Dean of Faculty stresses vital role of bars as World Bar Conference 2016 opens

Leaders of nine bars from four continents at a reception in Parliament Hall. Photo Credit: Phoebe Grigor.

The Dean of the Faculty of Advocates, James Wolffe QC, has spoken of differences in bars from around the world, but stressed the vital role they all share in underwriting the rule of law.

In welcoming remarks at the World Bar Conference 2016, hosted by the Faculty in Edinburgh, Mr Wolffe said the member bars of the International Council of Advocates and Barristers (ICAB) came from four continents.

“We come from jurisdictions in the common law tradition and from jurisdictions, like my own, with a Civilian legal heritage. We vary in our institutional and regulatory arrangements as well as in our size. And we come from societies which differ greatly in their economic situation and in their constitutional structures,” he stated.

“Despite these differences, we are bound together by shared professional commitments – to the administration of justice and the rule of law, to independence, to professional excellence and professional integrity, and to the promotion of access to justice for all in our diverse societies.

“And we are also bound together by a shared tradition, which affirms the role of the skilled and independent advocate in securing justice, in underpinning the constitutional function of the judiciary, and in promoting the rights and freedoms under the law of all those who need that protection.”

Mr Wolffe said there had been challenges from various quarters, such as technological development and economic pressures, since the first ICAB conference in Edinburgh in 2002, and those would be examined during this year’s event.

He continued: “But we will also look forward, and I believe firmly that we should do so, confident in the importance of the work that we do, both as individual practitioners and collectively, and confident also in the enduring necessity of the professional commitments which we share.

“For those commitments underwrite the rule of law – which is both the framework for economic wellbeing and a necessary condition of a just society.”

Meanwhile, Roy Martin QC, a former Dean of Faculty and chair of the event said it was a particular pleasure to welcome back to Edinburgh so many of those who had attended in 2002.

“One of the principal reasons for the holding of these conferences, and the creation of ICAB, was to allow the independent referral bars of all of the jurisdictions in which there is a divided profession to promote the rule of law, the interests of justice, human rights and the independence of the judiciary, and to address the threats to these which exist throughout the world,” Mr Martin told delegates at the National Museum of Scotland.

“But these conferences are not just about the serious topics of the law and justice. They are an opportunity for those of us at the bar to renew old friendships and to make new ones…I know how valuable the existence and the fostering of such relationships can be not just for personal enjoyment but also for the advancement of our profession in each jurisdiction.”

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