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What Next?

Some time over the next week or so, Chris Grayling is likely to publish his preferred course following the consultation to ‘transform legal aid’. In all likelihood his transforming will be similar to how a tsunami transforms a beach or the financial crisis transforms an economy. There can be few indeed who do not believe that his ‘transformation’ will do other than savagely restrict and cut legal aid whilst at the same time driving hundreds of firms of solicitors out of business. During the last year there has been a plethora of comments, articles, press pieces and blogs as to the effects of the cuts, if introduced. There have been meetings, rallies and a half day of action at which speakers have warned of the dangers of the reforms and it seems, all to no avail.

The question we may need to urgently face is “What next”. Is there a form of action which should be undertaken at this 11th hour to stop the reforms being implemented? Can simple engagement succeed now in the face of an obdurate careerist politician, where hitherto it has failed? Is there some form of protest which may yet head these reforms off at the pass?

The CBA is an organisation ran by criminal barristers on behalf of its membership, the criminal bar. It is not a dictatorship but a democracy where its elected representatives do their best to give effect to the wishes of its membership. At around 5000 members, all highly skilled in advocacy and persuasion, with bright minds and clear thinkers it has a wealth of talent at its disposal. Notwithstanding this, there is a danger that some of those viewpoints are not being heard.

The CBA has thus far adopted and implemented a step by step strategy to defeat these cuts. It is a proportionate strategy based on logic, grounded in principle. Notwithstanding this, every day in robing rooms, I hear that the action proposed thus far is either too timid and by others, too militant. That the action will not work, cannot work and some other alternative course should be pursued. In 12 months time it is likely that we will face a changed legal landscape. It would be a travesty if we reached that point without your viewpoint having been heard.

Should any member of the criminal bar wish to make their viewpoint known, not as to whether or not cuts should be introduced but as to the best strategic manner to defeat them, then they can email me at criminalbarassociation@gmail.com with the subject “What Next”. Each email will be read, considered and the viewpoints put forward to the executive. If you do not mind them being published, state within the email and they can be printed in this blog. The email can be long, or short, as you wish.

The question is “What next?” You have this opportunity to be heard. I implore you to use it.


42 thoughts on “What Next?

  1. No they won’t because, in stark contrast to every other form of action, this will gain traction immediately. The very junior bar are our greatest concern. Grayling thinks he can “starve” us out. He can adapt to strikes by having his employees adjust lists, timings, etc in the hope that morale slips quickly. In Nottingham we estimate the system will fail somewhere between three and five days. Other areas, where the dynamic is different, may take a little longer but not much.

    • Really don’t agree with the comment that the no returns policy will gain traction faster than any other action, Michael. A complete down tools gains traction quicker than anything else. Every court room stops on the first day, not after three or five days, and every counsel is standing and suffering together.
      I accept that part of the fight is to protect the most junior members, but there are some who feel that they are taking the hit whereas the seniors will be earning.

  2. I have had the privilege of appearing in cases both with and against some of the eloquent contributors to this discussion and, like Christopher Grayling, they are manifestly people of intellect and ability. It might be counterintuitive to recognise The Lord Chancellor as such because, from our perspective, many of his proposals appear grounded in ruthless self-advancement and dangerous political posturing. It is worth remembering that David Davies said of the First Consultation that it reeked of “something distinctly Soviet,” and he is not someone usually given to hyperbole. However, I have met Grayling several times and he is a clever man who has swiftly and thoroughly mastered a brief on an unfamiliar subject, albeit only insofar as his perspective and interests are concerned. He will be at his most dangerous when cornered and the MoJ has never been as mired in crisis as it is right now.

    I have unparalleled respect for the proud and noble history of our profession, surely the last true vocation? When I read Nigel Pascoe QC’s cautionary words I afford them the respect of which they are deserving as I do those of Simon Myerson QC who speaks in similar terms. These are people one simply cannot dismiss, not merely lightly, at all – ever.

    However, as a simple working class lad who lived through the Miner’s Strike at far too close a quarter, I confess to being possessed of a hair trigger temper when faced with such wretched perfidy and mendacity. Thus, when Mark George QC spoke so passionately at Lincoln’s Inn, it would, I confess, have taken little for me to join him in storming Petty France there and then.

    My point is that This is no time for weakness but one person’s weakness can be another’s tactical stance. Fight we must but when, how and with what to fight are matters requiring careful thought.Instinctive, well-intentioned action based exclusively on emotion rather than the cold, dissapassionate assessment of the situation we urge on clients and juries could so easily lead to our Waterloo rather than our salvation.

    If I thought striking was a useful tool I’d not hesitate to urge it but it is riven with problems, among which are:

    1. The Attorney-General will, at some stage, order the DPP, who will order the CCPs, who will order the Heads of Unit to stop the “light touch” and play, as our American cousins would say, Hard Ball.

    2. The BSB, who I gather may be, no doubt at Grayling’s insistence, about to alter the status of the PDS to make them analogous to a set of chambers rather than a firm of solicitors, thus permitting them to field multiple advocates in a case, are wringing their hands in glee, whilst simultaneously feigning concern, about the prospect of prosecuting so many barristers for breaching their Code of Conduct. A byproduct of this will thankfully to put beyond doubt, if in truth any ever existed, the notion that QASA is anything other than a sham designed to provide a veneer of competence and respectability to those largely bereft of either but desperate enough to be willing to work for next to nothing.

    3. Whilst I don’t personally regard public opinion as a primary concern, it doesn’t take much to imagine the outcry once alleged Rape victims or the families of people that have been killed find their cases affected by our actions. Grayling will use his chums in the press to keep such stories prominent in much the same way, I don’t doubt, he has help keep his friend, George Osbourne’s lurid shenanigans out of the limelight. We vaunt the ideal of a free press but people seldom mention needing an honest or responsible press with quite the same fervour.

    There are many other disadvantages to striking that broadly come down to there being only limited capacity to enhance our case and every opportunity to diminish it.

    In contrast, the “No Returns” policy is, as Obi-Wan Kenobi once said, “An elegant weapon with a more sophisticated purpose.” In short:

    1. In conjunction with a refusal to undertake work at the insulting, derisory and utterly inadequate rates proposed, it will bring the system to a standstill within days. The problem with simply refusing work at these rates is that it takes a little time to “bite.” In conjunction, the effect will actually be felt well in advance of the 10th March. This is, after all, the “Free Market Economy” so lauded by the Conservative Party operating as it should. Grayling should embrace it as a close friend.

    2. No one is at risk of prosecution by the BSB. What we are doing is simply withdrawing the goodwill that this shower has taken for granted.

    3. We are then not doing anything to harm the interests of victims or defendants. Their distress and discomfiture is entirely the responsibility of Grayling.

