UK barristers call upon government to address climate crisis News
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UK barristers call upon government to address climate crisis

Over 100 barristers Thursday signed a declaration calling upon the UK government and colleagues to address the causes and consequences of the climate crises and to advance a just transition to sustainability, posing concerns over how serious governments around the world are taking the climate emergency. A statement from the group, called Lawyers Are Responsible, referred to the “potential conflict” of offering their services “between what individual barristers’ consciences tell them is the right course of action and the rules of their profession.”

While UK solicitors are free to choose their clients and cases, barristers are governed by the “cab rank rule.” That rule requires barristers accept work in any area they practice in. Additionally, barristers are not permitted to withhold their services, even if they feel that the nature of the case is objectionable to them or the public. According to Lawyers Are Responsible, this creates a potential conflict between individual barrister’s consciences and the rules of their profession.

The group said:

The signatories to the declaration are convinced that at the present time offering their services in support of new fossil fuel projects or action against peaceful climate protesters would not serve the greater good. At present, our laws cause climate injustice and set society on a course with consequences so dire that they ultimately threaten the Rule of Law itself….There is an important discussion to be had about the role of the legal profession at a time when the IPCC has delivered a “final warning” on the climate crisis.

The letter comes in light of comments made on Wednesday by Chair of the Bar Council Nick Vineall KC. In his comments, Vineall suggested that practicing barrister should not voice their victories online, stating that this risked compromising the bar’s independence, creating a public perception of bias or over support for a cause. Since the initial comments, Vineall released a statement which lauded the cab rank rule as a way to promote access to justice and the rule of law. Vineall said, “It is disappointing that some lawyers apparently wish to remove these rights from people of whom they disapprove.”