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Monday Message 06.01.14

CBA Chairman’s Update:
Nigel Lithman QC

Monday 6 January 2014


Personal Email: [email protected]

As I’m sure you would have predicted, this Monday Message is all about pudding.
Not the pudding that we may have had for Christmas, breaking our tooth on the silver 6 pence, just when we could have done with the money. Nor the pudding referred to in the case of Galbraith full of plums and duff, where only the fruit is referred to and not the stodge.
No, the pudding that counts this week is the pudding that we are looking to see the proof of its quality by seeing how many have eaten it.
By the time you read this we will have been able to gauge what happened in court this morning and the protest subscribed to by so many of those taking responsibility for themselves and their profession.
This week the government issued the figures on earnings from legal aid by civil and criminal barristers. Nothing wrong with that.
But why on earth were only a small part of them given to the Daily Mail?
Why were any of them given to the Daily Mail. ?
The figures given were duff. They revealed how much a relatively small amount of the criminal bar earned, over £100000, i.e. £80,000 ex vat, before expenses.
Why would they not want to have published the underlying figures as to what the “average” barrister earns?
That quoted figure is £56,000 for the median barrister, that is the barrister without which the system won’t work. Of course the figure includes VAT. Why should it? It’s not our money. Anyway after VAT £44,800, subtract chambers fees say 20% plus sundry expenses say £35,000.
Should not the Ministry of Justice be on our side?  Should the Lord Chancellor not want a balanced picture given to the press?
I have received at least two other analyses:

  1. An industrious member of the Bar
  2. The Bar Council

They show as follows:

  1. THE INDUSTRIOUS MEMBER OF THE BAR.  2,609 barristers are earning  £35,000 or less before tax and NIC, that is over half the bar.
  2. THE BAR COUNCIL.  Half the Bar earns neither more nor less than the average national income of £27,000 gross and don’t begin to touch the average professionals wage.

Fair enough I hear you say. But what would the person earning the national average wage do if attempts were made to reduce his income by 17% or 30%?
The answer of course is exactly what we are doing.
The indications are that you are all saying you will not do any work at cut fee rates. From what I have heard you are refusing to accept VHCC’s either at reduced rates or declassified rates and you will do the same with AGFs’s.

  1. THE AGF’s – The Battle Still to Come.

Yet another body of analysis shows these reductions
Between 2010 and 2013 final third cracked trial fees have been reduced by sometimes between 58 and 63 %. This has got ridiculous.


In the words of our dear administrator Aaron, I received not a thin cat list but an emaciated cat list.
One person’s e mail, made me immediately telephone her so she knew she had our support.
She is happy to be named but at this stage I won’t. She has a degree not only in Law but a Masters in Public International Law. She did an internship at the United Nations.
She has worked a 6-day week. She has a taxable income for 2012 /2013 of £13,806
The Attorney General asked whether people of ability will come to the criminal bar he said No. What a shameful admission
This is why we are fighting this campaign.
“D” DAY.
Fitting it is that the next stage of our struggle begins on the 6th day of the month. By the time you read this many of you will have made your point. You will have sent a lawful, respectful, responsible and proportionate message to the Lord Chancellor.
Those that wished to work or were constrained to do so through cases of extreme sensitivity and vulnerability will have done so.
The remainder will have said no: this has got to stop.

We will have shown the strength of resolve of the legal profession.
We cannot win this battle without the combined efforts of ourselves and our solicitor colleagues and I have seen the resolve of not just the CLSA and LCCSA membership but solicitors up and down the country.
Lord Macdonald has joined the fray and on Sky today said as follows:
“Chris Grayling is in danger of destroying something he doesn’t understand”. Strong words. Ken feels strongly about saving the Bar as he believes do Lord Faulks and Simon Hughes MP. I pray the Lord Chancellor does as well.
As I said I would do, both before and after every step that is taken to stop the rot, I would notify the Lord Chancellor and try and arrange to see him, to see where we are now.
I AM DUE TO MEET WITH HIM TUESDAY 14TH JANUARY and of course will report back.
I AM ALSO DUE TO MEET WITH SIR BILL JEFFREY to make contribution to his report that we say should precede any consideration of cuts.

  1. Our message be it in this Monday Message, on blogs or twitter, should be tempered and considered and not abusive in tone. We are cleverer than that. I can of course only have say over anything purporting to go out in the name of the CBA. But this measured approach of course includes towards the Lord Chancellor, however frustrating these times are.


  1. From time to time in the constant activity of the spinning plates, I forget to pay tribute to others I should. I speak inter alia of our solicitor allies.


  1. I also speak of those that e mail me, often with different views, but always constructive and invariably supportive. It is uplifting in these difficult times.


  1. You may be interested in one such e mail that I received. It was from a member of Littleton Chambers asking what it was that the Civil and Public Law Bar can do to support our struggle.

Please do not be shy to e-mail me yourselves. I will try to reply to them all but in any event helps me to assess what I am responding to.
Now where’s that pudding……..
Nigel Lithman QC

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