Liverpool practice appears on Bar Council credit blacklist

High profile Merseyside firm J Keith Park & Co has made a brief appearance on the Bar Council black list of firms which have consistently failed to pay counsels' fees.

The practice, which made its name representing victims of cash card fraud and the 1992 Hoover promotion, was put on the list for over two weeks. It is believed four sets of chambers reported it behind on payments.

The list, the Withdrawal of Credit Scheme, orders barristers not to accept instructions from selected solicitors in privately funded cases unless payment is made up front.

Sources say it is unusual to find a firm of J Keith Park's size on the list, which is largely made up of sole practitioners and small high street firms.

The 26-solicitor firm took over Liverpool practice Deacon Goldrein Green when it went bankrupt in 1994 and has 11 offices throughout Liverpool.

J Keith Park acted quickly to get its name removed, securing a Bar Council circular late last month which gave it the all-clear just 18 days after it was first included on the list.

Under the scheme, firms which fail to pay fees are first given verbal and then written warnings by a chamber's senior clerk before being referred to the Bar Council.

The Law Society is notified about each case, but it will only take disciplinary action if it can be proved that the firm has received fees from the client.

Some firms have been on the list since 1987, but a spokeswoman from the Bar Council said it was a “moveable feast” from which firms come and go frequently. The list currently contains over 100 names.

Clive Hurrell, clerk at Byrom Chambers in London, said he refers an average of two solicitors firms per year to the Bar Council. He said: “We only take a case to the Bar Council when relationships have completely broken down.

“The non-payment of fees is a problem for barristers and the Withdrawal of Credit Scheme is the only redress available.”

Allan Weston, senior clerk at Derby Square Chambers in Liverpool, which is regularly instructed by J Keith Park, said: “They are reliable clients of ours and we have no complaints about them.”

Denis Whalley, senior partner at J Keith Park, refused to comment on the affair.