Top chambers hits out after 'cronyism' claim

Lord Irvine's former chambers, 11 King's Bench Walk, is hitting back against allegations of “cronyism”.

The accusations were sparked by a Tory MP after it emerged that the bulk of legal work commissioned by the Lord Chancellor's Department since Irvine took the helm has gone to his former set. Since May 1997, 11 King's Bench Walk has received £36,687, whereas only five other sets received more than £10,000.

Joint head of chambers James Goudie QC says: “First of all, the question was asked by reference to sets of chambers when, of course, it is individual members of chambers who are instructed, not sets as a whole.”

Only two barristers out of a total of 31 tenants at 11 King's Bench Walk have been instructed.

“For one of those, Elizabeth Slade QC, the fees numbered only £2,100. All the rest are Philip Sales', who is the Treasury junior, which seems to me to be wholly unremarkable,” says Goudie.

Fifteen sets received more fees than Slade, and Goudie says he is sure she has not benefited from “cronyism” but received her instructions solely on merit. After all, he says: “She has for a number of years been recognised in The Lawyer as a leader in the field of employment law.”

There are also questions as to why David Ruffley, the Conservative MP for Bury St Edmunds, tabled the question in the first place.

Goudie would not speculate, but asked why it was framed solely in reference to London chambers and limited to the period commencing 1 May 1997, and why sets of chambers were assessed as a whole and not as individual barristers.