Clifford Chance bans brief fees for barristers in favour of hourly rate

Clifford Chance bans brief fees for barristers in favour of hourly rate” />Clifford Chance is squaring up to the bar by banning the payment of brief fees to leading counsel, such as the £3m Gordon Pollock QC has charged BCCI’s liquidators for suing the Bank of England.

Clifford Chance will no longer tolerate being charged brief fees, the lump sums paid in advance to secure top QCs, which is considered as payment for preparing a trial. It will now pay QCs for preparing cases hourly with a rate to be determined by the firm’s clients rather than the silks themselves, as well as a small commitment fee to compensate silks for settling cases early.

The firm is refusing to pay brief fees to stop silks walking away with inflated advance payments when cases settle early, as it believes that many of the best QCs will not have trouble finding new work.

The firm has designed its new scheme to reduce its spend on the bar.
This is ultimately passed on to its clients and last year it came to between £10m and £15m for the London office alone.

Jeremy Sandelson, managing partner of Clifford Chance London’s litigation and dispute resolution practice, told The Lawyer: “We face continued pressure on legal fees and this pressure will inevitably be felt by the bar too. A number of our professional clients have ex-pressed dissatisfaction with certain aspects of the current brief fee system. The idea of paying a lump sum fee to secure the future availability of counsel for a lengthy trial – which may well settle early in the trial – has become increasingly unattractive.”