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Nothing unusual about hiring newly qualified barrister for Miller case legal team, says government

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Rookie Richard Howell once worked for Dominic Cummings on the Vote Leave campaign

One of the lawyers defending Boris Johnson in last month’s landmark Supreme Court case on the prorogation of parliament was only just finishing off his barrister qualifications at the time.

Richard Howell, who officially joined Brick Court Chambers last month after completing pupillage, was part of the government’s legal team alongside Sir Eadie QC and two heavy-hitting juniors. He had previously played a key role in the successful Vote Leave campaign to leave the EU, working closely with Johnson’s top advisor Dominic Cummings.

Former government lawyer Carl Gardner said that instructing a newly qualified barrister in such a high profile case was “surprising” and raised questions for the Attorney General’s office.

But the Attorney General’s spokesperson said that it was not unusual to hire “junior junior” barristers to help with big cases.

Howell, who was called to the bar in 2018, is listed in both the High Court and Supreme Court judgments in the prorogation case as one of four government counsel. The others were Sir James Eadie QC, David Blundell and Christopher Knight.

Eadie is First Treasury Counsel and handles the government’s most complex and sensitive cases, while Blundell and Knight are both on the Attorney General’s panel of preferred lawyers for government work.

The government can instruct “junior juniors” to do low-grade work without needing to recruit from the preferred panel. The Attorney General’s office told Legal Cheek that there was nothing particularly unusual about retaining a junior junior, but confirmed that the Attorney General had personally signed off the legal team.

Although new to the bar, Howell (pictured below) boasts an impressive CV. He graduated from Oxford with a first in history in 2014, took a distinction in the GDL in 2015 and an outstanding BPTC grade in 2018. In between, he worked as a researcher for the Vote Leave campaign and was said by insiders to be the brains of its research operation.

Richard Howell (Credit: Brick Court Chambers)

Patrick O’Connor QC had told The Lawyer “on what I have been told, the process of this appointment to the Prime Minister’s counsel team, in such a sensitive case, is surprising, and calls for explanation”.

Gardner told Legal Cheek “I think people are right to be asking questions about this, and that the Attorney’s office should answer them”.

A spokesperson for the Attorney General’s Office said: “As with any case of this magnitude, the Attorney General agreed the composition of the counsel team for Miller v The Prime Minister. As a junior junior, Richard Howell was supervised by First Treasury Counsel Sir James Eadie QC and other more senior members of the counsel team, David Blundell and Chris Knight”.

The Brick Court website says that “before coming to the bar, Richard worked for a year in politics, providing policy advice and assistance to cabinet ministers, MPs and peers”.

This is a modest description of what many say was a key role in the Vote Leave campaign.

Howell is described in the book All Out War, a well-reviewed account of the EU referendum campaign, as a “whizzkid” researcher nicknamed “Ricardo” by Dominic Cummings and other Vote Leave figures.

According to the book, Howell drafted part of Vote Leave’s application to be designated as the official Leave campaign by the Electoral Commission. Howell reportedly spotted a glaring error in the application form the night before submission — which might otherwise have allowed the Nigel Farage-backed Leave.EU group to become the official face of Leave.

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Last year, Dominic Cummings mentioned Howell on his blog as one of Vote Leave’s key figures.

Howell officially joined Brick Court in “September 2019”, and was reportedly still completing his pupillage when instructed in the prorogation case. His practising certificate dates from 23 September 2019, according to the barristers’ regulator — one day before the Supreme Court handed down its judgment.

Brick Court Chambers has been approached for comment.

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42 Comments

Anon.

VOTE LEAVE

TAKE BACK CONTROL

WINNING

WINNING SO HARD

GIRFUY

NO DEAL

Former poopill

It’s not unusual.

