Bizarre

Amal Clooney’s chambers-mate reported to be working on fees of £1.50 an hour

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Doughty Street Chambers and Bindmans Solicitors highlight demise of legal aid — while actor’s wife jets between New York and London

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Hollywood glamour puss George Clooney may soon be called on to underwrite his wife’s London chambers if her colleagues continue to act for legal aid rates below the London “living wage”.

Reports today suggested that a seven-year-call barrister at fashionable Doughty Street Chambers advised in a criminal matter on a legal aid rate that worked out at £1.50 an hour.

According to the Living Wage Foundation, the minimum hourly rate in the capital should be £9.15 — some £2.65 above the current legal national minimum wage.

The latest illustration of the shocking state of legal aid rates came to light in an online article from the Solicitors Journal. That piece told the story of a case in which London law firm Bindmans instructed Doughty Street’s Sara Williams to act for a defendant in a case involving two teenagers and allegations of indecent images.

The magazine related that the barrister travelled a total of 640 miles to attend court hearings — all for the paltry sum of £128. On top of that, Williams and Bindmans solicitors in total allocated 70 hours to the matter.

But because the Crown Prosecution Service decided to drop the case before trail, no legal aid trial fee was granted, meaning the total litigator fee amounted to £330.33 plus VAT.

According to Solicitors Journal, that resulted in two Bindmans’ solicitors working for an hourly rate of £4.66 — a relative fortune compared with the fee the barrister was able to claim.

Clooney married five-year-call Amal Alamuddin last September, and according to the most recent Sunday Times (£) rich list, the couple are worth some £121 million. Most of that dosh is his, with estimates suggesting the actor’s personal fortune is valued at around £113m.

However, that still leaves Amal — who earlier this year joined Columbia University’s law school as a visiting lecturer on human rights — with a tasty £8m. So perhaps she should be throwing in an enhanced contribution to the collective chambers’ pot.

35 Comments

Jerry Hayes

Mmm. This confuses me. Crim legal aid rates are not hourly unless it Is VHCC. Would this be a civil matter with sols taking the cash?

(3)(5)

Anonymous

The ‘hourly rate’ was calculated by division of the Graduated Fee payment by the number of hours worked by Counsel (presumably after deducting expenses).

(11)(0)

It's Worse In The New World

Dear Brits,

You think YOU have it bad? Here in America, many lawyers work full-time for the federal government as “Special Assistant US Attorneys” for…no money whatsoever. Nearly every level of government is now in on that act.

When the ranks get too thick the wages go to zero. Do not let this happen to you.

If misery and fuckedness of your American counterparts does not make you feel better, hey, at least you’re not in the Euro.

(2)(0)

Anonymous

Oh the eloquence.

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jennifer morgan

This explains her fine wardrobe expense because she is going to take him to the cleaners. What a fool!

(0)(0)

Zyzz's dance troupe

Makes one wonder how does that pathetic Tunde effort keep up with his flamboyant pink bowler hat-purple waistcoat lifestyle…

(22)(6)

Hmmm

You clearly have some sort of vendetta against him haha

(7)(4)

David Hughes

Why didn’t they instruct counsel somewhere a little nearer the court?

(11)(0)

Anonymous

Oh yeah.

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Frank

Because regional counsel are shit.

(6)(33)

Frank is a wazzock

And quite frankly regional counsel earn more than £1.50 an hour

(1)(1)

Anonymous

Course they are Frank.
Can’t all be as good as you.

(0)(0)

Not Amused

I think we need a legal NHS. I understand all of the romantic ‘independent Bar’ arguments, but this is getting silly. Successive governments have cut cut cut. Continuing to use a private sector model (with no real control over admission or membership numbers) have allowed this issue to be effectively hidden.

A straightforward Criminal Defence Service with both sols and barristers under one roof could even save costs by cutting out the ridiculous legal aid bureaucracy and eliminating waste. It would mean the end of the Criminal Bar but maybe that’s better than this zombie like existence.

(12)(15)

Anonymous

Completely agree that we need this, but the right wing gutter press (the Mail, Sun, etc)would run wild, portraying the service as ‘taxpayer pays fat cat lawyers for murderers and rapists’. The right wing broadsheets would run stories about big government, overspending, and what a constant disaster the NHS supposedly is. The Tories will never initiate anything that involves Government spending or control.

So there’s no votes in the whole thing anyway, and there are in fact many many votes to lose. The NHS is an inherently cuddly thing because it looks after us and we all need it. An NLS would inherently serve mostly criminals. Pointing out that there are many many innocent people who also need representation, and that it is a good thing for criminals to be represented anyway, would be met by howls of derision by the Daily Mail and its ilk, who seem to think that once you have been arrested for anything you should just be hanged within the day.

