The Rt Hon Lord Briggs of Westbourne shares a welcome message and outlines the hopes and challenges for 2024 at the Inn.
Welcome back to Lincoln’s Inn in 2024!
I am privileged and delighted to have been elected Treasurer for this year, an office in which I can serve an institution which has supported me for fifty years, as it has innumerable members for over six centuries.
While many things have changed since the Inn was established, our standing as an honourable society is a constant, reflecting our commitment to truth, to the rule of law and to access to justice. Importantly, this encompasses commitment to a culture of equality, diversity and inclusion, of respectful listening, learning and support. As our Treasurer over the last year, Sir Geoffrey Vos MR has embodied this commitment. His clear-sightedness, selfless energy and good humour provide a shining example of giving something back and a challenge for me to follow.
And he has not been alone. The desire of members to give something back lies at the heart of the Inn’s work. Our impressive educational provision is only possible because many of you give your time, experience and skill free of charge, year after year, often at personal inconvenience. Others contribute through involvement in governance, scholarship selection, and in representing the Inn externally.
Over the last several years we have achieved much of which we can be proud. It is tempting to think that we might have earned ourselves just a little pause to consolidate. But if we are to thrive we need to respond to the new challenges of a world which continues to change rapidly.
Two challenges loom large as I start my year as Treasurer. The first is financial. We have grown accustomed to thinking that the Inn can comfortably afford its whole range of activities. Unfortunately we face the same economic pressures as many others, with our costs increasing faster than our income. While rents have risen and new ways of working have not affected the demand for our office space to the extent that we feared, the need to refurbish major units has required capital expenditure and depressed our rent receipts. This will continue for a little longer. Meanwhile significant further work is needed to keep our beautiful old buildings in good repair. While our reserves are strong and our mid-term financial forecasts look good, living within our means for the next couple of years may involve a bit of culture change, for all of us.
The second challenge which may demand our attention is the long-standing and cyclical concern among the Bar Council, regulators and the Inns about whether call to the Bar is appropriately timed at the end of the Bar course, before the essential qualifying stage of pupillage.
This is a complicated question, requiring many factors to be weighed in the balance. The last year has seen renewed debate, stimulated by the Bar Council and the cycle of discussion may be coming to a head again. Any change would require careful working through of detail and wide consultation. Your Council has so far recognised that there is a case for considering change and has supported further evidence gathering and discussion. None of that has committed us to any position for or against change. If the time comes when we need to reach a considered view, I am sure that, however potentially divisive that may be, we will bring to bear the qualities of respectful collegiality and reflective listening which have served us so well in the past.
Meanwhile let us continue to enjoy each other’s society, making full use of our extraordinary facilities, and each giving something back in grateful thanks for all that we receive and value as members of Lincoln’s Inn.
Happy New Year to you all.
The Rt Hon Lord Briggs of Westbourne
Lord Briggs practised in commercial and chancery work before being appointed to the High Court in 2006. He had been the Attorney General to the Duchy of Lancaster from 2000 until 2005. He was the judge in charge of the extensive Lehman insolvency litigation from 2009 to 2013. He was appointed as a Lord Justice of Appeal in 2013. While there he carried out the Chancery Modernisation Review. In January 2016 he was appointed Deputy Head of Civil Justice and undertook the Civil Courts Structure review. He became a Justice of The Supreme Court in October 2017.
He was elected a Bencher in 2001. He serves as Chair of the Planning and Development Group. He previously served as Chair of the Chapel Committee and as a member of the Finance and General Purposes Committee, the Advisory (Benchers) Committee and the Rent Executive Committee.
On 11 January 2024 he became the 517th Treasurer of The Honourable Society of Lincoln’s Inn.