They need someone to

1. Do late night research
2. Carry the books
3. Get the coffees.

Rwandaman

So he’s a Cummings acolyte. And proteges have proteges and so ad infinitum…

Ex 'A' panel counsel

There are dozens of “junior junior” barristers on the Attorney General’s ‘C’ Panel who would have loved to have been allowed the opportunity to do ‘low grade work’ on such a significant case. The fact that someone who had not yet even completed pupillage was drafted in from the set that otherwise had no connection with the government’s counsel team, is of itself very surprising. Add in the Vote Leave/Dominic Cummings connection and the GLD/A-G is left with a whole lot of explaining to do. No doubt his vast experience of constitutional law was invaluable to the team…………..

3rd GLD lawyer

As a former A panel member, you know that there is a big difference between junior juniors (as GLD uses the term) and C panelists. C panelists are able to do the full range of work that the government requires from the bar, just for more simple matters.

Junior juniors are prohibited from doing anything more than what a paralegal would do. They are basically temps. However, it’s my understanding that they need to have completed pupillage first. You’re right that it is very odd that someone was able get permission for Richard to be involved. I believe our admittedly minimal approval process for JJs asks about that sort of thing.

Current GLD lawyer

I doubt he did much on the case. David (my go to barrister these days) would have done the bulk of the work whilst Sir James lounged about with his boat shoes on the table like he normally does. Did he not get the hint that his knighthood meant he would retire as FTC?

Ex 'A' panel counsel

That’s rather the point – I’m sure he didn’t do much – but why was he picked and what was he there for?
Were the rest of the team all aware of the Vote Leave connection?

3rd GLD lawyer

Based on my limited inside knowledge, you are correct on all counts. I heard a story that part of the team mistook Richard for an AO and was surprised to hear he was a barrister

Ann Moose

This is a disgusting politically-motivated attack on a very young new member of the bar.

He’s a super bright tenant at a leading commercial set – perfectly well-qualified to be the third junior on a big case like this.

Imagine the outrage if a blogger tried to score a similar point against a new tenant at e.g. Doughty Street in similar circumstances – with relevant political affiliations and experience being reversed. “Before pupillage, Miss X worked closely with Keir Starmer on the Remain campaign…”

Legal Cheek are an absolute disgrace.

That said, I imagine Howell quite rightly couldn’t give a flying fuck.

Ex 'A' panel counsel

I refer to my previous answer for my previous questions

Brexit have it

Do you? Do you refer to your previous answer for your previous questions? I refer you to the fact that you lost the referendum and are going to have to get it right up you any day now.

Anon

Well a Doughty Street barrister doing the same case at Legal Aid rates would been paid £480 (fixed fee from public funds) to defend a normal member of the public who had the misfortune to have some total **** launch a meritless prosecution against them.

I do not agree with Boris on most things, but this was not a prosecution he should ever have had to defend. However, Boris did walk through the lobey to approve LASPO, limiting Defendant’s costs to the legal aid rate (even where the Defendant is not entitled to Legal Aid and has no choice but to pay privatley). LASPO also provided that the failed private prosecutor could still recover all of his costs against the tax payer.

So the end result of this case is the Boris ends up £480 – minus what he paid his legal team down. The prosecutor is renumerated from public funds for bringing a meritless prosecution. All due to an Act Boris voted for as he thought it would only affect criminals who get off on a technicality. Be careful what you vote for.

John

They can hire who they want. Especially if they’re hiring thickos like this who can’t convince Lady Hale of anything.

Golddigging spouse, yo

Was this passed on by another disgruntled junior junior in Temple?

Benny Goodman

Atrocious article. Very junior counsel (particularly at top end sets) get instructed on big cases all the time. There was one on the other side in the same case I believe. Not pleasant to politicise such a matter.

Just Anonymous

I consider this whole attack nasty, baseless and mean-spirited.

As this article correctly says, there is nothing unusual about instructing junior juniors in these sorts of cases. They aren’t instructed for their “vast knowledge of constitutional law”. That’s what Sir James Eadie QC brings to the table. They’re instructed to do large amounts of low level grunt work quickly and efficiently. For these they simply need intelligence, efficiency and an excellent work ethic.

