Barristers may become rarer species

BRITAIN'S barristers will be a depleted force by the end of the century because of “extremely large fees”.

Roger Smith, Legal Action Group director, told a Nottingham Law School's litigation school 'Question Time' session in London that the number of barristers would fall by 25 per cent in two years and by 50 per cent in 10 years.

Andrew Lockley, the Law Society's director of legal practice, added: “The press today is able to pick up on some of the extremely large fees which are being charged by barristers.

“As the number of barristers shrinks, solicitors will be able to increase the pressure for lower fees for our clients and that must be a good thing.”

But Bar Council member Hilary Heilbron, a barrister at Brick Court Chambers, said: “The press only picks up on the most extreme cases. They forget that we spend an awful lot of time on legal aid work.”

She pointed out that Lord Alexander has recently recommended the introduction of “estimates” so that clients can decide at an early stage whether to continue with a case or not.

She said that the bar would shrink “at the junior end”.

Lord Justice Millett said: “The Bar will dwindle at the lower end upwards so at the High Court there will still be a practical monopoly – and that comforts me.”

Lockley said: “It is essential that it survives as a specialist, expert cadre.”