Tag Archives: dual contract

Wassssup?!?

This is an intercepted (but entirely imagined) Whatsapp conversation. 

CeeGee: Bro!

The GoveMeister: sup

CeeGee: You seen my main man Davey C? Been tryin to bell him up but he ain’t taking my call, bro.

The GoveMeister: chill man. he been busy with that Euro crew. brexit be a wicked ting yano?

CeeGee: Is dat wicked bad or like wicked good man?

The GoveMeister: 😜

CeeGee: But it like he proper dissin’ me. It be like my time as his Lord Chancellor ain’t mean nuthin!

The GoveMeister: dunno watcha chattin about

CeeGee: All this prison reform BS. Proper showin me up, bro. Like I didn’t no shit when I was there doin the tough guy pose and dat “no nonsense” face. 

The GoveMeister: LMAO

The user CeeGee invited the user DC_PM to join the conversation

The user DC_PM declined the invitation to join the conversation. 

CeeGee: It ain’t funny, bro. U ain’t been any better.

The GoveMeister: man, it just business. i am just taking care of business. it’s all cool.

CeeGee: It wouldn’t be so cool if it was you he was sellin’ out bro.

The GoveMeister: i feel you. yano dat education ting don’t end so well for me. yo just gotta roll with it man. take the hits. be on the down low when it all come on top. you know what I be sayin?

CeeGee: Not really….couldn’t you just have kept one of my things real. Like the book ting. Or dat big house for the yute offenders? Or maybe that tings that totally fkd the solicitors. They were all cool.

The GoveMeister: sorry dude. they were not cool.

CeeGee: I aint gettin no respeck innit?

TheGoveMeister: word

CeeGee: Bro, I be like all losin face in the Westminster hood. Everyone is sayin I ain’t know nothin. Everyone is be like “CeeGee, he ain’t got a clue”

The GoveMeister: you aint. lol 😂

CeeGee: Bro, I am the Leader and don’t you go forgetting dat. Don’t make me come round there and smack you up.

The GoveMeister: you ain’t got the moves to worry me. i am the LC now. u know that bill of rights ting you started?

CeeGee: Bro, you know I love my bill of rights. It was pure CeeGee, dat. 

The GoveMeister: well it’s goin the same way as the saudi prison deal and the court charge. consider yourself well and truly out of the crew

CeeGee: Waaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaah 😢😥😪😭😰😿

The GoveMeister: talk to the hand ✋

CeeGee: I got a wicked idea to stop the press knowin when the Feds wanna talk to one of us.

The GoveMeister: 💩

CeeGee: U ain’t got no right to be like dat

The GoveMeister: now be a good boi and stop ur bitchin

CeeGee: Can you talk to DC? Put in a word.

…………

CeeGee: U there?

………….

CeeGee: Bro??

You are blocked by the user The GoveMeister. 

Best Mates

In a demonstration of unity with the Bar I call upon all solicitors to immediately cease undertaking Crown Court advocacy and to reject or repudiate any and all Two Tier contracts. 

I do not expect I will have many takers. Nor do I feel that a failure to act in this way actually demonstrates a lack of unity with me in my aim for appropriate remuneration for those working in Legal Aid cases and my desire to have a fair and equal justice system. 

The two acts I call for, albeit with my tongue firmly in my cheek, would improve the lot of the criminal barrister considerably. It probably would not leave much of a dent in the administration of justice either. And in the case of defeating TT, would be a positive all round. 

And yet I do not view this as treachery by solicitors. I do not feel this displays a lack of unity. I understand that we are distinct branches of the legal profession. I recognise that certain economic imperatives operate. 

So it really is time to understand what unity is and what unity isn’t. 

Unity is not expecting total, unswerving and unstinting dedication by everyone else to what you want. That is unity in the way that a dictatorship unifies the people in total and unquestioning supplication. Everyone is pulling in the same direction, whether they like it or not. And whether the direction benefits them or harms them. Unity is defined by what the dictator wants, nothing else. 

