World Bar Conference drawing near

19 Feb


Final preparations are being put in place for the “homecoming” of the World Bar Conference, one of the major events of the international legal calendar.

The first biennial conference of the International Council of Advocates and Barristers (ICAB) was hosted by the Faculty in 2002, and it has travelled to venues around the world before returning to Edinburgh this spring.

Up to 200 delegates will have three days of stimulating discussion with a star-studded panel of speakers and the chance to socialise, in some of the Capital’s finest locations.

James Wolffe, QC, Dean of Faculty, said: “I am delighted that the World Bar Conference is returning to Scotland and that the Faculty will be welcoming colleagues from around the world. It will be a great opportunity to consider matters of common interest and mutual concern, and to re-affirm the principles of The Edinburgh Declaration which was issued at the first conference in 2002.”

ICAB is the collective organisation of independent referral bars, and its members are the bars of Scotland, England and Wales, Northern Ireland, Ireland, Australia, New Zealand, Hong Kong, South Africa, Namibia and Zimbabwe.


The aim is for the Conference to be as memorable as the 2002 event, which produced The Edinburgh Declaration, ICAB’s founding document.

Lord Malcolm (Colin Campbell, QC) was Dean of Faculty at the time and he recalls: “This was the first time that members of all the independent referral bars had gathered together in the one place at the one time.

“A particular highlight was an emotional address by Anthony Gubbay, the former Chief Justice of Zimbabwe. Along with a contribution from the President of the Law Society of Zimbabwe (who had recently spent a period in prison), it prompted the conference to approve a series of resolutions defending the independence of the courts and the legal profession across the world, and committing the bars to the protection of human rights and the enhancement of pro bono legal services for the poor and the vulnerable.

“The Edinburgh Declaration was a fitting tangible outcome to a memorable three days.”


The theme of the 2016 Conference, from 14 to 16 April, is The Independent Referral Bar: Retrospective and Prospective, examining challenges faced by bars since ICAB’s foundation in 2002 and how those have been tackled, and the challenges ahead.

The programme is bookended by speeches by the Lord President of the Court of Session, Lord Carloway, and the President of the UK Supreme Court, Lord Neuberger. The subjects to be covered in the programme include the Rule of Law, confidentiality and surveillance, core professional values, technological change, and gender and diversity issues.

Most of the sessions will be in the Royal Museum of Scotland, but the Scottish Parliament’s debating chamber will provide another venue. Drinks receptions are to be held in Parliament House and Edinburgh Castle’s Great Hall, while the Scottish National Gallery will host a gala dinner.

A Conference website is at

Anna Poole, QC, has chaired the Conference’s organising committee, and she said: “An international conference like this is important because it keeps independent referral bars from around the world in touch with each other.  Over time, more and more countries fuse their legal profession. The referral bars which remain have in common many challenges and opportunities, and are strengthened by sharing their experiences.

“We’ve been working on putting together the 2016 Conference since January 2015, and I’m delighted by how it has come together.  I can’t think of any other 3-day legal conference taking place in such spectacular venues.  We have been honoured by the calibre of speakers agreeing to present.  Throughout, we’ve been enormously encouraged by the level of support we’ve experienced including from the Lord Advocate, Lord President, Presiding Officer of the Scottish Parliament, and the Scottish Government.”