The Midland group set up to support and represent barristers is deciding whether to invite employed lawyers into its ranks for the first time in its history.
Membership of the Midland Circuit is currently restricted to self-employed barristers.
But there have been calls for the organisation to open its ranks to barristers employed by local councils and the CPS, among others.
Of all the circuits in the country only one other – Wales and Chester – still bars employed barristers.
Chief among the voices calling for a change has been Mirza Ahmad, the chief legal officer at Birmingham City Council.
Mr Ahmad said: “The issue is, it’s a matter of fairness – there are no objective reasons as far as I’m concerned. It’s an old man’s thing, the whole old boys’ network and it’s high time the Midlands circuit followed the lead of the other circuits. I think the circuit misses out.”
He e-mailed Gareth Evans, the leader of the Circuit, and a barrister at No 5 Chambers in Birmingham, about his problems with the way the group was set up. But Mr Evans, who succeeded Peter Joyce as leader of the Circuit last year, said the conditions had changed since other circuits decided to allow employed barristers in, and the matter would be decided in the next few months.
Many Circuit members felt employed barristers already had enough access to networking groups, and would not welcome opening up the Midland Circuit, he added. Five of the seven circuits in England and Wales changed the rules to let in employed barristers in 2004 after advice was given that keeping them out would be discriminatory. But this advice was later revised.
Mr Evans said: “The others gave in because of the advice it was discriminatory. The basis for that advice has disappeared and we are taking further advice from the Director of Public Prosecutions. In a couple of months’ time I hope to have better news – all this should resolve when we get advice.”
He said many organisations catered for employed barristers, and many of his members felt they needed one of their own, particularly as they were finding times tough.
He added: “The feeling with some people is ‘well if we are not invited to their organisations why should we let them in?’”