The Bar have been accused of a lack of unity in recent times. It is often accused of acts of great insult to our colleagues in the solicitor profession. Even in the pursuit of unity I cannot sit back and ignore this nonsense any longer. 

The language is sometimes offensive. There exists a number of Counsel who view all solicitor advocates as inferior. They are wrong. In house advocacy is not necessarily poor quality advocacy. The consultation on advocacy is, however, not an insult to solicitors. Nor is it born out of contempt for solicitors.

Firstly no advocate should be afraid of establishing their credentials when it comes to excellence. And I do not mean just demonstrating that you are “competent”. The aim should be for excellence. A proper panel scheme, and I do not mean the lip service of QASA, would improve quality assurance. In a post TT world that may be quite important. 

And, if I have not already been controversial enough, here comes the the really contentious bit. The reason why it is important is because of the economic temptation to instruct an advocate based upon an economic reason rather than reasons of quality and suitability. 

Please do not all shout at once. 

I am not saying that this is the basis upon which all employed advocates are currently instructed. I am not impugning the integrity of every solicitor out there. I am simply stating something that every player in the criminal justice system knows to be a risk. And it is a risk identified by the solicitor profession, in a slightly different context. 

Remember the Legal Aid Team video? That warned of under qualified or inexperienced personnel being deployed if legal aid was cut or contracted to big entities? The whole point is that cheaper labour for profit runs the risk of diminishing standards. Was that a suggestion which was a slur on the integrity of all solicitors? There would, surely, be some solicitors involved in these terrible organisations. The point was a good one. And is equally applicable to advocacy. 

Trying to find something that maintains standards in a post TT landscape is laudable. That the Bar should concentrate on maintaining standards in Crown Court advocacy is understandable. It is both where we see our strengths lie (championing your strength is not to denigrate others) and what we know about. It would be ridiculous if the Bar were to be at the vanguard of a consultation to promote quality assurance in police station representation. Very few of us do it. Clearly we would support such proposals as being of value to the system but we are not going to begin to design what would constitute proper quality assurance in that field. 

The Bar seems to being criticised for taking steps to protect itself in the post TT world. Which would be exactly the same motivation that lay behind any solicitor that bid for a contract. We do not want TT. We are not responsible for TT. We fear TT. We have nothing to gain from TT. Should we just go gently into the dark night that follows? No. Barristers work to earn money to pay their mortgages, provide for themselves and their families and to continue employing our staff. 

Those that bid for contracts on the rationale “we cannot afford to lose out if they come in” must totally understand that those that represent the Bar must work to try to minimise the impact upon their members. The way that is achieved must not be to the detriment of the administration of justice. If it is felt that the steps the Bar takes does diminish justice then argue against it. Don’t just cry “foul” and not be our friends any more. 

So the consultation about advocacy is not a slap in the face of all solicitors. It is not a declaration of war. It is a measure that should have been in place before market consolidation. There should have been such quality controls in place across the full range of services – police station representation, litigation, magistrates’ advocacy and crown court advocacy. 

Sometimes the best way to stay friends is not to take offence very easily. 

Love Me Tender

Dear Contestant,

We have some exciting news about your tender!

You will recall we promised you your choice of an alarm clock, a voucher for a leading high street store or an “Own Client Contract” just for applying. Unfortunately we have used all our stocks of alarm clocks and vouchers to compensate the Saudi Government for pulling out of our joint venture, “Flog It”, so we are pleased to enclose our promise to you that you can carry on representing your own customers (given to you for nothing, real value is nothing minus 8%).

However, the excitement does not end there. You and your firm have been selected by a rigorous process of quality assurance to win one of our shiny new contracts. Your contract has been selected in Cambridge/Cheshire/Cumbria (please delete as is appropriate to your location, the temp dealing with the “details” is not very good at geography).*

Welcome to the exclusive “Two Tier” club. Your membership of this exclusive group means that you are eligible for huge discounts off the current rates.** In addition to these discounts we are delighted to offer you a holiday.*** We are also pleased to exclusively provide you with the assurance of instability in the coming months as we play “In House Roulette”. Will you or won’t you be able to double your money?