    It doesn’t take a lot of imagination to contemplate the kind of action that might follow either. The MoJ, most recently Simon Hughes MP, is critical of our “business structure” by which I assume they mean chambers. This is an example of how taking lessons from people who don’t have the faintest idea what they’re talking about is never good for the blood pressure. Bar Clerks are as much a facility from which the MoJ derives substantial benefit as they are to the barristers themselves. What would happen if we withdrew that facility.

    So where do we go from here?

    1. The time for talking is over and we must now decline any further meetings until the MoJ reverses their proposed cuts.

    2. Every barrister refuses to do work at reduced rates and adheres strictly to the “No Returns” policy bringing the system to its knees.

    3. The bar withdraws its support for the Magna Carta celebrations planned for February 2015 and makes it plain to other countries precisely what damage is being done to undermine that noble heritage.

    We need action. We need strong action. We need immediate action. However, above all, we need smart action.

    Michael Auty QC

    • All well and good, Michael, but during that time of no returns the very junior Bar, who rely on returns, will suffer more than you, Simon or Ian in your lengthy fixtures.

  3. So what are we striking about ? Fees. Defence fees, to be precise. Fees that many people think are unacceptably low and are not prepared to work for.

    But I don’t get it.

    Graything’s Scheme ‘B’ in his paper is exactly the same as the CPS fee scheme. That would be the fee scheme negotiated and agreed by CBA with the CPS. That would be the fee scheme that I and thousands others are remunerated on every day.

    I don’t recall the Bar coming out on strike when CPS Scheme C was introduced.

    So why are these fees fine to prosecute but totally unacceptable to defend ?

    Just a thought before I put my mortgage on the line.

    • Dear Woodtrees,

      Three points in reply. First, neither the CBA nor the Bar Council agreed scheme C with the CPS. They pretty much declared that it was going to happen, and did it.

      Second. Remember that in the CPS scheme, unlike the defence regime, there is a separate fee for all ancillary hearings, so, to an extent, you’re comparing apples with pears.

      Third, whether the CPS scheme had been agreed or not, it is a fact that either of the schemes in the September consultation represents a pay cut for barristers, and two wrongs don’t make a right, so I’m perfectly entitled to draw a line in the sand now and say that this is a pay cut too far.

      Ian West.

  4. I’m a partner in a small crime only practice in a small town. We do not have an HCA so all our briefs go to the independent bar who are on average better than the HCAs. Unfortunately we rely on duty work as do all the practices in our area. We will not get a duty contract though. The bigger practices in the bigger towns will. We will close and I and my colleagues careers may be over. Those that win the duty contracts will already have their HCAs so the bar will like us be decimated. There is no solution and striking may be fruitless but what is left. Doing nothing is not an option.

  5. Ian,

    The fee is a price for the case. It isn’t a price for the case as a series of 10 hour – 16 hour days. Nothing in the fee compels anyone to work longer than the working day the government decrees to be the norm.

    I have made the same point to Richard – the reply to whom is both on my blog and here. You read into my proposal the proposition that we appear in court instead of preparing for court. I don’t know why: it isn’t a part of what I suggest at all. Of course we prepare. We use an 8 hour day to do the case properly. That is why it lasts for longer (and we get less money for doing it) and why the system will simply stop. Whilst we are preparing the Court is not sitting. Juries are waiting. Witnesses are at home. Judges can do pleas if the listing can be arranged but probably won’t be able to, because the barrister involved in those cases will be preparing. Cases will not be listed quickly, because the time taken for big cases to be prepared will vastly increase and because the system will quickly logjam.

    The public will be presented with all this – a particular feature being a series of CTL cases where people are being released because we are not being paid properly. Grayling may have to legislate to change the CTL period – thereby embarrassing the government further. It will be an issue around which people unite against him, not us.

    I agree that we are not obliged to accept work under the new scheme. We can become voluntarily unemployed if we wish. But that is what it will be. It won’t be a strike, so much as the retirement of a large number of advocates. Their fees will be on offer to large firms of solicitors, who will promptly employ the people who don’t get pupillage, thereby ending any ring fencing of advocacy fees – forever. The public will be ill-served but Grayling – as we agree – won’t give a tuppenny toss.

    That’s why I think your analysis of the strike is more wishful thinking. The miners’ strike wasn’t about coal from Poland but about beating Scargill. Grayling’s position will be the same. He will do what it takes.

    He doesn’t have to hold out for very long Ian – why not ask everyone arguing for a strike how long they could live on no money? I’ve got 4 kids and a mortgage which is less than 50% of my home. I’ve got about some savings and some assets I could sell. Mrs M works. I reckon we could last about 3 months if we cancelled all holidays, didn’t go out and didn’t buy any new clothes or a new car. After that I could try and negotiate a further mortgage, but I may not want to because it would mean that, for the next 25 years (until I’m 76) I work for the bank not myself. And I know I am one of the lucky ones. For most of us it will be about a month before people come and take the car you need to work. Then when your kids need new clothes because they’ve grown out of their old ones, the answer will be no. The young single people may survive a bit longer.

    I reckon Grayling can survive a month without even bothering. Cases will be listed which will be done by others. There will be a lot of shouting to be done before anyone starts demanding action. And the strike won’t be solid even at the beginning. As it goes on people will go back to work. It sounds great, but I am trying to address the grimy reality – which is that it won’t work. The stakes are ridiculously high – it is a one time gamble which will probably fail. And when it does we will have nothing to negotiate with at all.


    I don’t understand the argument.

    Where are the professional conduct issues? The issue is how long a case takes. The work will be done to an appropriate professional standard. It will simply not be done as quickly. By taking the case – as I said above – you area accepting the fee is proper. What you are not accepting is that the fee is proper for a series of 10 hour days. There is nothing in the fee that compels you to work longer hours than the Government accepts makes up a working day.

    You contrast the “whole job” with “an 8 hour day”. Those 2 things are not a contradiction. That is why I said we would be paid less whilst this went on. Less because the fees will be reduced and less because the same fee will be spread over a longer period. But it will still be money you can use to put food on the table. And the system will grind to a halt very quickly.

    Nor would cases be badly prepared. I am advocating precisely the opposite. We do the work required. We simply don’t do it for longer than 8 hours a day. If the case needs a skeleton argument the Judge can’t sit until it is ready. If the Judge says he doesn’t need a skeleton (unlikely) then we say that the research will be done from 9am and we need 4 hours.

    The proposition that the Court will not proceed with the case in your absence has got to be wrong. The VHCC trial going ahead at Southwark shows that Judges will carry on with cases without counsel. They are obliged to do so. It is precisely because Judges are likely to deem a brief returned that they will carry on – with consequent headlines about unrepresented victims and defendants (I know we don’t represent victims but that isn’t how it will come across). Otherwise, the strike means that the Court system doesn’t run at all and the Judges are going to be complicit in that. I don’t believe it and nothing coming from any Judge – however sympathetic – has suggested that if we don’t work they don’t work.

