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Chambers faces allegations of paying for work; Bar Council 'in discussions'
The Bar Council is looking into allegations that Robert Rhodes QC's 4 King's Bench Walk chambers has paid Claims Direct in return for work. Barristers are strictly banned from receiving or paying any form of commission under the Bar Council's code of conduct. 4 King's Bench Walk's spokesman, tenant and serious crime and personal injury practitioner Bruce Stuart, has confirmed to The Lawyer that it continues to receive the vast bulk of Claims Direct's advisory work on quantum and liability - excluding serious claims - of which about half are then forwarded to other chambers. Stuart said this is a result of a contract, signed about four years ago, between the set's consultant senior clerk Ian Lee and Medico Legal Services, an arm of Claims Direct. Lee is a consultant senior clerk rather than a full-time chambers senior clerk. 4 King's Bench Walk receives the Claims Direct work from a panel consisting of hundreds of law firms and Lee then forwards some to other chambers. Stuart adamantly denies that money is paid to Claims Direct in return for work. Instead, he said a £15 payment per case has been made to Claims Direct by Lee, who in turn has been paid by the set's tenants to track what is happening to Claims Direct cases. Stuart said: "We were concerned that solicitors were not telling if they'd settled or if they went to sleep." He added that the only way was to check with Claims Direct about what had happened: for example, when it went to solicitors, what the conclusions of the case had been and the number of cases where costs had been recovered.
"The arrangement is alleged to have been, 'We will give you work if you pay us'" Mark Stobbs, the Bar Council
The 4 King's Bench Walk tenants paid the £15 per case to Lee out of their own pockets. There are thousands of Claims Direct cases. Speaking for the Bar Council, head of professional standards and legal services Mark Stobbs said: "It is claimed that the instructions [to solicitors on the panels] from Claims Direct were that cases were to be sent to 4 King's Bench Walk. The arrangement is alleged to have been, 'We will give you work if you pay us'. "Claims Direct says the payments have stopped. They wrote to me in July. I have no idea how much has been paid. We are in discussions with the parties concerned rather than investigating." Stuart says that 4 King's Bench Walk has stopped the £15 payments pending a decision by the Bar Council.