Doughty Street gears up for Irvine reforms

DOUGHTY Street chambers is gearing up to hire a “considerable” number of new back-room staff as part of a major restructuring drive, in preparation for the Government's controversial legal aid reforms.

The leading human rights chambers has just sent out a team of barristers to consult with solicitors at around 30 firms with whom the chambers work, to discuss ways of coping with the plan to replace legal aid with conditional fees.

A range of issues was discussed, including risk assessment, the purchase of insurance and dealing with cases involving small amounts of compensation – where there might be a 99 per cent chance of success, but it might not be financially viable to bring an action.

Practice manager Christine Kings said the changes would alter the way barristers and solicitors worked with each other, as both would have a financial interest in the case.

Kings said: “In future barristers and solicitors will have to depend on each other because if one is not pulling their weight then the other loses out.”

The chambers aims to assess which areas of work it will profit from and which it will lose out on when the reforms come into force.

Kings said a “considerable number” of new financial and administrative staff would have to be appointed to cope with the changes – while some of the set's barristers had already been sent on a risk assessment course at Nottingham Law School.