The incoming chairman of the bar used his inaugural speech to attack court and law reforms and said barristers stand united with solicitors in doubting the wisdom of ‘one-size-fits-all’ fixed fees.
Andrew Langdon QC (pictured) added that some of the language coming out of the senior judiciary in promoting court reform has been ‘almost evangelical in tone’.
Langdon expressed concern at both plans for online courts and the pending review of extending fixed recoverable costs, currently being overseen by Lord Justice Jackson. Jackson has been a prominent advocate of a blanket extension of fixed costs and previously argued that they should apply to all civil claims worth up to £250,000.
Langdon said he feared that a suggestion that solicitors will share the resultant (very much lower) fixed fees with the bar is optimistic.
‘We join with solicitors in doubting the wisdom of promoting "a one-size-fits all-policy",' he said.
Turning to online courts, Langdon said the government is operating with ‘no plan B’, which should be seen as a concern. He added that those who doubted the plans or had alternative views should not be criticised.
‘The rich complexity of what happens during the interaction of the community at court, presided over by a trusted judge we underestimate the value of at our peril,’ he said.
‘We do it best when we are together in one place. Justice has a human face, and it’s not a face on a screen.’
Langdon said his priorities for the year include representing the junior bar, who face a costly and difficult path to qualification, and attending to the needs of ‘core practitioners’.
He added that new models, including alternative business structures, are important but that barristers who prefer traditional ways of working should not be forgotten. ‘Most barristers who work for public funds do not want to diversify: they believe in the value of what they do, they see the need for what they do, and they are extremely good at what they do’.
Langdon will take over from Chantal Aimée-Doerries in January.