All this, Richard Howell appears to have.

The question becomes, why him – rather than other equally qualified junior juniors.

Well, I don’t find it surprising that, if he’s already known in government circles (for the entirely legitimate reasons set out above) and if he’s therefore already proven his intelligence and work ethic and thus gained their trust, they would be comfortable instructing him on this sort of case.

If he’s performed any aspect of his job incompetently, then let him be held to account for it just like anyone else at the Bar. But if not, then leave the poor chap alone.

Lord Harley of Counsel

I can confirm that the Privy Arbital Council has received an appeal notice in respect of the decision of the Supreme Court.

His Holiness Dr. Alan Blacker of Counsel, Pad.E (Dublin), MD, OBE, WAN, CBBC, GCSE, Sticker for being a brave boy at the dentist (with Hons-2018), Certificate of Toilet Training (3rd Class).

Yay!

Harley’s back!!!

But wait…

No….

You’re an impostering bumblefilth!

I am the real Lord Harley!!

Bow down before your Lord and Master, gutter-sludge!!!!

*reaches for black cap*

Barrister

What, is the insinuation that he was instructed because of his role in vote leave? If this is the suggestion, come out and say it or put the question to those who instructed him rather than hinting. It’s not unusual for new tenants to get onto big cases – I expect he did work in pupillage on this case which impressed and then was instructed when he was taken on in chambers – totally normal. There are least two junior juniors instructed on various sides in this case who are only two/three years post pupillage.

Cambridge LLB

Boris is a man of the people.

John

Yes, overweight, unkempt, badly dressed.

Such a leaver…

Former Bazza

This is a non story. In top end commercial /civil sets, it is customary to have a raft of juniors in large complicated cases, doing research, drafting bits of skellys or pleadings etc, for subsequent amendment by senior junior counsel.
He was a junior , junior, junior nothing more or less

Anon

From an inside source, I believe there was a call for very junior juniors and he was just the first to respond. The reason Eadie went to Brick was because of the large number of Blackstone people involved which made Chinese walls increasingly difficult.

Maybe that isn’t true but is there evidence it is not and of some big conspiracy to give ‘jobs for the vote leave boys’?

Anonnn

Thanks for the inside info – more of this is needed at LC

Anonymous

Is he John Howell QC’s son? Also an expert on constitutional law…

Anon

I would LOVE to know this.

An important fact to clarify, don’t you think LC?

Anon

Yes he is.

BPP, UK’s No.1 Law School

And ANOTHER pupil whose father is a barrister.

Do you see why everyone, both inside and outside the profession, dislikes lawyers?

Little Miss Explanation

And there you have your explanation.

Gg HK kkkc

Brick Court operates like a small law firm, they need pupils and juniors co-ordinating doing the grunt work. Brick Court doesn’t even have pupils in court; they have mooting competitions against each other every month or so. The juniors aren’t doing their own cases, they work as part of a team on huge billion dollar disputes. That’s the way it works.

In other news, a trainee was staffed on a billion dollar PE deal. What the heck??! Why on Earth was a trainee staffed on such a high value matter?!??

Bona Vacantia

Eadie having successfully lost the last two Gina Miller cases on appeal, it may be that fingers could be pointed elsewhere as to the efficacy of the government team.

Gladiatrix

The more interesting story 8s the demolition of the Supreme Court judgement by Professor John Finnis in his article for Policy Exchange. Plus Jolyon Maugham admitting on Radio Five Live to having unauthorised and undeclared access to privileged information from someone on the Government legal team.

Another GLD lawyer

I instruct James Eadie a fair bit. Of course we have a team, generally including another QC to lead day to day, a couple of panellists and perhaps a junior junior. But I find it surprising that someone so junior was used here. And it’s surprising that they aren’t in the chambers of another member of the team. It’s not so astonishing it demands explanation but it’s certainly unusual.

Anon

A beautiful example of Core Duty 4 and rC21.10 in action. Such moral courage.

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