    Finally, if striking is the last resort, why are we talking about it now, before we’ve tried anything else?

  6. Simon

    To an extent I agree with you. To strike is the action of last resort. It should only be contemplated when nothing else has worked. It should be only undertaken when everything else has failed. It is against this background that it is worth examining your proposal, to “work the 8 hour day everyone else works and then you stop”.

    Two questions beg to be asked. Can such a proposal be implemented? Will such a proposal have any impact?

    As to the first, I would have to say maybe. With strong leadership and unity in the profession behind such leadership, it may well be that people would toe the line and down tools after their 8 hour day. Yes, there are professional misconduct issues. When one accepts instructions, one is implicitly accepting that it pays a “proper fee”, indeed, one is entitled to refuse instructions if it does not. However, therein lies the rub. When one accepts instructions you are not accepting to simply appear in court and do a trial. You are accepting the responsibility to prepare a case properly, to draft skeleton arguments if required, to do the required research, prepare cross-examinations and to attend upon pre-trial hearings, conferences and sentences. One might properly argue that we do not get paid for any of the pre-trial hearings, for drafting, for working in the evenings or weekends but to do so would be disingenuous. We do. It’s just that the rate is bundled up in the brief fee and is appallingly low. So low, that to describe the same as a “proper fee” is a lie in and of itself. The difficulty with your proposal is that it seeks to apply a ‘work to rule’ action in a system where we are not contracted by the hour, but rather, by the job. Work to rule works because it is logically consistent – how can someone complain when you are only doing what you are paid for? The problem as pointed out, is we are paid to do the whole task of preparing and defending a person, from preliminary hearing through to sentence and not just an 8 hour day.

    This brings me onto the second question. Can it have any impact? It certainly would have an impact, but not in the way one might hope. Cases would be badly prepared. Cross-examinations would be less successful. Legal points which might be won, would be lost. People who might be acquitted would be convicted. I believe in our criminal justice system, where two advocates properly prepared are able to explore the issues in front of a jury. Should one side not prepare properly, the case can only go one way. To allow your client to be imprisoned because you do not prepare properly would have an impact, but certainly wouldn’t advance our goals in defeating these proposals. Would Grayling care if more people got imprisoned as a result of improper preparation? I doubt it. If he cared an iota as to the CJS he is in charge of he wouldn’t be pursuing these reforms. To believe that a Judge would stop a case because one side is not prepared is fanciful. Were I to go on strike, then the professional consequences would befall upon me. I do not believe a court would proceed with a case in my absence and if they chose to do so, then I am confident that the Court of Appeal would intervene. If a client were to be convicted because I didn’t do the research properly, or bother to draft a closing speech would the Court of Appeal interfere? I doubt it. It would not be me who bears the consequences, but my client. That would be an abrogation of responsibility I could not countenance.

    And so I conclude as I started off. A strike is the option of last resort. It should not be undertaken lightly. If there were to be a credible alternative put forward, I would jump at it. But to work for 8 hours a day then stop, respectfully, doesn’t seem to be it.

    Richard Bentwood

  7. Simon. You have advocated a ‘work to rule’, as an alternative to refusing work, for some time now. The problem with it is that, for AGFS cases, the deal is – an all-in price for the case, however much or little work it involves; take it or leave it. But even were it otherwise, are you seriously suggesting that:

    (a) turning up at court unprepared because the clock struck eight before you finished working on the case is going to make Mr Grayling think again about cutting barristers’ fees? or,

    (b) that the client whose case you have failed to prepare adequately is going to think you are in some way acting more responsibly than if you didn’t turn up at all?

    You cite the miners’ strike as an example of the futility of striking. The difference between coal miners in 1984 and criminal barristers in 2014 is that Mrs Thatcher knew she didn’t need British coal – she could get it cheaper from Poland. Mr Grayling can’t replace the services 7,000 English criminal barristers provide with cheap foreign imports.

    Your argument that barristers owe a duty to prosecute and defend serious criminals, and it would be irresponsible not to do so, is misconceived. When I speak of ‘striking’, I do not advocate stopping work on cases in which I have accepted the brief at the price on offer. When Mr Grayling brings the fee cuts into effect, the lower fees will apply to Representation Orders granted on or after the commencement date. I DO advocate not accepting such briefs. That is my right. I owe no duty to any man (or prosecutor) who will not cross my palm with sufficient silver. I am not a philanthropist. I do the job I do for money. Every man has his price, and mine is the price I presently work for. And ‘Not a Penny Less’.

    Ian West.

  8. The difficulty with a forum like this is that everyone cheers on the most radical voice. Alas, in the quiet of your own home/room, with enough bills to decorate the wall with, it isn’t like that.

    Let me make my position clear. I don’t believe that Silks or senior practitioners, with a practice to support themselves and some ability to raise capital, should be urging other people to strike. I don’t regard that as leading. What strikers face is the erosion of every penny they have and no ability to raise money. I remember the miners’ strike. I remember how keen everyone was, until the money ran out. Until you couldn’t put food on the table. Being a barrister isn’t going to protect us from that. So, the discussion about striking is not one to have first on this forum – have it quietly with your partner and your kids. If a strike is a good decision, it won’t need loud cheerleading. It won’t need attacks on those who disagree. It won’t need the invoking of grand ideas about the poor and the oppressed who you will represent just as soon as you’ve stopped representing your current clients because the end justifies the means.

    And, when you have the discussion with those who you love, do not have it on the basis that Grayling is going to roll over. That is wishful thinking. I would never, ever, advise a client to act on the basis that the opposition is bound to give in. Nor would you. So, don’t do it to your partner and children. As the old saying has it, “someone who acts as their own lawyer has a fool for a client”. Grayling can’t afford to lose if we go on strike. He will simply soak up the disruption. And why shouldn’t he? Delay will not be his concern because we, like fools, will have made it our problem. He will talk about middle class whiners, disrupting the system. He will let the pressure grow. He will invite the opposition to condemn us for exposing ordinary people to danger and anxiety. There will be a parade of genuine victims, all frantic with anxiety that their attacker will not be facing trial for months. There will be a parade of wrongfully accused people unable to get justice. And there will be solicitor advocates from big firms – who make no secret of their position – saying sorrowfully that the Bar has abandoned its responsibilities.

    And, within 2 weeks, we can confidently predict that 2 things will happen. First, some really nasty vicious person out on bail will commit a serious offence. And, had the system been running properly, he would have stood his trial. And what will we say? That we’re trying to save the justice system? Secondly, people will start going back to work. They will do so because they can’t stand the uncertainty, they can’t afford it any longer and they see it isn’t working. And then the Bar will be a busted flush, broken beyond repair.

