Across the country criminal barristers have shunned court today, downing tools in a protest against further legal aid budget cuts by the Government. This is one almighty row that refuses to die down, yet it is being met with an air of scepticism by the public.

Perhaps that’s because, at the other end of the spectrum, the elite civil bar is booming. In total 14 of The Lawyer’s Top 20 Cases, revealed today, are valued above £100m. These disputes engage some of the biggest brains in the barrister business, with Brick Court Chambers’ members dominating the list.

As well as professional negligence claims against Clifford Chance, Weil Gotshal & Manges and Nabarro, there are big-ticket claims involving RBS, Mastercard, Depfa Bank and JP Morgan in the mix.

That said, the number of big-value disputes is falling, with many preferring to settle rather than litigate. Sources suggest that only the most fiercely fought cases are getting to court and, consequently, top lawyers can command big bucks.

It’s a far cry from the criminal bar where rates are falling at an alarming rate. Could 2014 be the year that a two-tier justice system emerges?

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