Barristers transformed into solicitor-advocates

Two barristers from chambers at 6 Gray's Inn Square were disbarred last week and will form a new legal aid partnership with a solicitor to specialise in Crown Court advocacy work.

The two barristers, James O'Keefe and Avtar Bhatoa, will enrole as solicitors and carry on their criminal practice under a new identity as solicitor-advocates.

They are joined by solicitor Louise Bullivant from Sheratt Caleb & Co who, under Law Society rules, will be able to supervise her new partners by virtue of her three years-plus post qualification experience.

The new firm will be called Jamesons.

“We think that we will be the first firm to be set up specifically as solicitor-advocates, and we will be able to appear for clients in the police station right through to the House of Lords,” says O'Keefe.

The plan is to build up a team of solicitor-advocates and eliminate the Bar from all but the most serious of cases. “The idea is to take referral work from other firms. I've already got work lined up, and we will build up our own caseload,” he says.

The pair are leaving the Bar because of lack of control over work, lack of direct access, and heavy overheads including clerks' fees.

The Law Society also appears to be a stronger professional lobbying voice than the Bar Council for members' interests, says O'Keefe.