    Strikes will not work and will prevent any other strategy from working. What we should be doing is our professional job – and no more. You work the 8 hour day everyone else works and then you stop. Judges – put in the position of ordering you to work for free – will be most reluctant to do so. You get paid – not very much and less than now because even less money will take longer to earn. But enough to keep the wolf from the door in the time it takes to really bring the system to a halt and provide us with a wholly defensible position. Grayling is then exposed as someone lying about our earnings, because the assumption in everything he says is that a) we earn a fortune; b) we do it on easy hours and c) we are only in it for ourselves. Striking reinforces those arguments. Working proper hours does not. It focuses attention on what we do for free. It demonstrates that we make the system run for the benefit of everyone except us. It hammers home to the Government that the much vaunted statistics are not the product of brilliant leadership by Recorders, or superb administration by civil servants, but are ours. Then we can ask for a system that recognises what we actually do. We change the debate from “no you can’t and you must resign” (just say it out loud and see how convincing it sounds) to “this is an essential part of the society we inhabit and it must be remunerated fairly”.

    That, in answer to the quest for a better idea than a strike, is a better idea than a strike. It is a better idea because it has far more chance of working. It is a better idea because it does not call on the poor bloody infantry to lay down their lives for their better-off officers. It is a better idea because more of us will be left standing at the end. It is a better idea because it is in accordance with our professional ethics, which I – for one – absolutely and truly believe in. It is a better idea because we can carry it on for longer. Because it will carry the public and the judiciary with us. Because it replaces absolute conflict with an alternative way of doing the same thing. Because it will make the public laugh at Grayling, instead of making him the Margaret Thatcher of the 21st century. Because we can unite around it. Because it will not lead – as those who call for a strike are already doing – to name calling and abuse. This debate should not be inflamed by grandstanding about “patrician” QC’s, Heads of Chambers and leaders of the Bar who don’t agree with what the radicals want. Each of those people serves as a volunteer and to suggest that they don’t care about what happens – or that they are bound to be wrong because they don’t agree with you – is both daft and insulting.

    And, if I’m wrong, it’s a better idea because, if it doesn’t work, we can go on strike then.

    I regard the argument that we are doing this for future clients as wholly wrong. I act for my current client. Barristers don’t let this client down because it serves the interest of the next client. And, once we are seen to let clients and victims down, why on earth should the public ever trust us again? We say, regularly, that a professional reputation takes a lifetime to earn, and a second to lose. Why are we not applying what we know to ourselves? Abandon today’s client and no one will believe it’s all about tomorrow’s.

    And they will be right not to trust us – who said that we were entitled to do this? Who gave us the right to determine that today’s client is less important? Plenty of barristers can survive on less. They may not want to. But, if there is even a chance that the profession thins out by 33% and the rest survive then we will have lied about why we are doing this. We will not have gone on strike to save however many future clients it is that justifies dropping today’s client in the mire. We will have gone on strike because of our own pockets. That’s fine if that is what we say. But it won’t be what we say. We will have committed the two ultimate professional sins: we will not have told the truth and we will have made the job about us, not about the people we represent.

    If we take professional ethics seriously – by which I don’t mean simply obeying the rules, but being genuinely motivated by a desire to serve the people we represent – we won’t do this. We will not trade in what we can certainly do today for the uncertain prospect of being able to do more for someone else tomorrow. We will not ask our clients to be sacrifices, on the basis that we know best about what is to come (and who’s being patrician and patronising then, eh?). Striking is doing exactly that.

    Calm it down. Try everything else first. Don’t let’s martyr ourselves, our colleagues or our clients. Because that is the obligation we owe. Let’s not be glamorous heroes – let’s be barristers. Because that – as we all agree – is what we are trying to save. If we can’t do it by being barristers, we certainly can’t do it by not being.

    Simon Myerson QC

  9. I agree with almost everything that Ian West says, but I do not believe the action goes far enough.
    Firstly, although he says that the junior bar are the most militant it is also the most junior of the Bar, those far more dependent upon returns than seniors, who will be giving up the most. It is a comment I have heard made by more than one young member of the Bar. Not for them the four or five week fixture or the back to back trials that will keep the more senior members in work. I have no doubt that this was NOT the intended result, but it is a perfectly valid view. Stop doing ALL work and show the very junior that we will not be in court either.
    Secondly, as others in this thread have said, if it remains as simply not doing returns, it should not be confined to only defence work. I know that the view is that the fight is over legal aid therefore we only target defence legal aid work but I cannot agree. The attack on justice is being undertaken by the state as represented by the Government as an entity although we personalise it as Grayling. The CPS is the Crown, the state, and fair game in my view.It should also apply to CPS work. It is my experience that such action would have a far more immediate impact as prosecution cases tend to be returned in a far greater number than defence cases. The desired impact will be achieved far sooner
    Thirdly, and I accept that this would impact on more junior members of the bar, stop doing CPS lists in the Magistrates Court. Any counsel who has done such work will tell you that it gets done because of the efforts barrister agents put in, the cases often being shockingly prepared. The Bar not covering lists would mean that a huge percentage of the Mags ct trials would not proceed. Unlike many adjourned Crown court trials that can move to the next warned list three or four weeks hence, those Mags ct trials are off for months. Unlike a Crown court room, with usually only one trial listed, a Mags court can have half a dozen because the saystem depends on overloading the list. Multiply that throughout all Mags cts and that will really hurt the system in a matter of days, not weeks.


  10. Can’t Afford to Go on Strike? You can’t Afford Not to!

    Churchill said that those who fail to learn the lessons of history are condemned to repeat its mistakes. Theodore Roosevelt said (of American foreign policy) “Speak softly, and carry a big stick”. The mistake that successive Bar leaders who came before Max Hill QC, Mike Turner QC, Nigel Lithman QC and Tony Cross QC, made is that they only read the first two words of Roosevelt’s observation. They submitted lengthy, well-reasoned, evidence-based Responses to successive government proposals to cut barristers’ pay. Unwilling to regard legal aid barristers as mere common wage-labourers, they cast pearls before swine, refusing to deploy the only weapon that a wage-labourer in truth has, namely the withdrawal of his labour.

    There remains a rump of the Bar which clings to the quaint view that the Bar Chair, and the Circuit Leaders, will ‘sort it all out’ like gentlemen with the Lord Chancellor over a sweet sherry in his lavishly-decorated chambers in the House of Lords. They, and patrician Heads of Chambers, claim to seek to protect the ‘junior Bar’ from the vicissitudes of anything so uncouth as a strike, or the refusal to do returns.

    Fortunately, the junior barristers, never having experienced the luxury of being in the position of having earned a comfortable living, or the security of a substantial pension pot, or the prospect of a place on the Circuit bench, know better. They have not had time to forget the lesson they learned not so long ago at school, that if you give a bully your dinner money on a Monday, he’ll keep coming back every day until you punch him on the nose and tell him you’re not giving any more. They recognise Mr Grayling for what he is not – a judicial tribunal who will listen to reason and make a rational judgment – and for what he actually is – a bully, who will press home his advantage if he sees any sign of weakness in his adversary.