What a fantastic prize. And yet there is more!

We are offering you the chance to enter our fun new game, The Pro Bono Bonus. The concept is simple. You Represent 1 Punter, Do One For Free. Everyone loves a R1PDOFF offer!

Never mind the quality, feel the value. 

But the excitement goes on. Accept this once in a five year contract cycle offer and we guarantee to put some of your competitors out of business. These are things that usually only the Mafia can promise. And like the Mafia, this is one offer you can’t refuse. 

How can we top this? Well, if you reply today then we are instructed to exclusively offer you an additional contract in either Devon or the Isle of Wight for free.**** You’d be mad not to!

So reply now and start consulting your staff on redundancies, you lucky, lucky bastards. 

Regards,

Mikey “Lord Lotto” Gove

PS Look out for our latest game – Essex CJS.  Every entry is a guaranteed winner.

*This is entirely a game of chance, no skill required. 

**These discounts are only available off the rates you currently charge. 

***The reference to a holiday is a holiday period before further reductions kick in. 

****Successful applicants will be expected to pay their own additional expenses such as travel and accommodation. 

Ten Green Bottles

Ten green bottles hanging on a wall, ten green bottles hanging on a wall…..

It was anticipated that the announcement as to who had “won” (I use the word somewhat loosely) the new duty contracts pursuant to the Two Tier system was coming last Friday. Then it was not. It was put back to 15th October.

The MoJ informed those anxiously waiting that “(w)e regret that we will not be able to notify bidders this week about the outcome of the crime duty tender, as previously indicated. We understand the anxiety this could cause bidding organisations and are working hard to finalise the quality assurance required to make sure these important decisions are right.”

Now if one green bottle should accidentally fall…..

So what happened to cause the announcement to be put back? We do not actually know because the MoJ, despite their concern and their regret, have not actually deigned to tell those anxiously waiting what the hold up is.

It could well be that the delay is related to developments with a firm of solicitors called Blavo. It may be that it is  not. It may well just be one hell of a coincidence. 

For those that missed it in the middle of last week Blavo, a firm with a national profile and with areas of work including crime and mental health, announced that they were consulting on redundancies. There was talk of the impact of legal aid cuts and the need to restructure. The firm, it was said, was still financially secure.

Then the story took another twist with the LAA announcing that they had terminated all Blavo’s contracts and had referred the matter to the police

Now I do not know if Blavo had applied for a Duty Contract. Given the nature of their profile I anticipate that they have. I do not know if they were to be awarded a contract. And we have no way of knowing if they are on the brink of collapse, are financially secure or have done anything to justify the action taken by the LAA. And, because the MoJ are not providing information, we do not know if this has caused the delay. 

But let’s just imagine the worst case scenario for a moment. Let us imagine that they are really struggling. Let us imagine that there are some “irregularities” concerning their current contracts. Let us imagine they were just days away from getting one or more than one of the contracts on offer. 

Now that throws up a whole load of questions. If all of the above imaginings are correct what does it say about the application and scrutiny process? If they were about to be awarded a contract and it transpires that they were in financial troubles and circumstances existed to justify termination of their contracts how did they pass “the quality assurance” tests?

And what if these circumstances came to light after the award of the contracts? Would other firms who missed out not be able to question how it is that an unviable firm got a contract and their viable firm did not? What if it took nine months of the contract irregularities to come out? So the firm already had a number of duty contracts and now the LAA realise that there were problems with their previous contracts. Nine months after consolidation their rival bidders may have been consolidated all the way to the dole queue….

That prospect is of particular concern when the firm undertakes other areas of “niche” work. Let us say Blavo do most of the mental health work in a town. They have one competitor that also provides that service. Both firms have been finding it tough since the Legal Aid cuts. Blavo get a crime contract, the other firm does not. The other firm goes out of business as a result. Then the irregularities come to light and the LAA terminates all the contracts. Suddenly you have no provision for mental health representation in that area. That is an advice desert. That is the game of Russian Roulette the MoJ are playing with our justice system. 

