I write today from the SS Doomed, a fine ship, captained by my cousin Captain Horatio Charon, who served with absolutely no distinction as Commodore of some blazer wearing yacht squadron on the South Coast of England and bored everyone, including himself, rigid with tales of life on the bloody ocean wave.
I sit here on the bridge, a glass of Rioja in my hand. It is 9.45 am, but even though there are no icebergs on the Medway, Horatio Charon is not terribly good at sailing and if we go down I would not wish to do so without a wine glass in my hand. This is my new mantra. The pathologist will not find anaesthetics, painkillers or enough dope inside me to kill a herd of elephants, but I would like him to write on my death certificate, should my soul be lost this day at sea… “He died with an acceptable level of red wine inside him for a gentleman of letters”.
Reading the Law Society Gazette as I do avidly each Thursday lunchtime when a solicitor mate hands me his pristine copy still in the cellophane wrapper (unopened), my eye was caught by the headline…
BAR AT ‘ROCK BOTTOM’ DECLARES BROWNE
Well.. I suspect, given the spat between Paul Marsh, President of The Law Society and Desmond Browne QC, Chairman of the Bar, about solicitor-advocates competing with barristers and solicitors enjoying an advantage because barristers cannot pay referral fees to enterprsing claims farmers and ambulance chasers – to which Paul Marsh, not unreasonably said…. “Well change your rules then!”… (Paul Marsh put it rather more elegantly) - the subtlety of The Gazette headline may be another arrow in St Sebastian Browne QC’s back.
I don’t know if Desmond Browne QC actually said the Bar is at ‘rock bottom’ but at a debate on legal aid The Gazette reports him as saying ‘that barristers around the country are ‘totally demoralised’ due to pressures in relation to fees, competition and proposed reforms’ The Gazette, wryly, added ‘Only two peers and no MPs attended the debate”.
Well.. this coming on top of the Crown Prosecution Service having the temerity to employ barristers who did not wish to throw themselves on the burning fire of the Bar’s funeral pyre (more of which later) and who wanted a degree of life in their lives and no longer needing the ‘independent’ bar and Jack ‘The Lad Chancellor’ Straw’s remarks about the law not existing to provide work for lawyers… it is hardly surprising that Desmond Browne QC is a little frustrated and flagging up the difficulties.
I did a podcast with Jane Lambert, an Intellectual property barrister, who has developed a new attitude and approach to practice. It is worth listening to.
I can’t see the independent bar adapting quickly to the opportunities afforded by the Legal Services Act – they are already lagging on recognition and regulation rule changes – and it may be that they don’t embrace or relish the opportunity of working in partnership with solicitors, accountants and grocers. But we shall see as time marches on.
In a marvellously unscientific survey I asked friends of mine in their late forties and early fifties who practice at the Bar what they (a) know about and (b) think of the Legal Services Act. Not a lot, would be a fair summation. There isn’t a great deal of literature about on the issue and it would be interesting to hear from practising barrister readers (I know there are a few of you!) what you feel about the coming change.
Finally.. on this topic before we go over to The News of The World… Legal Aid work, Desmond Browne QC says is on the wane for the independent bar and he points to the decline in the number of pupillages on offer this autumn in Chambers doing publicly funded work “. In Birmingham, he said, they were ‘non-existent’. (Gazette 9 july 2009) I cannot believe our second City is alone in this?
So… over to The News of The World which has not so much been writing about the News this week but appearing in it with tales of phone bugging and other investigative techniques.
Here are the news headlines according to the News of the World: La Toya Jackson: I know who murdered my Michael – Apparently Michael Jackson is worth more to dark forces dead than alive and doctors are being investigated about how Michael Jackson died with enough drugs inside him to wipe out most of mammalian wildlife in Africa.
I then discovered the following news…. Lily Allen has a third nipple and says ‘I am completely comfortable getting them out’ . Jade Goody’s widower Jack ‘All Heart’ Tweed charmed a model into bed with a text message: ‘U want rump?’. I must remember not to ask this question when I next take a woman to a steak restaurant… and then…. I lost the will to live.
Right… I have enjoyed drinking a glass of Rioja early this Sunday morning. I am now in excellent spirits accordingly.. time for an hour of Smokedo exercises and then I am going to the pub to read a sensible newspaper and eat a chicken. I shall have half a chicken with some vegetables, potatoes and a bottle of something red and light… a Bardolino? Who knows.
Best, as ever.. have a good one. I may be back later.