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Is quality really the issue in the trade war between criminal advocates?

Business models, rather than barristers' standards, are what the government and regulator should be concerned about, suggests Mark Stobbs

23 February 2016

Michael Gove may have abandoned plans for criminal legal aid contracts and fee cuts, but he still has to deal with the trade war between the professions over criminal advocacy.

Essentially, the dispute boils down to business models and the fact that the Bar makes barristers dependent on their competition for work at a time when there's less work and fees are falling.

Also, solicitor-advocates didn't really trouble the criminal Bar until advocacy fees became attractive. Suddenly, the number of solicitors with higher court rights quintupled, and I speculate that few are regular trial advocates - most simply do administrative and sentencing hearings in the Crown Court. But it takes work away from the Bar and this rankles: it feels like an abuse of power.

One option might have been for the two sides to work together to try to find business models to fit the current financial climate. Instead the Bar cried foul: quality is falling because solicitors ...

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