Solicitors lobby Mackay for better deal on advocates' fees

SOLICITOR advocates are calling on the Law Society to push for changes to the Lord Chancellor's Crown Court graduated fee proposals to stop barristers getting the upper hand.

The move coincides with a Bar Council announcement that it has reached agreement over graduated fees and expects them to be implemented shortly.

The Law Society, however, says it is still in negotiations with Lord Mackay.

The resolution to push for a better deal for solicitor advocates is part of a series of initiatives by the Association of Higher Court Advocates, which says it wants a level playing field for solicitor advocates and barristers in the higher courts.

At its recent Nottingham Annual General Meeting the group heard the Lord Chancellor would be giving them the go-ahead to apply for silk and resolved to continue the fight for common court dress.

The association must now decide whether to continue its calls for wigs or to press for their abolition.

The group, which confirmed Piper Smith & Basham advocate Paul Hampton as chair for a second year, also agreed to establish a national directory of advocates to boost referrals and allow advocates to return briefs to suitable colleagues.

At the Bar Council's open meeting on legal aid last week Bar Council chair Peter Goldsmith called on the Lord Chancellor to implement graduated fees in place of the radical legal aid reform proposals for block franchises.

Goldsmith told Lord Mackay: “The system was a bold one for the Bar to propose. Many people said that it offered simply the opportunity for you and your successors to cut and keep down earnings to the Bar. Yet the Bar has had the courage to put it forward.”

But Hampton says the current fee structure proposals are “tail-end loaded” in favour of the barrister and to the disadvantage of the solicitor advocate who spends “an awful lot of time preparing cases”.