Bar Council calls review amid industry shake-up

The Bar Council, the body that represents the interests of barristers, is reviewing its public affairs and media relations account as the legal profession braces itself for radical reforms.

The Legal Services Bill, which is currently going through Parliament, proposes to set up an independent super-regulator called the Legal Services Board. This will increase supervision of lawyers and create structures for handling consumer complaints. The bill will also allow firms outside the profession to offer legal services.

Weber Shandwick has held The Bar Council's PA and PR account since 1998. It is led by WS chairman of public affairs Jon McLeod, who has represented the organisation since 1994, having also managed the account at his previous employer Westminster Strategy. WS corporate and public affairs MD Michael Prescott and senior vice-chairman David Yelland also advise on the profession's image.

The Legal Services Bill is expected to be passed this autumn. However, Bar Council chairman Stephen Hockman has warned against ‘day-to-day interference' by the new board in the council's work. There are also concerns, shared by sister body The Law Society, that moves towards liberalisation will lower overall standards of service.

As well as tackling current concerns, the brief is understood to include CSR work around The Bar's pro bono activity and the handling of human rights issues.

‘We haven't reviewed our PR arrangements for five years, and it is good housekeeping to do so,' said a Bar Council spokesman. ‘The fact we are undertaking the exercise does not indicate dissatisfaction with Weber Shandwick. It is simply good practice to test the market.'

Founded in 1894, The Bar Council is concerned with all matters relating to the profession, be it trade union, disciplinary, public interest or anything that affects the administration of justice.

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