President's Message


Assisting the junior Bar

There is no doubt that the effects of the COVID-19 pandemic on the operations of the courts and the profession generally have had a specific negative impact upon practice at the Bar, and the junior Bar in particular.

Readers and very junior barristers have not only been deprived of work opportunities in the courts over the pandemic period, but in many cases have been denied meaningful contact with floor colleagues due to public health restrictions and remote working arrangements. The lack of the usual collegial contact with their floors means that in many cases the guidance and experience provided to juniors by their more senior colleagues has not been available to them.

Similarly, over the pandemic period the loss of the usual opportunities for very junior counsel to hone their skills in court has adversely affected their practices in particular.

I am aware from discussions with Heads of Chambers that they are already doing much in this respect, however I do strongly encourage them and other more senior floor members to consider the position of the junior Bar and to take steps to assist them in this difficult period.

There are a number of positive actions that more senior barristers can take in this regard.

On a direct and personal level, Heads of Chambers, silks and senior juniors can assist by proactively opening and maintaining lines of communication with junior floor members by phone, email or other remote technologies to enable the type of collegial interaction that takes place between floor members in more usual circumstances.

Floors can foster the development of junior members during the current period by hosting regular social chambers events using remote technologies, providing juniors an opportunity to interact with more senior floor colleagues. Silks and senior juniors should also consider opportunities to present Bar Association online CPDs with junior members of the Bar.

Chambers and senior members of chambers can also assist by considering the provision of work to juniors wherever possible, whether that be devilling work or more substantive small briefs and recommending suitable junior members of their floor in matters outside the more senior barrister's area of practice or for more minor briefs. Members of the very junior Bar provide excellent value to cost-conscious clients in times like these.

More senior barristers can also assist by reminding solicitors that in terms of value, briefing two counsel can be cost effective if done properly, and should not only be considered as being suitable for very large matters.

Finally, as we return to hearings and other appearances in person, it is worth remembering the importance of bringing readers and other junior counsel to court to provide them with first-hand experience of hearings.

Returning to Chambers

As you will be aware the courts are beginning to recommence in-person appearances in certain matters and with that more members will begin to return to Chambers.

The Association’s Protocol for In-Person Hearings while Social Distancing is designed to apply to all in-person hearings and provides useful guidance for appearances in Courts and Tribunals generally while social distancing restrictions continue or risks to health otherwise persist, subject of course to the particular directions applying in those Courts and Tribunals. The Supreme Court and District Court have also produced comparable documents which members should familiarise themselves with.

Public Health Orders currently in place provide that individuals must be allowed to work from home for the time being if it is practicable to do so. The Bar is not exempt from this requirement. In the interests of public health and safety I would ask members and chambers staff to work from home when they can.

Similarly, I would urge you to remain home if you have respiratory or flu-like symptoms consistent with COVID-19. In addition to the requirements of public health orders in this regard, the relevant Court Protocols and the Association’s In-Person Protocol are very clear on this point.

Details about symptoms and testing can be found on the NSW Health website at

I appreciate that these measures may cause some disruption to our practices, to hearings and some occasional inconvenience to colleagues and clients. Although such problems can be minimised through the use of remote technologies, phone conferences and the like, it is important to recognise that any disruption would ultimately be far worse if members who are ill attend court in person, with the potential for the postponement of proceedings and of course the further spread of COVID-19 in the community.

If members in these circumstances experience any difficulties in court in this regard, they should feel free to report them to the Association.

Similarly, if any members have concerns that in-person hearing arrangements at courts or tribunals present a danger to their health and safety they should bring them to the attention of the court or tribunal involved.

COVID-19 - Information for Attending Court

The New South Wales Bar Association’s consolidated guide to COVID-19-related court arrangements has again been updated in terms of recent developments, and includes today’s Chief Magistrate’s Memorandum No 12 - COVID-19 Arrangements, dealing with re-listing of non-custody defended hearings in domestic violence related matters, general matters where hearings have been abandoned at country locations, arrangements applicable to larger court complexes and future listing arrangements.

Members are advised that, although the Bar Association is regularly updating the COVID-19 page of its website as information comes to hand, they should refer to the latest court resources directly as circumstances are changing quickly at this time. Do not make any assumptions regarding your case without first doing so. Links to the various court and tribunal pages are provided in the body of the guide.

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