The Opening of the Legal year 2017 saw its usual sequence of events in the Red Mass followed by the ceremonial opening at the Supreme Court of Gibraltar followed by the Bar Council lunch at the Sunborn, Gibraltar. Attendance at the events of this year's opening of the Gibraltar Legal Year included a spread of practising and retired local practitioners and judiciary, Gibraltar's Justices of Appeal and the most distinguished guest of Lord Mance of the United Kingdom Supreme Court and Gibraltar's Privy Council.
The ceremonial opening of the legal year included speeches coming from the judiciary, Attorney General and the Chairman of the Bar Council, Mr Keith Azopardi. The Chairman's speech was the last speech to be delivered by a chairperson of the Bar Council as upcoming regulatory changes will cause the Bar Council to be renamed the Law Council. The Chairman's speech turned to a review of his three years as chair and how such a period has aligned with the objectives marked at the commencement of his post.
The effective review acknowledged the cumulative steps that were built upon from the work of the previous chair and council members in the council achieving its present objectives. Developments in the past three years included launching the Bar Council website, quarterly eletronic newsletter for members and a fairly conservative social media presence on Facebook and Twitter.
More considerably, the council has made substantive progress towards the comprehensive overhaul of the regulation of legal services. This has recently culminated by Parliament taking the Legal Services Bill with what will become the Legal Services Act - a matter of legislation that has been in progress for a substantial amount of time. The proposed regulations, among other items, will establish a regulatory authority for the legal profession, introduce categories of legal practitioner, code of conduct and the Bar Council will be renamed the Law Council.
Mr Azopardi then turned to the issue of the changing landscape of litigation in Gibraltar, the non-renewal of a fourth judicial post, and a change to thresholds and eligibility criteria for applicants for legal assistance which will increase the pool of eligible applicants.
The Chairman's speech may be read here.