(9)(1)

Not Amused

Yeah … see.. those ‘right wing press’ are actually your fellow citizens. The argument should at least be put.

In fact the last attempt to my recollection to trial a criminal defence service was under Blair. It was the bazzas and the sols who scuppered it. But their alternative policy of ‘slowly dying until someone takes pity’ isn’t a plan I’m prepared to watch any longer.

You sell the argument by making sure what you are doing is the right thing and that it is economically sensible. Far too many lefties forget the second part. But you get no where in Britain if you can’t combine moral arguments with economic ones. There is a narrative that is deeply undemocratic in the left right now – you lost an election because your policies were crap and your leader was a weirdo. It’s not the end of the world. But if you want to be a tin foil hat wearing loony and blame it all on ‘the right wing press’ then you have to have a pretty selective memory to forget Murdoch endorsing Blair.

So cut the waste from the overall budget and (unavoidably) cut sol and baz numbers. Mirror Dr rates of pay for all. Be prepared to move everything out of (at least central) London. Produce a plan for a sensible, cost effective service. Then the Sun and the Mail are your friends.

(6)(14)

Anonymous

You’ve ascribed views to me that I did not express. It’s not the first time you’ve done it either. I don’t have a clue what the election has to do with anything, and actually said that I broadly agree with you. But if you think that

A) The Tories do not have an ideological opposition to anything more than a bare minimum of State-provided services; and

B) The Daily Mail and Sun are not major opinion formers that continuously run exaggerated or invented stories about criminals being treated too well;

Then you may be beyond saving. I don’t frankly care what ‘the lefties’ think – they aren’t in Government. There are just as many idiots on the right and, like them or not, you would need the support of the bleeding hearts to possibly get this sort of thing set up, since for every sensible Tory like Mr Grieve, there is a raving authoritarian lunatic like Ms May.

(7)(1)

Dr Bonham

Bazzas and sols?

(0)(0)

Anonymous

@Anonymous, 5.05pm

I agree that state provision for criminal defendants will never get rapturous acclaim from the Daily Mail and the Sun. But wouldn’t a defence institution be better tolerated by them than the spending of public money on self-employed defence lawyers – another group that will never get Christmas cards from the right wing press?

When confronted with the possibility of being in the shoes of a defendant because of, say, a traffic accident or a false accusation by a malicious complainant or a self-defence case, people generally do accept that a good and motivated defence team is what they should get. And the right-wing papers and commentators know that.

The problem is that those same people can’t reconcile direct payment to (theoretically) profit-making firms or self-employed lawyers with the duty they expect to be discharged on their behalf. If that work was done by a state body (and an NLS might even still some nominal goodwill from the NHS) I think they’d be more willing to put up with inevitable expenditure on the ‘undeserving’ cases, just as smokers, drug addicts, battling drunks, and so on are grudgingly tolerated as NHS patients.

I don’t support any of this by the way, but I can see that the Mail and others might not be quite so anti.

(1)(0)

Anonymous

The government has a public defence service of its own. It is subsidised by the state and from the day it opened has been much much more expensive than equivalent private firms offering their services through criminal legal aid. The notional accounts are hard to track down having mysteriously disappeared from the Legal Aid Agency annual published reports. Suffice to say many of its regional offices were culled after a pilot. Those that remain have had their staffing levels swelled by silks who couldn’t hack it in private practice, but might have been needed to protect the Lord Chancellor’s vanity when the bar refused VHCC work.

(4)(0)

Not Amused

Dear Criminal Barrister,

You can’t eat bitterness. Those of us who support a National Legal Service are doing so because we a) think you’ve reached the point where you stubbornness approaches self harm, and b) are more concerned about the total inaccessibility of crime to anyone not born wealthy than you seem to be.

I don’t care if a pilot project has failed. It is not a good argument to say that a totally nationalised service would fail. Even if it cost the government more than expected – then so fucking what? You people are basically dying in poverty. Do you want your last words to be “I told you I was cheaper”.

You’re all utterly loveable. But you are feckless and random and ungovernable. You are delinquents and that is why we love you. But this has to stop. Nationalisation is the only real way to solve crime’s problem. This current Mexican stand-off between you and whoever is in charge is utterly pointless and has no solution.

So stop being so fucking stubborn. You can still use the Inns and the wigs but for god sake accept the fact that you are all nationalised anyway. You only have one client and it hates you. Why not let it have to shoulder the burden of paying you a pension at the same time?

You adorable stubborn nutjobs.

(2)(6)

Frankly

How would a “legal NHS” be less expensive than the independent Bar?
You idiots don’t pay members of the independent Bar’s pension, over time or days off.