Remember that the Duty Contract is no guarantee of long term security. There are more adjustments to the fees coming along. When I say “adjustments”, I mean cuts. Court closures can threaten the viability of firms (imagine Firm A have a healthy amount of own client work that tends to be in the court building just down the road from their office, when that court closes and they have to travel for up to an hour each way to represent these same clients that can suddenly impact upon the meagre profits they previously made). 

On top of that there is uncertainty about how firms are going to be able to keep work in house. I do not for one moment imagine that there is going to be some sort of ban on in house advocacy but there is, now, uncertainty. If a firm was banking on being able to keep a percentage of work in house, they cannot bank on it any more.

This is the precarious market that the MoJ seem to make more precarious with every step they take. Hopefully Blavo’s current problems are all ironed out smoothly. Hopefully this is only a warning to the MoJ. It is, however, a warning they should heed. It does not take much for there to be…..

……no green bottles hanging on the wall.

How Much!?!?

The Daily Mail online is outraged at the £350,000 in legal aid given to Mick and Mairead Philpott. Of course, this is not entirely correct. The Philpotts were not “given” £350,000 like some sort of lottery win. What they were given was a fair trial. What we, the public, got for that expense were safe convictions. Their victims, their children, got justice. 

The outrage is sparked by the heinous nature of their crime. They were responsible for killing six children, their own children. Their notoriety was heightened by their lifestyle which was somewhat unconvential. And involved extensive reliance on benefits. 

Imagine for a moment that they were innocent. That they had not committed this terrible crime. That they were innocent parents wrongly accused of murdering their own children. As they were at the outset of the trial. It was a trial process that determined they were responsible and needed to be severely punished. And before society reached the stage of punishing them they had to have a trial in which they were properly represented. So that, if they were innocent they would not be wrongly convicted. Money well spent. 

Some of the outrage centres on the fact that fatcat lawyers got some of this money. What an incredible surprise that this story appears at a time when the Government want to cut lawyers’ fees even further. 

For the nine week trial leading counsel were paid in the region of £57,000 each and junior counsel £26,000. Outrageous. The sort of sums the average hard working taxpayer dreams of taking home in a year, let alone trousering for just nine weeks work. 

The first thing that the article does not point out is that the fees are fixed. It is not what the lawyers have concocted as a bill. It is what the Government has set as a fixed payment. It also does not point out that the reason why two counsel represented each defendant was not decided by the lawyers or by the clients. The Philpotts did not demand a QC and a Junior. A Judge decided the case required this level of representation.

So let’s have a look at those fees. I suspect that the fees quoted include VAT, as they usually do when quoted in such stories. For the Junior this would mean the fee was in fact £21,600. But let’s work on the basis that £26,000 is right. The trial lasted for nine weeks. That is 45 days. That is £580 per day. 

£580 per day is a lot of money. However I imagine most members of the public would expect barristers to cost more than £580 per day. So let’s break that down a bit more. A working day can reasonably be expected to contain seven hours. In fact many at the Bar realise that a trial of this nature will invlove longer days than this. But let’s stick at seven hours a day. So that £580 per day equates to about £83 per hour. In London the miminum living wage is £9.15 per hour. So those barristers are coining it in. Not quite the £200 per hour Lord Faulks thinks they get paid but they are still squealing all the way to the publicly funded bank with their £83 per hour. 

Except that they are not. The £83 per hour is not a wage. It is not personal income. It is a payment to a business. A business with overheads and staff. So that hourly rate is far more like the charge out rates for other professions. So how does the £83 compare?

A quick stroll around the Internet provides some interesting comparisons. In 2002, the Health and Safety executive commissioned a report about the charge out rates of their various professionals in performing their duties. Not a single hourly rate dipped below £100. 

In 2010 the average hourly charge out rates for PR executives ranged from £185 for the partner to £98 for an account manager to £65 for the trainee. That’s £65 for a trainee. So the barrister representing someone on a murder charge is on an hourly charge out rate closer to that of the trainee PR employee. 

