LETTER : The Bar: cheap at the price

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The Independent Online
From Mr David Holland

Sir: As a practising barrister, I believe the proposed "demolition" of the Bar ("Time for a new order in the court", 18 May) would make litigation more expensive and difficult for most people.

The authors fail to realise that a relatively small percentage of the legal aid budget goes on barristers' fees.

It is also the case that the cost of court appearances would be significantly higher in most cases if barristers, who have much lower overheads and who charge a fixed fee, were replaced by solicitors, who charge an hourly rate and include travel and waiting time. A large and well-known London firm of solicitors a few years ago asked its accountants and was told that the pounds 2m it had incurred in counsel's fees that year would have been pounds 4m if the same work had been carried out by its own solicitors. Most of my practice is spent in the County Courts where solicitors have had rights of audience for years, and yet few choose to exercise that right in anything other than very short hearings.

The abolition of the Bar would also have serious consequences for hundreds of small- and medium-sized solicitor's firms that simply could not offer their clients a cost-effective litigation service without barristers. They would not be able to employ their own full-time advocates.

The independent Bar should not fear competition from solicitors or employed barristers.Whether one adopts the inquisitorial or retains the adversarial system, one will always need advocates. Advocacy is a specialist skill requiring specific training and experience. The Bar currently represents a pool of trained advocates available for hire to any member of the public. The latter would be ill-served by the disappearance of the former.

Yours faithfully,

DAVID HOLLAND

London, WC1

20 May

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