(0)(0)

Anonymous

“How would a “legal NHS” be less expensive than the independent Bar?”

For the same reason that the NHS is cheaper than the state paying privately employed doctors. Economies of scale, concentration and development of expertise, nationally co-ordinated policies, and so on.

Even with pensions, mat leave, and all the rest of it, a legal NHS would be better value than private practitioners. Just like the NHS. Are you against the NHS?

(2)(0)

Anonymous

Or instead of removing independence and competition from the bar the government could set out a minimum hourly rate below which cases should not fall. Then if you do not get the decent brief fee for trial you are compensated for the hours of prep put in.

(3)(0)

Not Amused

‘Competition’ is what destroyed your fee rates.

(1)(0)

Sandman

This is a bit of silly reporting.

Counsel know when they accept a brief that it might not go to trial and they will miss out on the trial fee. The reasoning is that those cases which do go to trial should help compensate the cases which don’t. It might not be a very good system, it might still not pay very much, and it might create some perverse incentives, but as a matter of accounting, you can’t look at the dud case in isolation.

It’s no different to a personal injury lawyer saying “I agreed to no win no fee, and lost this particular case, so my hourly rate was £0 per hour”. Or a high-powered commercial lawyer saying “My normally reliable client just went bankrupt, so I’m not going to get my fees paid. I did £100,000 of work at £700 per hour, but by the time I’ve written off what I can’t recover, my hourly rate is 27p per hour”.

Technically true when looking retrospectively, but not very interesting in terms of telling us anything about the financial health of that individual.

(18)(2)

Anonymous

Well yes, except in this case:
1. They won. The CPS dropped the charges. Which is something the Defendant’s legal team were penalised for.
2. No-one was on a CFA.

The financial health of the individual is irrelevant. The amount being paid to a highly qualified professional to uphold the rule of law is what is relevant. Even is counsel is a millionaire s/he should be paid appropriately for the work being done.

(0)(0)

Mark

Dear “Not Amused”

Your argument – such as it is – is rather fatally undermined by your seeming total ignorance of the the state of the CJS. You say:

“In fact the last attempt to my recollection to trial a criminal defence service was under Blair. It was the bazzas and the sols who scuppered it.”

I take it from this that the recruitment and payment of a significant number of “bazzas” (yuk) to the Criminal Defence Service headed by David Aubrey QC (himself a “bazza”) last year somehow passed you by?

(1)(1)

Anonymous

‘Lord Chancellor’ Grayling significantly expanded the Public Defender Service (PDS) last year. It worked out significantly more expensive than using the independent bar (as the CPS has found, hence it’s move back towards the Bar and away from HCAs), and at least some of those taken on now appear to be kicking their heels doing very little for a comfortable salary.

(3)(0)

Not Amused

Yeah, I guessed that. (Except for the fact that I don’t trust anyone on how much legal aid ‘costs’ – if ministers lie, so might anyone else. I’ll not be happy till I see a budget).

But we could make full nationalisation viable.

(0)(0)

Not Amused

I don’t think that half arsed attempts will work. I am calling for a single national provider of criminal defence services in my arguments – such as they are.

I don’t see how being graceless aids your cause. Some commentator above, far cleverer than I, suggests we call it the NLS. I do like that. Putting a bunch of the under employed and unemployable in a room and calling them a criminal defence service, while leaving the private bar untouched, just doesn’t have the same ring Mark, now does it?

(0)(0)

VTESI

@ Legal Cheek Editors – this article would have been just as interesting were it to have zero reference to Amal.

(13)(0)

Anonymous

Legal Cheek adopting the Daily Mail approach to reporting. How long until we see a legal sidebar of shame?

(2)(1)

Satin Cut

I suppose one view of the article is that only the wealthy will soon be able to usefully remain in the profession. I think a case like this could have been dealt with in-house or by instructing locally.

(2)(0)

The Ayatollah Kenobi

Is Gove having a giraffe? He and his team have decimated legal aid, leaving thousands of people up and down the country who have housing, family and immigration problems without any legal representation whatsoever, which every single level of the judiciary and the National Audit Office has confirmed has not made anything more efficient or cost-effective – leaving aside the cost in individual human misery (which doesn’t seem to bother a lot of people). Now, either inadvertently or by design, he appears to be attacking and blaming the Criminal Bar for letting the system and citizens down – at the same time as parading Magna Carta and access to justice for all. If there’s no money, how come he has civil servants in his department earning £200,000 plus and millions to spend on G4S, IT suppliers and management consultants, whose net contribution in value to anything is constantly being questioned in Parliament?

(3)(0)

Anonymous

Sorry – but where on Earth did Clooney A get 8 smegging mil £ ??

(0)(0)

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