Blackstone senior clerk quits

Blackstone Chambers senior clerk Martin Smith resigned dramatically on Friday (23 November).

Smith, who became senior clerk in 1990, departed so unexpectedly that there was mass shock and bewilderment at the bar.

Blackstone’s spokeswoman said Smith’s reasons for resigning were confidential. “It’s a matter between Martin and chambers,” she said.

The news comes as The Lawyer reveals that Blackstone has circulated a letter to its clients offering its two newest tenants for a bargain capped rate of £150 a day.

The revelation led to stark reactions among top 10 chambers. Some saw it as a smart marketing ploy, but the majority felt the offer, as one clerk put it, “smacked of desperation”.

Jonathan Fox, chief executive at St Philips, simply saw it as a very clever marketing strategy in “relation to fishing for work”.

Not all agree with Fox, with one senior clerk wondering whether this is tantamount to breaking the Bar Council’s rules on the exploitation of the junior bar.

“The junior bar, as everyone knows, is having a tough time of late, but this seems to me as an extreme way to ensure they get work, especially when it’s at less than government rates,” said the senior clerk.

The Treasury, for instance, has its ‘baby barrister’ scheme, where it pays £45 an hour for young, non-panel juniors. On a 10-hour day this equates to £450 – triple Blackstone’s rate.

Smith told The Lawyer before he resigned that the low daily rate was offered only to the set’s regular clients and is only for short, sharp cases.

“Anything that will take a prolonged period of time we’re still doing at commercial rates,” he added.