Criminal solicitors and barristers should stand ‘shoulder to shoulder’ to oppose further fee cuts or risk ‘virtual extinction’ within five years, the new chair of the Criminal Bar Association (CBA) has warned.
In an interview with the Gazette, Michael Turner QC (pictured) reiterated the association’s opposition to government proposals to introduce a single fee covering both litigation and advocacy for Crown court cases. ‘One case one fee’ could be introduced next year, after consultation.
Turner said that the current graduated fee regime is already forcing solicitors to conduct more advocacy, even where some do not want to, which reduces the work for the bar. The new fee regime, which will mean ‘solicitors hold the purse strings’, will act as a further incentive for law firms to take cases themselves and will also act as an incentive for providers looking to offer cheap legal services. ‘It is not in the public interest or what the majority of solicitors want,’ he said.
Turner became president of the ABA this month, replacing Max Hill QC. He practises from London’s Garden Court Chambers, specialising in complex crime.
Turner predicted that many hard-working and good solicitors will either be swallowed up by ‘Tesco law’-style suppliers or will disappear altogether, and that the impact of the changes could lead to the ‘virtual extinction’ of criminal solicitors and barristers within five years.
Barristers and solicitors are naturally concerned about the cuts and are both ‘rushing for the lifeboats’ in an attempt to preserve their positions, he said. ‘The message I’d like to convey to the Law Society is that the bar and solicitors should, in the public interest, be standing shoulder to shoulder, arm in arm.’