Will the Last Barrister Please Switch Off the Lights

A senior clerk, Ben Arrowboy, sits down with his Head of Chambers, Sidney Blinkers QC, to discuss chambers in advance of the AGM. The chambers, Cloistered Way Chambers, are a predominantly criminal a set. This conversation takes place some time in Summerr 2016.

SB QC: Just give me the headlines and the figures, Ben, so I can do my normal State of the Union address to the AGM. You know, the usual stuff, the “these are difficult times” but “chambers still continues to flourish” kind of stuff.

BA: I’m afraid it is not that straightforward this year, sir. I am afraid we just had a bit of bad news, sir.

SB QC: Oh no, don’t tell it is Mr Auld QC? He hasn’t finally pegged out has he? I told him he shouldn’t be prosecuting road traffic lists, not at 103. But he was always going on about not having a pension and I just could not get him to stop…

BA: No sir, it isn’t Mr Auld. I am afraid it is Tiddles and Co.

SB QC: What about Tiddles and Co? We all cut our teeth on Tiddles work. Old Frank Tiddles instructed me from the first day on my feet. When his daughter took over running the firm they really went from strength to strength. I virtually took Silk on the back of the work they sent me. They are the most loyal solicitors that chambers have. What about them?

BA: Well, sir. They did not get one of the Crime Duty Contracts in the recent tender and it turns out they got lots of work through their duty slots and now they have had to throw their lot in with another firm….

SB QC: That’s very sad. But they have always been loyal so I am sure they will still send their work in from wherever they have ended up. Who have they gone in with?

BA: Biggs, Fish and Pond.

SB QC: Oh.

BA: Exactly, sir. They have been subsumed into the nationwide Biggs, Fish and Pond, one of the main players. They got contracts all over the place and are now hoovering up the Own Client Contract firms that are now struggling.

SB QC: But BFP don’t send us any work.

BA: No, sir.

SB QC: They send it all to Domination House, don’t they?

BA: Yes, sir.

SB QC: Because Domination House as a chambers have an arrangement with BFP that they refer work to them in return for being exclusively instructed by them.

BA: Yes, sir.

SB QC: Why didn’t we think of that?

BA: Because Domination House have chambers on several circuits, sir. They have more connections, more work to refer.

SB QC: Right. Well I suppose that means we have lost Tiddles’s Own Client Contract work does it?

BA: Yes sir, with Tiddles failing to get a CDC with the LAA they have taken their OCC to BFP of the BFG and we are TFO.

SB QC: I’m sorry?

BA: Didn’t get a CDC… Crime Duty Contract with the LAA… the Legal Aid Agency so their Own Client Contract has now been taken by Biggs, Fish and Pond, the Big Firms Group practice.

SB QC: Right. And that leaves us TFO……?

BA: Totally F**ked Over, sir.

SB QC: Well at least we still have other solicitors… As Churchill was fond of saying KBO, KBO, Ben.

BA: KBO, sir?

SB QC: Keep Buggering On, Ben. We will soldier on with our other solicitors.

BA: I didn’t say that was the only bad news, sir.

SB QC: Why? What else can there be?

BA: Do you remember those two partners from BFP who went out on their own a couple of years ago? Set themselves up to be fraud specialists? Send a lot of work into chambers?

SB QC:Of course I do. Rav Singh Ruptah and Diana Banks. Excellent outfit.

BA: Well the have lived up to their name.

SB QC: What do you mean? You clerks always speak in riddles.

BA: They have gone the way of the firm’s name, sir.

SB QC: You are not making sense. The firm is Banks Ruptah…..oh…..I see what you mean. Really?

BA: Yes. They had cut everything to the bone but their Own Client Work just was not enough for them. There were no more cuts to make. A couple of trials were adjourned and cash flow problems drove them to the wall yesterday. They have been consolidated out of existence.

SB QC: Right. I know Johnson and Sons are still going. They have just briefed me.

BA: They are, sir. But just one thing. It’s not Johnson and Sons any more. It’s just Johnson. The sons have both seen the money is elsewhere. One son has gone off to be an intermediary and the other son has locked himself in his back bedroom preparing bids to tender for three probation service contracts, the running of a private prison, a tagging contract and the next tender process for court interpreters.

SB QC: Does he have any experience to bid for such things?

BA: Not at all sir. In the clerks’ room we can’t work out whether he is a visionary genius or he has just had a breakdown….

SB QC: Thankfully Mr Johnson Senior has a good loyal base of old clients to keep him going with his own client work.

BA: He certainly did, sir. Problem is some of them have gone to the big house in the sky, several of them are currently serving IPPs and can’t get Legal Aid to challenge their continued incarceration and when it comes down to it, that leaves four of them.

SB QC: Four what?

BA: Four of his own clients. That’s why Johnson Jr is locked in the back bedroom with a laptop and some conversational Polish CDs….

SB QC: Did any of our professional clients get the Duty Work contract?

BA: Yes, sir.

SB QC: Who? We need to concentrate on servicing their work.

BA: Caldwell and Cunningham have got both contracts.

SB QC: Excellent! That’s excellent news. You need to take them out and oil those wheels!

BA: I already have, sir.

SB QC: Of course you have. You’re my top man….

BA:…. and its bad news I’m afraid.

SB QC: Oh. Of course it is. Seems to be the only news you have at the moment.

BA: Am afraid they are using the increase in work to maximum effect. They have sacked everyone except a few recent graduates as paralegals and then recruited a bunch of HCAs to keep all the work in-house and take the advocacy fee on top. They promised me the odd mention and sentence hearing.

SB QC: This is disastrous. Perhaps I had better get a few of the big-hitters of chambers together to discuss the way forward. Tell Jude, Issy and Guy that I need to meet with them ASAP.

BA: There may be a problem with that.

SB QC: What? This is a crisis.

BA: Do you know that bunch of HCAs I told you Cunningham and Caldwell have recruited?

SB QC: Yes….

BA: Well Miss Askew, Miss Karriet and Mr Foulkes are that bunch.

SB QC: Traitors. Each of them.

BA: And it’s not just them either. Some of the more junior bodies have gone too.

SB QC: Ben, these are desperate times. I just didn’t see this coming. How could anyone see this coming?

BA: It was fairly obvious, with respect.

SB QC: Why didn’t you warn me then? We’ll have to cut costs, even then I don’t know if chambers is going to survive….

BA: On that subject, I can help you with cutting costs.

SB QC: How’s that?

BA: You won’t have to pay my salary any more, I am taking a job at Domination House.

SB QC: But….but…you can’t….I mean….what will we do?

BA: KBO, sir?

SB QC: I don’t know about buggering on, you’ve all buggered off!

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