Grapevine

Scrivener stays put as Saddam hunts for counsel

The legal world has always had a key role in the War on Terror. While certain law lords have shown disdain for new laws, and some attorney generals have come under much pressure, barristers have been thrown some very odd new instructions. The latest name to be thrown into the media spotlight is that of 2-3 Gray’s Inn Square co-head Anthony Scrivener QC, who, it emerged on Friday (14 October), “has been approached to lead a legal team to challenge the lawfulness of the tribunal trying Saddam Hussein”, according to the official statement.

But like all official statements in this War on Terror, little can be taken for granted. Scrivener hasn’t been formally instructed by the former Iraqi dictator or his family.

Contrary to reports, which had him flying out to Baghdad last Wednesday, Scrivener’s energies are currently focused on the deep vein thrombosis group litigation, due to be heard in the House of Lords next week.

For the sake of whoever does get the job, let’s hope Hussein is a better client than the former Serbian president Slobodan Milosevic, who refused to speak to his counsel, 25 Bedford Row’s Steven Kay QC.

Who’s hot and who’s not at SJ Berwin

The battle to become SJ Berwin’s next senior partner is heating up, with it looking likely to become a two-horse race.

Partners within the firm are tipping head of EU and competition Stephen Kon to drop out of the race before it even reaches a vote, leaving head of private equity Jonathan Blake and managing partner Ralph Cohen to battle it out. One partner told The Lawyer: “The election is likely to go to a vote and there is unlikely to be a consensus.”

While Kon is noted by the firm’s partners as being charming and charismatic, he does not hold the same level of external recognition as Blake and Cohen.

All three have expressed an interest in replacing current incumbent David Harrel as senior partner when he steps down early next year, but the process has not yet reached formal nominations. But the firm is calling for a decision by the end of the year, with a competitive vote of some form most likely to take place in November.

Bringing the bar down

In these days of increased competition and less work at the bar, more and more barristers are making the jump to solicitors’ firms. Last week, Barlow Lyde & Gilbert (BLG) became the latest firm to bolster the number of in-house briefs by hiring two reinsurance specialists.

Doom-mongers may think this bodes badly for the independent bar, particularly as many employed barristers – including the BLG hires – are going one step further and requalifying as solicitors on arrival at their new firms.

Five years on from being given permission to work in-house, at the end of last year 2,800 barristers were in employment, compared with 11,564 in independent practice. Some would say this indicates the beginning of the end for the independent bar. But it’s been a decade since solicitors were given the right to appear in court, and solicitor-advocates are still a rarity. There’s hope for the bar yet.

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