative team effort.

Bobbie-Leigh Herdman BL, chair of the Young Bar Association, commented: “This year’s YBA conference was a fantastic opportunity for junior counsel to learn from our colleagues right across the court system, including senior counsel and judges in the High Court, Magistrates’ Court and County Court.

“It was particularly good to have insight from our solicitor colleagues who represent the source of all of our work. I have no doubt that attendees will have picked up some useful tips for developing their own practices and the Young Bar Association will continue to engage with court actors at all levels to ensure that our members can benefit from new networks and learning experiences.”