‘An incredibly exciting journey’: Bar Council’s international policy head steps down

Christian Wisskirchen is taking a sabbatical after 20 years advising on international affairs

Christian Wisskirchen, the long-serving Anglo-German head of international at the Bar Council of England and Wales, has left to take a sabbatical after 20 years in post. 

It is understood the Bar Council will recruit a replacement over the summer, taking specialist advice as to how to fill a role which Wisskirchen had made his own in a period which has spanned the global financial crisis, Brexit, the Covid-19 pandemic, Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, conflict in Iraq, Syria and Afghanistan, and 14 successive Lord Chancellors, from Lord Irvine of Lairg KC to Alex Chalk KC MP.

Wisskirchen joined the Bar from the Law Society of England and Wales in 2003, where he had spent 11 years. 

While Brexit is likely to have been a source of personal regret, it was a particular highlight of his tenure. The Bar Council’s international committee, which he advised, played a prominent role in briefing parliamentarians, particularly in the House of Lords, and lobbying the government and opposition. This included during the passage of highly contested legislation, including the Retained EU Law Bill. 

International committee chair Essex Court Chambers’ Hugh Mercer KC said Wisskirchen had been “incredible in his commitment”. Former committee chairs he worked with closely include Chantal-Aimee Doerries KC, of Atkin Chambers, and 33 Chancery Lane’s Amanda Pinto KC, both of whom became chairs of the Bar Council.

The committee secured a recent milestone with the announcement of a memorandum of understanding between the Bar Council of India and its London counterparts, which was well received by many commercial lawyers

Wisskirchen wrote on LinkedIn he had decided to leave for personal reasons, adding that the two decades he had spent developing international relations for the profession and ‘UK Legal plc’ had been “an incredibly exciting journey”.

He added: “I have learnt much about developing policies in relation to international legal practice, defending and developing the core values of the legal profession, international trade negotiations, international business development for the profession and the jurisdiction as a whole – among many other skills.”

Bar Council chair Nick Vineall KC said: “We are enormously grateful to Christian for his 20 years of service. In that time Christian has built strong relationships with bar associations and judiciaries around the world to uphold and promote the rule of law, promote common law and cement the position of English and Welsh law. 

“Through his work with our international committee, he has helped to open up new legal markets for our members and supported capacity building in numerous countries.”

David Barnes, CEO of Atkin Chambers, a former chair of the Institute of Barristers Clerks (IBC), led the tributes from the clerking fraternity. He said Wisskirchen had been “hugely supportive”, not least during Barnes’ own time on the international committee and as chair of the IBC.

Other tributes included praise from the UK Ministry of Justice, and from past presidents of the Law Society, the Commonwealth Lawyers Association and the International Bar Association. 

Email your news and story ideas to: [email protected]