Leeds chambers fight against 'ghetto-isation'

Andrew Burnyeat

LEEDS chambers are being ghetto-ised as criminal lawyers as leading solicitors push them out of the city's commercial scene.

But the barristers are fighting back and taking commercial work from London chambers in their battle to survive.

Roy Kemp, clerk at Park Court Chambers, says: "The larger firms of solicitors are cornering the best commercial work bit by bit.

"We find we are having to concentrate on personal injury, common law and criminal work."

Booth & Co joint senior partner Maurice Cowan agrees. "The Leeds Bar is under threat in the world of big business and commerce. Solicitors firms have concentrated their efforts on the commercial side as it has been increasingly difficult for them to remain closely involved with criminal work.

"This is due to the underfunding of what I term the social service side of the law, legal aid and so on. The Bar will get more and more into human rights and small disputes between people," he says.

And Cowan adds that this will create problems for the Bar as it is forced into less lucrative areas of work.

"The cream will go to the biggest law firms and the accountants," he explains.

"People like Arthur Andersen are very powerful with huge European networks. They can take a lot of work away in the long run."

But Kemp adds: "We are not losing financially, we are taking more commercial work away from London chambers as businesses realise the advantages of using Leeds barristers instead."