Clerks hold seminars with taxing masters in latest attempt to prevent fee disputes

John Malpas reports

BARRISTERS' clerks are to invite taxing masters to a series of training seminars in a bid to reduce the number of disputes over the level of fees charged by barristers.

The move marks the latest in a series of attempts by the Institute of Barristers' Clerks to get its views across to taxing masters and taxing judges.

It is hoped the sessions will give clerks a better idea of the kind of information taxing masters are looking for when they hear appeals against their decisions.

But the long-term objective of the institute is to secure the right for clerks to represent their barristers at taxation hearings.

According to Martin Poulter, the senior clerk at 9 Old Square, clerks have been unsuccessfully pushing for the right to speak before taxing masters at taxation hearings for a number of years.

Under the present arrangements only solicitors and barristers are entitled to appeal against decisions to tax down their fees at oral hearings before taxing masters.

But the institute has long argued that clerks should also be allowed to speak at appeals as in practice barristers are rarely able to attend hearings and it is the clerks who are in charge of negotiating fees.

Poulter, who sits on the institute's management committee, said the institute would be inviting taxing masters to attend taxation seminars to allow the two sides to thrash out their differences.

"Clerks feel very strongly that we don't have a chance to speak to the people who directly affect barristers' fees. It seems totally unfair that we don't get the opportunity to put across our views," he said.