Conditional fees top Young Bar's agenda

THE EVILS of conditional fees, the lack of pupillages and the dearth of financial help for would-be barristers were top of the agenda at a special meeting for the Young Bar.

An open meeting for young barristers heard last week of the threat to the Bar's much cherished reputation for independence posed by no win, no fee arrangements.

Barrister Patrick Green told the meeting, organised by the Bar Council's young barristers committee, that the Bar should prevent barristers from taking on cases on a conditional fee basis.

He said it was even more essential that clients could count on completely independent advice from barristers now their solicitors had a financial interest in the outcome of their case.

After the meeting Green, of Roger Henderson QC's 2 Harcourt Buildings set, said he had so far refused to take personal injury cases on a conditional fee basis for fear it might influence his judgement.

“I don't trust myself to be able to put out of my mind the fact I may not be getting paid any money for two month's work,” he said.

The meeting was attended by Bar Council chair David Penry-Davey QC and his deputy Robert Owen QC.

But fewer than 30 barristers turned up to air their views on the issues facing the Young Bar, an unusually low turnout.

Committee chair Nick Lavender said long-standing concerns about the shortages of pupillage and the lack of financial help for students resurfaced at the meeting.

But he said the financial squeeze which the Young Bar has been experiencing may have been lifted slightly by an apparent upturn in the number of cases being heard in the Crown Courts.

He said: “One concern in previous years was the fact that the Crown Courts, particularly in the London area, were standing idle. There seemed to be a policy of not charging people, but this appears to have changed.”