In the last 48 hours, two friends, a family member, a twitter follower and an instructing solicitor have all expressed surprise that I’m so quiet. Not quiet in general, but on a certain issue.
‘Pupils contribute nothing’
‘Coffee v Pupils,’
I think I prefer Myersongate.
In short, http://www.legalcheek.com/2012/02/simon-myerson-qc-12k-minimum-pupillage-award-is-fair/ Simon Myerson QC writes on legal cheek. In response to the suggestion that we give up a coffee a day in order to pay for pupils to secure the future of our profession.
The commercial silk says that pupils contribute nothing to chambers during their pupillage.
Watching and waiting
I’ve watched the fall out, not only on legalcheek itself, but also on other websites.
The feeling from other barristers, pupil barristers and bar school graduates has been resolutely contrary.
In my own mind, the suggestion that pupils contribute nothing is absolutely laughable. I drafted for senior juniors, I did legal research for solicitors, oh and when I got on my feet I gave chambers 10% of my earnings, brought in new solicitors and when we were short of clerks I humped box files from one chambers to another.
So, pupils contribute nothing?
Also, I feel a responsibility to protect and encourage new members of my profession to come forward. Without barristers like ‘Silk Cut’ giving up his time, I would never have come to the bar. I now feel the same responsibility and help where I can.
But I’m worried
I find it worrying that a QC would make such a broad statement. I am not sure if it’s the same Myerson QC who is at Byrom Street Chambers. Byrom St is an impressive set, but they have something notable about them, they have nobody under a 1995 call.
In London, Cloth Fair chambers continues to pick up impressive work. They have four QCs and two senior juniors from 1997 call.
They have no pupils. No junior members of the bar get to learn from John Kelsey-Fry QC.
So there’s a subtle indication that business efficacy requires more senior members of the bar to cast off the more junior members.
Look to our leaders
My worry is that through history and courtesy we remain silent and expect our leaders to protect us.
The question of advocacy assessments looms, the dreaded QASA. Lord Justice Moses showed sympathy for those of us with a criminal practice, Joshua Rozenberg reports:
Young criminal advocates were already the least well paid and the most vilified of those who practised in the courts, Moses pointed out. They would be the guinea pigs while their counterparts in commercial chambers would remain free to sit in court, unassessed, behind a “heavyweight silk boring for England or for Russia”
I know it’s just a nod in our direction, but I’m really grateful that a senior member of the judiciary has recognised our existence. And it’s not only members of the judiciary, some silks have, even a Tory MP, Geoffrey Cox QC.
But we’re about to get to crunch time
Members of the Bar who rely on public funding will need more than just a few friends at the top. The junior members need a champion. And, as of late, I’ve been worried that we don’t have one.
I’ve also secretly worried that the future of the bar might be forgotten for a short reprieve in some respect which advantages senior colleagues.
Can we put our trust in the hands of senior practitioners?I simply don’t know, I hope so. But, with announcements that pupils are useless, and considering the Byrom/Cloth Fair models, what do we do?
Do we take door 1…
And stick to the status quo. There’s a strong argument to do so. All our senior colleagues were in our position at one time. We all know individuals QCs and senior juniors who will stand up for us and for future generations.
We should throw our weight behind the Young Legal Aid Lawyers, our circuit reps and our inns of court reps.
Or, we take door 2
And we decide to look after ourselves. This of course would necessitate more than a little work. The juniors would have to lobby for a position on every Inn and Circuit committee.
We would have to separate off and in terms of negotiation with the LSC and government, we would need to be certain that we have our own representatives.
Pub beer garden advocacy about where our profession is going would need to move from the heat of halogen lamps to board rooms and conference halls.
I take option 1, let’s trust our leaders. They don’t forget how difficult things can be and I am sure they see us as being of use. Also, there’s individual personalities to consider. A senior Judge has come out in our support, the leader of the South Eastern Circuit has also shown that he cares. We all individually know particular leading barristers who will stand up for us.
Their experience and gravitas is more likely to persuade and protect then if we send a champion who may just be thought of as a petulant child at the dinner table.
However, that said, we need some movement forward. We really cannot spend our time moaning in beer gardens and instead ought to focus.
We do need to stand for more committees. We do need to back each other and vote when a junior junior stands. We need to engage with and enlarge professional bodies such as the Young Legal Aid Lawyers association and Young Barristers’ Committee.
Perhaps we can remind Mr Myerson QC what we at the bottom rungs contribute to the profession.