As I prepare to commence pupillage at a leading criminal law set in September, the government’s assault on the criminal Bar is of great concern to me, writes OccupyTheInns.
Reluctantly, as I have accessed the internet in some very unlikely locations and read the latest developments during a continuing period of travel, I have come to accept that our non-lawyer Lord Chancellor is too out of touch with the workings of the Bar to understand that he is making a grave mistake.
As any lawyer worth their salt knows, the legal aid cuts will cost the taxpayer far, far more than is saved in the short term as thousands of catastrophic litigants in person wreak havoc upon the court system. It is also beyond argument that ‘one case one fee’ will lead to miscarriage of justice after miscarriage of justice as substandard advocates make blunder after blunder.
However, for a moment set aside the integrity of justice arguments and consider something else…
The Bar is one of the places in this world where the professional and the artistic collide. A good barrister is not a simple practitioner of law, but also a person of creativity, a performer, and in the case of the very best advocates whose ranks the most promising BPTC performers hope to join, an artist.
The unique structure of the Bar allows for this. Self-employment enables the creatively-minded to set their own schedule to accommodate their restless, unpredictable natures. It is in this environment that the barrister flourishes. The alternative that is being proposed under ‘one case one fee’ – employed barristers working for “legal services providers” such as Stobart Barristers or Co-op Legal – would be like forcing artists to produce their works in a call centre. Who, I ask you, breaks a barrister upon the wheel of an Eddie Stobart lorry?
I write these words on an aeroplane taking me east. Shortly we will commence our descent into Hong Kong, from whence I will continue my journey to Australia for some much needed rest and relaxation after a taxing few months working on an international human rights project followed by a period of travel in some of the world’s most challenging destinations.
In the city beneath me the pace of change continues at a rapid pace, I understand from the copy of The Economist which I have just been studying. But what price progress? In Britain’s obsession to become “more competitive” in a changing world, shaken up by a re-waken Chinese dragon, I fear very much that we may be in danger of losing what makes us special.
“Please make sure your seat backs and tray tables are in their full upright position…” I must lay down my pen now. As I do, and I stare out over this Chinese sky, I am filled with a feeling that the campaign to Occupy the Inns of Court may not be over yet.
OccupyTheInns was called to the Bar in July 2011. He will commence pupillage in autumn. There’s more from OccupyTheInns here.