    That is why the rank and file, the ‘troops in the trenches’, the workers at the coal face of criminal justice, know that, if they are not to suffer (yet another) pay cut to follow all the others, and another next year – an election year, they must not merely speak softly, but produce, and use, the big stick. Mr Grayling, a right-wing, law and order tub-thumper, cannot stand to see the criminal courts grind to a halt, even for a short time. It is a measure of the complacency that successive Bar leaders have permitted the Lord Chancellor to acquire that Mr Grayling thought that he could cut VHCC fees by 30% and barristers would still do the work. Big mistake, as he is now discovering. The VHCC debacle is a ticking time-bomb that will explode in Mr Grayling’s face when the first trial is stayed because he is in breach of not merely his Art. 6 duty to ensure that accused persons have a fair trial – that he can dismiss as European bureaucracy – but because he is in breach of his duty to ‘make available’ legal aid to the 41 presently unrepresented defendants in the VHCCs. He will have more trouble explaining that one away to the Justice Select Committee, because the obligation is one he imposed upon himself, in s. 1 of LASPO 2012.

    The patrician QCs and Heads of Chambers who seek to shield the young Bar, because ‘they can’t afford to go on strike’ have missed the point by a mile. The fact is that the young Bar are the most militant precisely because they can’t afford to go on strike. Of course, the junior Bar can’t afford to go on strike. But those wise young heads also know that the reality is that they can’t afford not to.

    Ian West.

  11. We are dealing with a Lord Chancellor who revels in bad publicity as it boosts his “Attack Dog” reputation. One day strikes, whist attracting useful publicity, are largely ineffective. The stopping of returns is a better idea, as it will cause disruption in the system. What is important though is to create such a stink that the public, and, more importantly the Prime Minister, will start to ask what on earth is going on (something we have not achieved so far). Since legal aid fees are already deemed not to be adequate remuneration we are actually doing work we are entitled to refuse and thus keep the system running. The time has surely come to withdraw our goodwill and simply say that from an agreed date, say in a week’s time, we are not taking on any more legal aid work. This will give Mr Grayling, and the public, an insight into where the criminal justice system is heading if these changes are brought in as well as creating a level of chaos the government cannot ignore. Mr Grayling will not back down. He has made a reckless commitment to the Treasury and he does not value the criminal justice system. The only prospect of getting him to back off is to bring the system to its knees.

  12. The Government have always claimed that the Legal Aid Cuts will ‘work’ as there are sufficient members of the Bar willing and able to conduct work on these reduced rates. By refusing to do ‘returns’ and refusing to conduct hearings that are uneconomic, by ‘working to rule’ we will demonstrate that this is a falsity and the system is only working through the good will of the Bar who are consistently subsidising the system.

  13. I second the calls for withdrawals of our labour at short notice. 12-18 hours’ notice ought to do the trick.

    And I’d suggest coupling other demands with a further demand that all publicly-funded fees which have been unpaid for more than 28 days be paid in full within 72 hours of such action, or we’ll do it again, as and when we wish.

    If you go to the supermarket, bizarrely enough they expect to be paid there and then. If you go to a solicitor, they expect fees on account and payment of further monies on demand or within 14/28 days.

    How did we get to a position where it’s perfectly normal to act as the government’s free credit facility while it arbitrarily and randomly fails, for months (sometimes for more than a year) to pay even those paltry fees it has imposed on us?

  14. Dear Nigel

    The point has now been reached where we each have a moral obligation to stand up individually and show that we have some self respect and will not in any way continue to be the prop in an undervalued criminal justice system. I find the concept of strike action as distasteful as others but this is a dirty war. The no returns policy is immediately effective and demonstrates the Bar’s ‘goodwill’ claim. Whatever action the CBA recommends I will support.

    I thank you and the others who have worked tirelessly on behalf of the criminal Bar to bring to a halt the shameless attack by the administration past and present upon our legal system. As has been said before but its worth repeating, too many so called leaders at the Bar in the past have capitulated no doubt for their own reasons. Whatever those reasons were it is the criminal justice system that now pays the price, is a shadow of its former self and if the ironically titled MOJ achieves its undeclared agenda will descend to a point where it cannot be repaired.

    What next? Be positive, we have finally, dedicated and principled people at the CBA who are not going to forsake their obligation to do the right thing. We have elected these people to represent us. They are, it is apparent doing their very best to ensure that our views are being properly canvassed and represented. This battle will be won if we are united. For those of us that defend, we on a daily basis fight for the individual, lets show that we have some self respect, support the action that our elected representatives recommend.

    Happy for this to be published.

    Kind regards and thanks

    Jason MacAdam

  15. Pingback: Legal Cheek » Morning round-up: Thursday 20 February

  16. I adopt and endorse the suggestions and comments made by Forever Dormo and LastordersattheBar. We are doing far too little to stop FailingGrayling. Prosecution and defence briefs should be treated alike and we should have many more days of action, with no exceptions. A one-day strike notified weeks ahead is a far too lily-livered response to the MoJ’s cuts and dual contract proposals. I am coming to the end of my career, (60 this year) but it is imperative that I lend my full support to all and any action, in the interests of justice. If we let CG win, this will no doubt herald the end of legally aided defence as we know it.

  17. Can we please have a proper strike, not just one day but a whole week, or more, and with as little notice as possible. A strike should not just be about getting publicity for our cause, it should be to cause as much disruption as possible, to show the government that they need us to keep the courts running properly. And it needs to be BEFORE the government announces what it is finally going to do, because there is no prospect of them backing down once they have nailed their colours to the mast once and for all.

    Also, during a strike (whether on 7 March or any other strike that may happen) there should not be an exception for cases with young or vulnerable witnesses. Such people will be far worse off, in the long run, if there ceases to be a criminal bar with enough experienced advocated to prosecute and defend these cases. Sparing the vulnerable from one day of inconvenience is a false kindness.

    The threat we face is entirely disproportionate — a “proportionate strategy” is no longer needed.

  18. You have choices:
    1. Accept the changes as inevitable.
    In that case it is certain that, within a very short time, many of your profession will be forced out of their jobs. Those who remain will earn less. Chambers will close (pity on the poor devils whose names are on the leases for the premises…..), clerks and secretaries will lose their jobs. It will be, as someone said, like being hit by a tsunami. There will be survivors, just not very many and not very prosperous. You will lose out to those solicitors’ firms that believe they can “corner their local market” by obtaining a “pile them high and sell them cheap contract”, and will use in-house advocates rather than an independent Bar. Of course many of the present solicitors firms will close anyway, so who will Brief you? There may be the G4S, Capita and Co-op Legal competitors to deal with as well (I wonder whether the Co-op will be better at the law than it is at banking?). And I speak as a solicitor of 30 odd years qualification, not someone who wishes to see the Bar die. Once gone, it will be difficult to resurrect.

