Law Society fails to stop Bar Council's fee system

A new system of graduated fees for Crown Court advocacy work looks likely to be introduced this summer, despite opposition from the Law Society.

The scheme, which will introduce common fees for barristers and solicitor advocates for legal aid cases in the Crown Courts, was initiated by the Bar Council.

The Bar argues the system is in the spirit of the Courts and Legal Services Act because it introduces a level playing field for advocates and gives clients a clearer idea of how much a case will cost.

But the Law Society says the scheme is designed to drive solicitor advocates out of the market. Solicitor advocates are currently paid on an hourly rate and stand to earn less under the new system.

The Law Society wanted the Lord Chancellor to exclude solicitor advocates from the new system or to look at all forms of advocacy when setting fee levels. David Hartley, a professional policy executive at the Law Society, said: “The Lord Chancellor has made it plain he doesn't wish to do what we suggested. We are surprised he doesn't want to take the opportunity to look at the wider context and that his decision is based solely on barristers' fees.”

He said he thought it was unlikely the new scheme would be up and running before the end of the year.

Hugh Bryant, who set up the shipping and aviation department at City firm Penningtons, has become one of the partner casualties among a wave of job losses at the firm.

Bryant has left the firm by “mutual agreement” to join niche shipping firm Williamson & Horrocks, taking Penningtons' aviation specialist Reg Bench with him.

Last week, The Lawyer revealed that more than 20 jobs are being axed from the firm.

Bryant's post as head of the department has been taken up by marine manager Peter Allan, an ex-mariner who, although highly experienced in shipping law, is not a qualified solicitor.

Allan said Bryant's specialist work, largely creating insurance solutions to maritime problems, would be lost to Penningtons, as would certain aircraft work. But he said that the group would continue its regular work in wet and dry shipping.

Bryant joins Williamson & Horrocks as second partner. “I enjoyed my three years at Penningtons and I left on friendly terms,” he said.

The job losses at Penningtons are part of a major restructuring at the firm.