In case you were wondering, The End of Barristers! is not the highly anticipated sequel to The End of Lawyers? (note the question mark) by Richard Susskind. It refers to the existential issues facing barristers in Australia today. As an aside, The End of Lawyers? was first published in 2008 and came after The Future of Law from the same author, published in 1996.
Obviously there are still lawyers and barristers practising today and there are plenty who are thriving. At the same time, no one would argue that technology has not had a big impact on the practice of law since 1996 and even since 2008.
The light summer reading offered to barristers in the summer edition of the NSW Bar News Journal included articles such as: The bar needs to fight for its future; The future of the Bar – a response and a number-crunching article on trends in court filings.
There are serious issues faced by barristers in relation to online courts, competing with solicitors for work and a few other issues as well but it is the trend in court filings which must be the greatest immediate cause for concern. From Bar News(1):
“.. in the New South Wales jurisdiction over the past 13–14 years. Between 2005 and 2018, filings in the New South Wales Supreme Court Equity Division (all lists) trended down by 33.99%”.
“During the same period, filings in the New South Wales Supreme Court Common Law Division – Civil (all lists) decreased by 46.78%”.
“Overall, this is a decrease in civil proceedings commenced across all New South Wales Courts between 2005 and 2018 of 44.84%.”
Federal Court filings are up but do not make a material difference to the overall trend.
Is it the end of barristers? (question mark) or is it the end of barristers! (exclamation mark)?
(1) Quotes from Bar News (summer 2019/20) page 34