But let us look at a true comparable. In 2011 the average charge out rate for a solicitor in private practice of more than eight years experience was £217. The trainee in the solicitors’ office was charged out at £118. So the barrister on public funds is being paid less than the going rate. The taxpayer is getting a discount. 

And what of the QC? We can see the Silk was on a little over double that of the Junior. Based on the calculation above the Silks’ charge out rate is £180 per hour. So that compares with the £217 quoted for the more senior solicitor. However Silks are the best of the best. The top of the profession. Men and women with years of experience, combined with immeasurable talent. The sort of lawyers that would be the partners in the best law firms in the land had they chosen a different career path. The sort of lawyers who have an average charge out rate of £725 per hour. 

All of this is very interesting but I am spouting complete nonsense. All of my sums are based on the fee being paid just for the hours taken by the time the trial ran. It takes no account of other court appearances. No account of meeting with the client to discuss the case. No account of the hours and hours of out of court preparation. The real hourly rate for the Junior? Probably half of the £83. £41.50! (Which if the fees quoted do include VAT, is actually £34.50).

The average income, the actual wage, of an airline pilot is £44 per hour. 

So what is the junior barrister doing for this money? Playing their part in defending the innocent and convicting the guilty. Doing something which few have the necessary  blend of abilities to achieve. Putting in hours and hours of painstaking work. 

And just think what sort of things they have to bear witness to. The preparation of this case would not just have involved complex detail. It would not have involved just complicated expert evidence. It would have involved the sort of material most people will go through life without ever having to see. Dealing with a case involving the death of six children is hugely emotionally upsetting. If the reader of this is a non-lawyer I hope you never have to read a post-mortem report. Or see the photographs of the crime scene. The material that the defence lawyer will be exposed to in a case like this is the stuff of nightmares. No hourly rate compensates for that. 

And yet we do it. We do it as a necessary part of a fair society. We do it at an incredibly low cost to the Government. This is the scandal. This is the true story of Legal Aid. The story that the Daily Mail would never write. The story that means Gove’s announcement of the implementation of further cuts to even the £140 to spend all night at a police station is the real scandal. 

The journalist that wrote this piece and the Lord Chancellor who acts in futherance of such nonsense should hang their heads in shame. I hold my head high. 

The Big Stick

Over the coming weeks officers from the CBA will sit down with the new Lord Chancellor and will attempt to persuade him to halt a series of damaging changes to the Criminal Justice System. A process of negotiation. 

And that is why members of the CBA need to vote “Yes” to further direct action. 

It is only right that the CBA should seek to persuade the Lord Chancellor (and the LCCSA and CLSA as well, should they get the opportunity) that the system cannot withstand further cuts and that the Two-Tier system should not be introduced. 

Is it ridiculously optimistic to hope that such negotiations would succeed? Just remember that 18 months ago we faced Price Competitive Tendering, tapering to daily rate and cuts to the graduated fee scheme. All of them have been seen off in one way or another. We can achieve positive outcomes. 

However there is still much that has to be defeated. And it can be defeated. A new Lord Chancellor may provide fertile ground upon which to sow our compelling arguments. 

And the threat of direct action is rain, fertiliser and sunshine. 

If the Bar vote “No” then we are Bob Crowe without the ability to bring the Tube system to a halt. We are the SNP without 56 seats out of 59. We do not demand attention. 

If the Bar vote “No” then we undermine the good work the CLSA and LCCSA have done by raising thousands of pounds to find the Judicial Review and by spending hundreds of hours highlighting the iniquity of the process and the changes. 

If the Bar vote “No” then we ignore the progress made by organisations such as the Justice Alliance in making the public take note of the value of those undertaking public funded work. 

By voting “Yes” it does not mean we will be donning donkey jackets and forming picket lines tomorrow. But by voting “No” it will mean our negotiators enter the fray with no threat. And who would take them seriously in that situation? 

This is a new situation. These are new threats. The CBA Executive would not have put this question to the Bar at this time unless they appreciated the tactical necessity of it. And there is no advantage in a “No”. 

Please vote. So few people voted in relation to the Deal. Now is the time give muscle to our voice by voting here.