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A junior junior votes No

I am a junior criminal barrister of 9 years call. My practice has, inevitably, been severely affected by the recent cuts to legal aid, and the further proposed cuts would, in my view, make my practice untenable. It is against this backdrop, and with the very future of my career at stake, that I approach the current CBA ballot. I have supported the CBA’s position in respect of the cuts from the outset, appeared on the demonstrations, and upheld the ‘no returns’ and ‘no to VHCC’ policies. I have done all this with very little, if any, expectation as to the success of these actions. Throughout the negotiations, there seemed to me to be no realistic prospect of shifting the Government’s intransigent and illogical position.

Last week’s announcement by the CBA, with the Government offering to defer the proposed cuts until at least the summer of 2015, offers us hope and a very precious opportunity to salvage what remains of the Criminal Bar. In obtaining this offer, the CBA achieved the major and essential part of it what it asked of the Government on our behalf. The Government will undertake to consider the independent reports into legal aid in the interim and engage with the alternative proposals as to how make the savings it insists are required. In the real world in which we live, where cuts and savings are necessary across the entire public sector, this offer is as much, and probably much more, than we could have ever hoped for. The political landscape may change dramatically by next summer, offering the Bar a fresh start to make its case and continue to negotiate for a fair deal. If we vote ‘yes’ in this ballot, all of those benefits are lost, and lost (most likely) for good. We will end the week in a worse position than we started last week.

The negotiations by the CBA have so far been conducted in a robust, consistent, and honest manner. If the Criminal Bar now declines the offer on the table each of those virtues is undermined, and our position weakened beyond repair. To reject the very offer which has been fought so hard for will appear inconsistent, divided and untrustworthy, and continuing negotiations in these circumstances will be utterly hopeless. Far from getting more, we will get less. We will very likely get nothing. And my practice, like many of those of my generation, will be consigned to history. It is for all these reasons that I will be voting ‘no’ in the ballot, so that I retain hope of saying ‘yes’ to a future career at the Criminal Bar.


2 thoughts on “A junior junior votes No

  1. I do not understand why you think that the reviews will be for out benefit. You seem to rest your hopes upon them.
    The whole thrust of the current consultations and all previous consultations has been that if the system is more efficient then barristers and solicitors can be paid less.That is what was expressly said this time round.
    The MoJ argue that we can do more cases in a streamlined system but that there are too many of us at present. They argue that a cull will enable the fittest to survive.
    The reviews are effectively a guarantee that further severe cuts will be imposed as part of an efficiency drive and value for money for the taxpayer etc.
    I sincerely hope you are one of the fittest, which would be quite an achievement at 9 years call.

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