Top commercial barrister lands Attorney General role

By on

As ex-Linklaters lawyer scoops Brexit secretary position

Geoffrey Cox QC

A top-earning commercial barrister has become the new Attorney General as part of Theresa May’s hastily organised cabinet reshuffle.

Geoffrey Cox QC, MP for Torridge and North Devon, was elevated to the top legal role after his predecessor, Jeremy Wright QC, was appointed as secretary of state for digital, culture, media and sport.

Cambridge grad Cox was called to the bar in 1982 and went on to co-found London’s Thomas More Chambers in 1992. According to the set’s website, Cox has appeared in many high profile cases before the Court of Appeal, the Privy Council and the Supreme Court.

His profile lists his areas of specialism as arbitration, commercial, crime, financial and regulatory crime, courts martial, public and human rights. The MP’s register of interests reveals that Cox, who took silk in 2003, has earned over £460,000 from legal work since August 2017.

The 2018 Chambers Most List

In 2016, the Standards Committee found Cox had breached a House of Commons rule after omitting to register £400,000 (11 payments) of outside earnings for legal work. The 58-year-old said he had not intended to hide the payments and blamed the ill-health retirement of his head clerk for the “oversight”.

Meanwhile, ex-Linklaters lawyer Dominic Raab has been appointed as the Secretary of State for Exiting the European Union following the resignation of David Davis.

Raab, who studied law at Lady Margaret Hall, Oxford, joined Linklaters as a trainee in 2000. Having completed his training contract, the MP for Esher and Walton joined the legal department of the Foreign Office. Raab’s appointment means that there are now three ex-City lawyers in May’s cabinet. He joins justice secretary David Gauke (ex-Macfarlanes) and local government secretary James Brokenshire (ex-Jones Day).

Sign up to the Legal Cheek Newsletter



Happily, under the impending Corbyn Presidium, the Attorney General will be replaced with a Supreme People’s Procurator for the United Soviet of Workers and Train Drivers.




Armed with Dianne Abbot’s abacuses


Corbyn. Sympathiser

Correct. I can’t wait. Uncle Joe would be proud.



When you can’t form an articulate argument, use words like “Soviet” in order to scaremonger. Corbyn’s a communist everyone…haven’t you heard?



You know our MPs are working hard for their annual salary when they have enough time to bill nearly half a million in legal fees in their spare time.

What a champ for gaming the system so effectively for this long.



I quite agree.

Why bother being an MP when he clearly would rather do his legal work. Blocking a thousand other people who would cherish his seat and devote themselves to it full time.



Nothing new for counsel.
I recall representing a police officer in trouble for working as a night club bouncer, during hours the police were paying him too.
Also a roofer who got 18 months for charging exorbitant fees for what he was actually doing.
Being an MP is a privilege and they are meant to be doing public service. While taking the salary for that, going off and earning a healthy (or any) crust elsewhere should be prohibited.
Counsel will happily disappear mid trial, when being lead (&while bring paid a huge brief fee to be there and take over if needed) to do paid work in other Court Houses.
Different rules appear to apply to dishonest tradesmen/police officers, to those applied to Members of The Bar and The House of Commons.



What is a “Court House”?


Name (optional)

I’ll take “pedant” for 200, Jerry.



Except that a refesher is paid mid-trial not a brief fee. And a junior can only be released with the client’s permission. If a legal aid case no refresher is paid for any days where the junior did not attend as the LAA cross-references to the XHBIT log, which will not allow you to sign in at two “Court Houses.” Top Tip: When pretending to be a barristers, it’s best to check how the system works first.


"Top QC"

In the usual lazy journalist style, every QC is a “top” barrister or QC, and sometimes a “top” commercial barrister. I am unclear why “top” in the only adjective that is ever used, but I suspect it is lack of vocabulary/imagination – or maybe they can’t afford a thesaurus.
I am a commercial barrister (although I do not claim to be a “top” one, whatever that is) and I have never come across this person in COMBAR, the Commercial Court, or in fact any commercial case, over many years. Nor is Thomas More regarded as a leading or even a significant commercial set (sorry).
I am not disparaging his abilities (or his chambers), he may be a very fine barrister indeed, and a wonderful person to boot, but he is not a “top” barrister, and certainly not a “top” commercial barrister.



Paragraphs, for God’s sake!

You wouldn’t last a minute in front of a QB judge.



He’s a criminal defence barrister really. He acted for some Defendants in the News of the World hacking scandal. He earned circa £800,000 in the last tax year; £400,000 was not the whole year. There’s a funny video of him on Youtube accepting another term as MP. He seems like a genuinely nice bloke with a great sense of humour.



But look at that chin though? Isn’t that the sure fire mark of a top chancery barrister?





Name (optional)

Haha yes lets pokefun at the man’s appearance, that’s clearly the most pertinent aspect of this scenario.

(You’re a twat).



Quite. Cox is not a commercial silk. He is a criminal hack who dabbles in civil stuff.



He’s bloody impressive in court though …



If you are making £400k a year in your spare time, I’m not sure you can be described as a hack (criminal or otherwise).



400k at his level of seniority makes his being labelled a hack accurate. If he were any good, even accounting for being an MP, he would be earning double that. Stephen Phillips QC, who was a proper commercial Silk from 7 KBW, earned 800k from his legal practice when an MP and, like Cox, was a backbencher. The truth is that Cox is a criminal barrister who also dabbles in civil work. He is not an impressive advocate: he simply booms away, like most criminal hacks. He would go down like a cup of cold sick in the Commercial Court – which of course explains why he has never appeared there.



In commercial law, what typically does a poor, a middling, a good, and a superstar Silk earn?


Whilst I am not a fan of Cox and agree that it is nonsense to describe him as a “commercial silk” (and Thomas More Chambers as a commercial set); there’s rather a lot of silly willy-waving about earnings. Not least because, for example, in 2014, Cox earned £821K; whilst Stephen Phillips earned “only” £258K which barely puts him above the £191K junior barrister Tony Baldry from “the other” 1 Essex Court got:

Anyway, notwithstanding his silly voice, it strikes me it’s not a bad thing to have an AG who is a) a real silk unlike the last one; and b) knows a bit about various areas of law, including public and crime, since the job is rather disparate.

But that is probably too much for the “top commercial barristers” those who think they are the crème de la crème of the Bar because they bore away in the Rolls Building with their 150-page skeleton arguments whilst earning hundreds of times more than anyone else (but, whisper it softly, less than the Revenue Bar)…

Peter Boggs

Sounds like nasty sour grapes to me. Beat you up in court, did he?


Cox’s profile is nothing like an average criminal hack (whatever that is). He’s been in many cases in the Privy Council and appeared in the House of Lords/Supreme Court. He practises in the Cayman Islands and Dubai. Not bad for a criminal hack.


His practice is 95% criminal “law” and his case in Cayman was a criminal trial.


He’s been in many cases in the CI including some important civil cases. See TMSF v Wisteria Bay Limited 2008 CILR 231. But I think we can agree that he practises in criminal law.


He’s more of a top commercial barrister than you.


Comments are closed.

Related Stories