ABP counsel scoop almost £3m in fees

Counsel acting for Associated British Ports (ABP) in a public inquiry have negotiated vast fees totalling almost £3m

The fees for the lead counsel alone – Birmingham set 5 Fountain Court's highly-rated Martin Kingston QC – totalled around £1.5m.
Negotiators took an almost unprecedented 18 months to finalise the fees. Kingston's juniors – Andrew Newcombe of 2 Harcourt Buildings in London and Anthony Crean of 5 Fountain Court – are set to earn around £750,000 and £500,000 respectively.
The three barristers, instructed by Bond Pearce, spent three months on preparation. The inquiry is due to last nine months.
Fee negotiators were concerned that problems which occurred during the Heathrow Terminal Five inquiry – in which fees had to be renegotiated when the inquiry ran over time – should not be repeated. Therefore, all three counsel in the inquiry into ABP's proposed development of a deep-water container at Dibden Bay in Southampton were guaranteed the same rate for the second year of the inquiry as they received for the first year.
The deal also included a percentage uplift for ABP's counsel if the case went beyond a certain length. However, the uplift will be marginal, because the inquiry is due to finish in December and will thus overshoot the schedule by only six weeks.
Kingston was also awarded an automatic uplift for having put aside 12 months in his diary for the case. His fees were calculated on the basis of his earnings over the previous four to five years. One source said that Kingston had turned away some 19 inquiries, totalling £2m worth of work, from 15 April 2001 to 19 March 2002 because of his involvement in the ABP inquiry.
Kingston's daily refresher (for court work) and brief fee (for preparation and first day court appearance) have been paid on a monthly basis rather than in the traditional manner of a single lump sum at the end. They were worked out on an hourly basis.
Such a detailed analysis is quite rare in non-publicly funded work handled by the Bar, and is more in line with a solicitor's method of billing.
4-5 Gray's Inn Square has several counsel involved part time in the case, including John Hobson QC for Southampton Local Council and Robert Griffiths QC for the Environmental Agency. Silks from 4 Breams Buildings are representing the key objectors.