The incoming chairman of the Bar has called on Lord Justice Jackson to protect the junior Bar from the impact of his review of fixed recoverable costs.
In his inaugural speech last night, Andrew Langdon QC outlined his concern about the junior Bar – which has been contracting in recent years – and identified Sir Rupert’s review as one of the specific pressures at the moment.
“I fear that suggestions that solicitors will share the resultant (very much lower) fixed fees with the Bar are optimistic,” he said.
“We join with solicitors in doubting the wisdom of promoting ‘a one size fits all’ policy. But if I am right that the Bar risks being squeezed out of the process, what does that mean? Now is not a time to be diffident in asserting our value. Let me assert it: litigation without specialist barristers will be to deny the parties and the court the best advocacy.
“And who doubts that we, compared to other litigation costs, are value for money? Less of the Bar means less specialist legal analysis; less evidential focus; more satellite litigation and expense; more false starts; longer, less focused trials; more missed opportunities to settle claims at appropriate stages and for the right amount, and last but not least, less efficient use of court time.”
He described the changes that may come out of the review as “piecemeal in the sense that Lord Justice Jackson’s brief is not so wide as to consider how the reforms, when taken together with other pressures on the junior Bar, will affect the long term viability of our profession”.
But even viewed in isolation, Mr Langdon said, “I believe the case for accommodating within the scheme some mechanism or criteria for allowing the recoverability of costs reasonably incurred in the instruction of counsel at each critical stage of litigation would be a compromise in the public interest.
“An overview, in terms of the impact of this changes on the future of the Bar, is critical.”
The speech also saw Mr Langdon express opposition to the scale of the court modernisation programme.