    2.Object to the changes by making token strikes of 1 day, or even a few days, or not accepting returns.
    This will have little effect. Not wanting to hurt the people who might be vulnerable is not going to help your cause. The government thinks you are too principled to take your soft gloves off, and choice number 2 would prove they are right, If doctors or nurses went on strike, it wouldn’t last long. A few people die or are not treated as quickly as they could be. But a government sees the results and would cave in. But if they were to say; “If you are really ill, we’ll treat you. If you aren’t so ill, we’ll have a triage nurse take a look at you and, if it would be OK, we’ll come out to see you the next day” – that would have no effect at all. Governments could cope with that, and patients will grin and bear it for a day. If you act like a gentleman when facing a bully …..well, it’s been referred to before and we all know the result. I predict if the Bar takes this route, the struggle will be lost fairly quickly – no pain, no gain. And in a year or two, or maybe less, Chambers will close, good people will leave the Bar, injustices will result….

    3.Decide you are in a war, to the death, and fight as hard as you can.
    The Bar could decide this is a fight worth fighting. “Ooh, Mr Hitler, it really isn’t right to invade Poland. We won’t fight against you because that would be against our professional conscience, but we would be grateful if you would withdraw and respect international boundaries in future…..” Is he going to listen? Do bullies ever listen to polite, reasoned argument? (Well yes, but only very, very rarely!). If you don’t use the power you have to cripple the court system, the government will not listen to you and you will lose. People will be able to see the chaos and might start asking/being told what the whole thing is about. You might lose anyway, but at least if you fight, you will know you have done your best and if that is not good enough you would only be in the same position as if you had followed (1) or (2) above. But if you fight there is a chance, a reasonable chance, you might WIN. Isn’t that a prize WORTH fighting for?

    If you don’t fight, if you lose, there will be massive consequences. The criminal justice system as it is now will be destroyed rather than damaged. Those who remain in the profession (and there will be some, albeit a very much smaller cohort) will still carry out their functions. I imagine if you are looking at retirement in the not-too-distant future, it might be worth soldiering along for a few more years. The house is almost paid for anyway, the children have left home, you are only topping up the pension….

    But if you were, say, 24 years old, new to the profession, hoping to gain experience to climb up the ladder; and if you were looking at doing more hours and earning £35K a year, looking through disclosure that doesn’t form part of the prosecution evidence in the early hours before a trial the next day, wondering how you are going to cross-examine that doctor (he’s a GP, maybe earning £120K plus), or that accountant (do they do “accountancy aid” for less-well-off businesses?), well, would you think your £40K university debt followed by Bar School etc well spent?

    Do you want to be part of a profession in which only those with trust funds or well-off parents could afford to start so low, without concerns about the trivialities of life, like getting married, or buying a house or having children? Do you value diversity or is it a mantra without meaning?

    Do you want able young lawyers to enter the field, or would you be happy for your part of the profession to be manned (or womanned) only by those who couldn’t get a job in a more lucrative part of the Law?

    I went to one of our ancient universities. I qualified when not that many actually went to university at all, when members of both branches of the legal profession had some respect. But even then, in the 1970’s, I remember attending a careers interview at university and being asked, when I indicated it was a solicitor’s life for me, “Which City firm were you thinking of joining?” The lady nearly fell off her chair when I told her I intended to return to Teesside. It’s a good job I didn’t tell her I would be doing legal aid work: my professor, just about to retire 40 years after I went up to university, told me he couldn’t think of even one other solicitor he had taught at our college that was doing legal aid work (maybe 1 out of 250 solicitors in those years?).

    I’ll put it another way. If I have a student debt of £40K, have done well at university and in qualification, and I get the chance of a training contract now at a City firm (let’s say £65K in year one) or the prospect of earning little/nothing at the Bar, and maybe a dream of getting up to £35K if I do well, which do you think is the likely choice? Do you think many who COULD get that City job will choose, instead, to go the criminal Bar. Do any talented footballers who play for and love their hometown club (let’s say Rochdale or Hartlepool), turn down the possibility of playing for megabucks if Manchester City or Chelsea make them an offer? “No – I love the Headland. I’m a Poolie at heart. My wife would love the extra money and it would be interesting to play for Manchelarsepool, but I’d always set my heart on playing for my little hometown club, even if it doesn’t pay well and I’ll never play in Europe”. Not likely at all.

    Those who are left out of contention for the lucrative jobs, who can’t compete for the commercial work etc, will end up in the only areas that are available to them. The Criminal Bar anybody? Maybe some people think that murder, rape, child sexual abuse etc isn’t that important, certainly not as important as sorting out clause 18 in that commercial property lease……

    Interestingly many people believe you get what you pay for. They don’t expect to pay the same for a Ford Ka as for a Mercedes or a Range Rover. Perhaps that is what people in 10 years time will think about the Criminal Bar: “Well, they can’t be that good, can they, or they wouldn’t be doing that sort of work…it’s the only work they can get”.

    Wake up! If you don’t fight, you will lose anyway. You might still lose, or you might win. But if the Law is worth anything, if the Criminal Bar is worth anything, isn’t it worth that fight? You might worry about harming that vulnerable witness/complainant/defendant if you go on strike now, but how many more such vulnerable people will inevitably suffer if you, a strong independent Criminal Bar, were not here to act in their best interests in the future? Even if you don’t do it for yourselves, you might think of them instead! (Alternatively, you might just sell out and watch the profession wither away and then marvel at the results that will bring to our generally law-abiding, liberal democracy).

  19. When I spoke in favour of the “strike resolution” on 16th November I said we needed days of action including maybe three days in one week. I said we needed to take action alongside our colleagues in probation.
    I had no idea what the meeting would say in response to what many regarded as dangerously radical talk. The result? Uproar in Lincoln’s Inn and a standing ovation because someone had said what so many had been wanting to hear for so long. I know there were some people in that room who hated what I said because I was holding up a mirror and they had to look themselves in the face and against they better judgment they applauded my call to arms.
    We owe it to all the young people at the Bar who have spoken out about the reality of life these days for young juniors. If we don’t fight now we won’t get another chance. How can we let down the likes of Hannah Evans and others like her? How can we just let Grayling do this to us without a bloody god fight?
    We also owe it to our clients to fight this battle now. If the Bar loses this fight many will leave and go and find other work. Who then will fight for those accused of crime? Whether guilty or not they deserve good representation not simply minimum standards representation. A decent society ensures the rights even of those who are guilty. And as for those accused of crime who are innocent my blood runs cold. I have seen enough people whose lives have been turned upside down by false allegations to know how awful it must be to face the fear of loss of liberty, livelihood and family. We must ensure that we are still here long after Grayling has gone off to wreak havoc somewhere else that he couldn’t care less about.
    When I made that speech at the CBA rally I said that if people didn’t like what I was proposing they had to come up with a better idea that would stop Grayling. So far no one has. If Grayling’s response to all that we have written and said about his proposals is simply to go ahead anyway then I say the time has come for us to bring the whole system to a complete halt. A couple of weeks of that and Grayling will either have to have us locked up or he sends Nigel Lithman a text that says “I surrender”. We have nowhere to run to as a profession even if we wanted to. I intend to stand by my clients and I will not let them down by leaving the criminal Bar. As I said we may be running out of ammunition so it’s time to fix bayonets and really show Grayling and the rest of them we will not go down, we will not surrender. We will fight him and we will win because losing is not an option for any of us.

