Barristers have cited legal aid cuts as a factor driving them to set up the two latest Bar Standards Board-regulated entities.
The Habeas Corpus Project, which offers pro bono advice to people challenging detention, is the latest of 32 ventures that have so far been set up as entities under powers granted in April.
Ousman Noor (pictured) ran the Habeas Corpus Project as a charity for a year before setting it up as a BSB entity. Noor said he narrowly avoided closure this month by managing to ‘crowdfund’ over £3,000 to keep it afloat.
Noor was called to the bar in 2010.
He told the Gazette: ‘My intention was to do work in this field but I didn’t appreciate how crippled this area would be because of cuts to legal aid. And if legal aid wasn’t providing that remuneration and the desperation was still there then the only way I could do this work was pro bono.’
Noor said the entity model gives him ‘greater capacity’ to get more barristers on board. It also means the company can litigate, whereas previously the work was done in his name. The pro bono team at international firm DLA Piper has agreed to assist the project, he said.
Meanwhile, a barrister specialising in white-collar crime has set up an entity to enable him to offer his services as a contractor.
Timothy Thomas, who is temporarily employed at the Financial Conduct Authority, was previously a legal aid lawyer. He said entity status will enable him to move away from legal aid work.
‘I would love to practise at the bar doing white-collar work but I can’t see enough of a future in it,’ he said. He added that in legal aid the traditional chambers model is not feasible, as barristers have to hand over almost 30% of their income to chambers.