New chair of Bar council notes changing environment for barristers

Kilkenny native Sara Phelan ‘looking forward to driving innovation, diversity and promotion of the profession’ during two-year term

The new chair of the Bar council has described a recently published independent review of the barrister profession as “a call to adapt and respond to a changing environment”.

Sara Phelan SC was elected on Wednesday as the next chair of the Council of the Bar of Ireland, to lead the organisation from September for a two-year term.

A native of Kilkenny, Ms Phelan was called to the Bar in 1996 and was made senior counsel in 2013. Before being called to the Bar, she had qualified and practised as a pharmacist.

She defeated two colleagues, Seamus Clarke SC and Seán Ó hUallacháin SC, in the election for the position of chair.

In a statement following her election, Ms Phelan said the profession “stands at an inflection point in respect of reasserting the importance of the independent referral Bar and its role in providing access to justice, advancing a human rights approach, and to the rule of law”.

“This is a message that I hope to drive forward across the legal sector, and with our stakeholders.”

The recently published report by consultants EY, commissioned by the Bar to address the future landscape for barrister services, is a call to the profession “to adapt and respond to a changing environment, while holding true to our values and commitment to justice”, she said.

“I look forward to driving innovation, diversity and promotion of the profession in my term ahead. Vital aspects of integrity, training and the regulation of our profession should give confidence to the public and others of our unique value. In addition, they should be developed in continuing to attract and retain the talent and expertise that equips the Bar to thrive into the future,” she added.

Ms Phelan also paid tribute to the outgoing chair of the council, Maura McNally SC.

Mary Carolan

Mary Carolan

Mary Carolan is the Legal Affairs Correspondent of the Irish Times