    • Actually Mark, its not just for the “Hannahs” that we should go on strike. What about us “foot soldiers ” of the CJS who are underpensioned (My savings went on ten months sick leave), underpaid and too old to retrain for anything else ? The sadness of the modern criminal bar is that the young will put up with hardship if there are long term rewards : there aren’t anymore.

  20. I don’t think that just one tactic will suceed. My favourite would be to see if and when the court staff are having a “strike” day and join in! This idea results from Judges at a JSB seminar muttering about imposing a wasted costs order on”striking” barristers, but then backing off when asked why no sanctions were imposed on striking court staff. If court union action in Thames Valley reduced Reading to have only two courts functioning out of six, why don’t we ensure that the two remaining don’t “sit” either ? Even better, get probation to join us !

  21. I wanted to write and thank you for your tireless efforts.

    As a criminal practitioner on the western circuit I am prepared to do whatever it takes to defeat this attack on our justice system perpetrated by an egotistical megalomaniac who will not listen to reason.

    I am a working mother of two…I pay £16000 in childcare a year…not private school fees but to a childminder…£16000! I get no tax relief, no childcare vouchers…the current lord chancellor and the coalition government should be shamed of themselves…they want to promote social mobility, and encourage mothers back into the workplace, they want to promote university education and promote ambition….there is no point in that now if your childhood ambition is to be a criminal barrister, as mine was….

    A I said…I thank you and I reiterate I will do whatever it takes…

    I want to be able to talk to my children about what I do for a living, about how I am proud of it and to tell them to stand up for what they believe in and follow their dreams…for me to do that I have tonight now.

    Mr Grayling….Not on my watch!!!!

  22. I strongly believe that the only chance the profession has of defeating these cuts is for a lengthy strike with no caveats. It needs to be for at least a week. It needs to involve no exceptions where there are “vulnerable” defendants or witnesses. It needs to include prosecution as well as defence work. The government needs to clearly get the message that the system will grind quickly to a halt if they implement these cuts.
    Practitioners are understandably worried about their families – but they are not going to be able to properly support their families if these cuts come in.
    Practitioners worry about the impact on “vulnerable” defendants and witnesses – the impact will be damaging, permanent and irreversible on these people if the cuts come in.
    Practitioners worry about their ethical duty and the code of conduct – there won’t be an ethical duty to worry about if the cuts come in because the profession will be finished. It is also completely lily livered to fail to take this entirely justified course of action because of the bar standards board. If everyone sticks together there won’t be a problem.
    It is constantly rightly said that no other public service has been subject to such swingeing cuts. The reason for that unfortunately is that the Bar does not stand up for itself properly. The Bar has accepted regular cuts since 1997 and so the government sees it as an easy target. It is also the case tube drivers probably get better paid than a good number of criminal barristers. The reason for that is that they do stand up for themselves. It isn’t exactly rocket science.
    The government is not interested in nor is it going to be persuaded by reasoned argument. It will be persuaded if everyone stands together and the criminal justice system is in danger of collapsing. Half day’s and day’s (with various caveats) of action are not nearly enough at this stage. The not accepting returns policy is ill thought out. It has the potential to be divisive as it will effect junior members of the Bar disproportionately. A length strike is not guaranteed to work but it is literally the only option available that has the potential to stop these cuts and the death of the profession.

  23. It’s time to bring the whole system to a halt. No Recorders sitting, no VHCC, no returns. CBA should declare that as of 14.3.14 barristers will not be accepting any new instructions in any grad fee case. I’m all for a 1 day strike but that’s just for publicity. It will have no practical effect at all. The only thing to do is to withdraw our labour across the board. The work won’t get done without us. We actually have quite a lot of industrial muscle if we stick together. The Government simply couldn’t allow the courts to stop for more than a week so people shouldn’t fear a protracted loss-making period out of court. And anyway, as Ian West has said – we can’t afford to strike, but can’t afford not to.
    The Govnmt have left us nowhere to go. We have nothing to lose anymore. If dual contracts alone are brought in we are toast at the Bar. And so are many many solicitors. Within 12 months.
    If I have to say goodbye to the job I have loved for over 20 years I’d rather do it after a proper fight. The public have no idea what is coming. Let’s do it for them. Let’s do it for the next generation of young criminal lawyers. Now is the time to stop talking and gear up. The govt refuse to listen. They will only act if the system, already on its knees, is brought to a stop. Nigel Lithman – you’re doing a great job. We all support you. Now do what Ivan Lawrence has suggested.

  24. We must remember that the MOJ is the enemy. They are about to ruin our system and our professions. What I ask will be seen by some as asking a lot; but I am a fraud lawyer and you have asked for and received unanimous cooperation from us in boycotting VHCC cases. That move has the MOJ under real pressure, but has not been without cost to me and others.

    The MOJ needs recorders; they are cutting Judges numbers to the bone. Recorders are cheap labour and essential to the system. From the 7th March all recorders should refuse to sit any longer. It may not be popular with those planning on boarding the purple lifeboat but it is a sacrifice that must be made now for the greater good.

    Alongside the refusal to do returns, and I don’t see why prosecution returns are excluded, the system will be in crisis within a week.
    Time is not our friend, a long drawn out dispute will not work. Equally Grayling will only negotiate with us if we can get on the front foot. These are the key weeks for this dispute that threatens us all, we must play our strongest cards now.


