It is a great privilege for me to have been elected to serve as Treasurer for 2023. In a rapidly changing world, I am sure that this year will bring its own trials and tribulations, but our central purpose will continue to guide us. 2023 will provide the opportunity to celebrate the 400th anniversary of the consecration of the Chapel which occurred on 26 May 1623, and the 100th anniversary of the call to the Bar of the first women members of the Inn, Mercy Ashworth and Mithan Tata.
There are perhaps three specific and connected aspects of our purpose to which I can make a particular contribution.
First, and perhaps most importantly, it is a priority to continue to work hard to enhance the relevance of the Inn to all our members at all levels: students, barristers and benchers alike. Building an increasingly inclusive environment is, I think, one of the main routes towards making the Inn relevant to all its members.
Secondly, and as part of the process of making the Inn relevant and inclusive, we need to demystify aspects of the way we work that are less well understood by students and younger members generally. This will involve taking the time to correct outdated stereotypes.
Thirdly, we can do all these things by building on the Inn’s lengthy and distinguished history – celebrated with the 600th anniversary of the Black Books last year – to ensure that it can realise the hopes and aspirations of the generations of students and young barristers born and brought up in the more diverse communities of the 21st century.
I am sure that Treasurers down the ages have set out to provide a legal community in which aspiring and aspirational people can learn to practice law in an ethical, effective and respectful environment. The only difference now is that our community is more diverse and the society that our justice system serves has probably changed more rapidly in the last 2 or 3 generations than ever before. For that reason, we need to reset the way in which we achieve these objectives. In doing so, we can build, as I have said, on the basic values that go back 600 years.
We have already taken some important steps. Lord David Richards, when he was Treasurer, initiated the Equality, Diversity and Inclusion Committee as a central committee of the Inn. Its advice has been influential in decisions about changes to the Inn’s governance, and in relation to all the major decisions that Council has made. I will continue that approach. In the last year, we have also introduced a new Code of Conduct detailing expected standards of behaviour for all members of the Inn.
This year, following the earlier work of the Governance Working group and decisions by Council, we will take forward updating the Standing Orders which set the framework for the Inn’s governance. This will include establishing a nominations committee to improve the way we make appointments to Inn committees, bringing in new benchers, co-opting members of hall and growing the talent we need to run the Inn as an effective organisation in the modern world.
The welcoming professional community of the Inn is an important aspect of what we do. The coming year will see continuing diversification of Inn events, building on last year’s successes. Of course, the calendar will also feature important traditional opportunities to socialise and share knowledge, such as domus dinners. But even here, there will be some change. Council’s decision last year no longer to use a Christian grace, except after Chapel, marks the importance we place in providing a setting in which all feel welcome.
My hope is that all of us will be able to work together to create an environment in which everyone, from whatever background, feels comfortable and a valued part of the Lincoln’s Inn community. In doing this, I will hope to build on the excellent work of the Immediate Past Treasurer, Jonathan Crow KC, to whom all our thanks are due.
The Rt Hon Sir Geoffrey Vos, Treasurer
Treasurer for 2023 – The Rt Hon Sir Geoffrey Vos
Geoffrey Vos was called to the Bar by Inner Temple in 1977 and joined Lincoln’s Inn ad eundem in 1979. He took up his appointment as Master of the Rolls and Head of Civil Justice in England and Wales in January 2021.
Prior to this role he was Chancellor of the High Court of England and Wales having previously been appointed a Lord Justice of Appeal in 2013 and acted as President of the European Network of Councils for the Judiciary from 2014 to 2016. He was appointed a Justice of the High Court in October 2009. He sat as a judge internationally, in the Courts of Appeal of Jersey and Guernsey (2005-2009), and in the Court of Appeal of the Cayman Islands (2008-2009), having begun his judicial career as a deputy High Court Judge in 1999.
He was the Chairman of the Chancery Bar Association from 1999 to 2001 and of the Bar Council in 2007, having taken Silk in 1993 after a career practising at the Chancery-Commercial Bar, both domestically and internationally. He is an Honorary Fellow of Gonville and Caius College, Cambridge and a Trustee of the Slynn Foundation.