In the news: Matthias Kelly

January 17, 2003

As the second of eight children, Matthias Kelly QC, the new chairman of the Bar Council, seems to have learnt early on to come out fighting.

His inaugural speech as chairman pulls no punches. "Top-up fees for students have had a bad press over recent weeks and, in my book, rightly so," he said. "With them, students from less well-off backgrounds will be priced out of the top universities, and social discrimination will be built into university education from an early stage."

He is clear that the council must do more to enable talented students from all backgrounds to get on the legal ladder. "On the subject of law degrees, we are actively working with the Law Society to agree proposals for strengthening the academic stage of training, making it more robust from the twin perspectives of quality and diversity."

Last year, the Bar Council rejected proposals from Sir Robin Mountfield that would have seen a levy on wealthy chambers to help students through training. Mr Kelly returned to the issue with some force. "I am delighted to say that the director of public prosecutions, Sir David Calvert-Smith QC, has agreed to lead next year's inquiry into this issue, and the pursuit of a solution that commands the confidence of the majority of the Bar," he said. "The status quo is not an option. Pulling up the drawbridge on the next generation is unacceptable."

Mr Kelly was educated at St Patrick's Intermediate School and St Patrick's Academy in County Tyrone, Northern Ireland, before going on to Trinity College Dublin. At Trinity, he was taught by Ireland's former president Mary Robinson and its current president, Mary McAleese.

He specialises in personal injury and professional negligence, and was founder of the Personal Injury Bar Association of England and Wales.

"I feel a plain and honest pride in being asked to lead our profession at this time," he said.

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