  25. I’m afraid I disagree with you ‘anonymous.’ For what it may be worth, I am no troll, nor an moj apologist. I am one of your cited 35k advocates. That comment I fear sums up exactly why the arguments the Bar (and to a lesser degree sols) will never gain real traction in my humble opinion.
    When the ‘day of action’ took place, one thing stuck out for me – a member of the Bar, expressing his horror on tv that with the proposed cuts he would be down to 80k a year. Please do not mistake me – I know that’s no real reflection of what he takes home each month. However, it still equates to a lot more than the majority of people The point is he just did not see how his comments would be received by others.
    I work really hard for the 35k you clearly feel is inadequate. But, I am happy with my lot. I’m not going to work in rags, nor am I broke. Realistically, I am not going much higher, and frankly that’s ok by me. For most people, 35k is more than they can ever hope to attain. I am conscious of that every day.
    Please do not think I am having a go at you. Whether Bar or Sol, you are by implication doing well. I respect that. I am sure, like most of us, you work hard and are dedicated to what we do. It may be you have far more to lose here than I.
    Do I want cuts? Of course not, but I fear framing any of this in monetary terms only opens us all to the argument that we live in a golden bubble.
    If the result of the cuts is, in reality, the rise of the 35k advocate, then I’m afraid it worries me not. For that reason, I shall not be striking on 7th March. The guy in the cells, who probably earns a lot less than 35k should not be let down just because that figure equates to “useless” for some.

    • Fair enough. But in a short ish post I had to be honest. Barristers who know what they are doing and who have studied for years, work long hours and weekends deserve to be properly paid. No different to a gp. When you start – and no doubt you will – doing larger cases- and working all day and night on serous frauds etc – the 35 won’t be enough – no disrespect intended

      • Thanks for your measured response. To be clear though, i’m 14 years pqe. My pay packet is entirely typical for the area where I work – big-ish city in the North.
        As for working all day and night, I logged 80 hours this month in call-out.
        Whether hopelessly naive, or stupidly dedicated, 35k seems a fair wage.

    • Unfortunately, that £35k figure is not reflective of life at the junior Bar, which offers a much lower annual sum and is coupled with the weight of a significant amount of debt on top of that. As a student looking at the prospect of working at the Bar, it sometimes seems somewhat of an impossible dream when I consider the financial implications. These legal aid cuts as you say might lead to ‘the rise of the 35k advocate’, but they will also lead to the fall of a diverse criminal Bar, as individuals from poorer backgrounds will no longer be able to take the risk of entering the profession.

      Personally I think something more does need to be done and it can’t just be another strike. I’d be happy to go out on Oxford street with a placard to protest this and so should anyone else interested in justice in this country.

    • Are you a duty solicitor? Because if you are, you are facing almost certain redundancy followed by someone being taken on in your place for 24k. There won’t be any 35k criminal solicitors left for very long after changes come in.

  26. “A proportionate strategy based on logic and grounded in principle” is all very well and good. But- if a bully is trying to put a pint glass in my face I’m not going to stand there attempting logic and a proportionate strategy. I’m going to (a) run or (b) hit him first. Hard.
    On the basis that running scared is not an option here we need to give these proposals a good kicking ASAP. And a day off- in all likelihood after the proposals have been announced is akin to no more than a girly push to the bully coming at us. It won’t work.
    It causes no real disruption. And still- after all the rallying and speeches- there are many who don’t even know about the 7th! Others who couldn’t care less. One day off is nothing .
    Sir Ivan Lawrence was 100% correct on the 8th feb and we should take note.
    What also needs to be remembered is that our argument is no where near as important as the solicitors dual contract argument. As I have tried to say before -what bloody difference does it make if fees are cut when 2/3rds of criminal firms close and the bar gets no work anyway!!!
    We are like miners striking over pay after all the pits have been closed! It is utterly ridiculous that many at the bar still don’t ‘get’ this. I am more than happy for people to argue that I’m wrong- but it seems that many I speak to don’t disagree – they just don’t have a clue what I, others and the small firms are talking about!
    I could go on. But- you want a suggestion, so here goes.
    Stop wasting your breath.
    Use the good relations we have with many small firms – who will be the first to close (closely followed by sets of chambers) and really go for as much disruption as possible in order to be heard. Most members of the public know nothing about the issues we are taking action on.
    Get the message out there (ill chip in for an ad or billboard if you like) or walk up and down Oxford street with a sign if you like (like the ‘golf sale’ ones). Do anything- just ensure the message gets out there.
    Bring things to a halt.
    And make the cuts and dual contracts equally as publicised.
    Result ?
    ….It prob won’t work
    we are in all likelihood – going the way of the miners (it’s too little too late) But at least give it a proper go.
    Stop trying to do the bare minimum required to (possibly) win on points – and go all out to batter the guy in front of you.
    This is too important.
    Even if the public don’t know it they need us.
    The big firms that will survive along with the cuts across the board will never give the quality service we at the bar with small firms have done for years. The level of advocates left when the going rate is £35k p.a will be (and in many cases already is) shocking.
    And the client suffers.
    Or – accept that we all need to get out of crime and watch whilst many more get locked up.
    Up the game – but ensure that its clear- this is not about barristers fee cuts . That’s a side issue. Dual contracts must not get the green light. If they do- it’s over .

    As someone who has come to the bar from a background – where not a single member of my family extended or otherwise before or since even went on to higher education (let alone the law) one of the things that always makes me smile is how nice, decent and polite most members of the bar are. Well- it’s about time we stop acting like nice guys. There’s only one way to deal with a bully. I’m afraid that our “proportionate strategy” is not it.

    • Well said. I have been saying this for months. The bar is trying to argue a point in much the same way as we make an argument in court. Well in these circumstances that is just to gentlemanly an approach. We need to grind the system to a halt and do it now. Immediately! Not on 7 March after giving three weeks notice. What disruption will that cause? None! We need to disrupt everything from Crown Court Trials to police station attendances and no exceptions. If we make exceptions now then we will not be able to help the vulnerable tomorrow. It is our public duty to fight this and fight it hard. Forget whether there are breaches of LA contract. What will that matter if we lose and are bankrupt? If we grind the system to a halt overnight at least the public will realise what we do and we might just get some support.

      • Thanks – you’d be amazed at how many don’t even get what’s IMPT. Let alone have an opinion.
        Amazing from a profession paid to think !
        Matt lefteris

  27. I presume us Non Lawyers can participate? #TheotherNonLawyerMembersoftheCBA
    Please confirm.xx
    An important and timely piece that expresses what I have been saying all along THAT WE SHOULD THINK OUT OF THE BOX,

  28. Not entirely fanciful: inundate the MoJ with inexpensive calculators to arrive on Grayling’s birthday (April 1st). With attendant press attention the central question of the MoJ’s fiddling of the statistics can be highlighted. Since the LC or his representatives cannot possibly be telling lies they really must be bad at basic arithmetic. So many staff are employed at the MoJ given the proportion of the budget they account for they will need as many as possible. After use they can be donated to schools.

    Of course I don’t present this as a strategy itself, but it is more than a stunt; since we will never gain public sympathy for ourselves given the public perception of the Bar we must concentrate on hard cold facts and embarrass the MoJ i into presenting true figures.

    If they trot out the same old nonsense – or variations of it – (Was 6% recently mentioned) it will have been because they don’t know how to use a calculator.

    If you don’t think this entirely barmy I am happy to attach my name.


    Jason Dunn-Shaw

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