Speculation is rife that the days of criminal silks are over. The proposed cuts will reduce the differential to the point that it is not worth it. Settle for regular work as a busy junior. Forget silk and its guarantee of inactivity and enforced workless leisure.
I happen to believe that will not be the position in the long term, but a rather more contentious picture is likely in the short term. Just think for a minute about John Doe QC, recently successful in the list…
John Doe took silk with the hope that his solicitors in the first flush of his success will want to share in his triumph and brief him if at all possible. And there are those good junior briefs which have not yet come to trial…..well, a few of them.. And look at the diary for the next three to six months. Not bad, is it? A warm glow that lasted well beyond that splendid party and the obvious delight of Chambers.
The telephone rings from his worried clerk, who knows the true diary of the three silks senior to him in chambers. You know that Murder in Lewes we talked about? The one where the CPS felt their in-house advocate would need his hand held? Sorry to tell you Sir, but it looks as though he is doing it himself…something about accepting a plea to diminished. Not sure they have any others at the moment. Work very thin at the moment.
John Doe remembers that his best mate in chambers who didn’t apply is about to begin a two week three hander for the same employers. Great man, BIll and very good too. Make a bob or two out of that one, I expect. Pity I shall be doing the crossword or whatever..
At which point Doe QC has a rather unworthy thought. I could be doing that case for the same money. Better than days of enforced idleness…
You see the point. Before long, silks and juniors will be in direct competition all over again. If there is no differential and less opportunity to have two counsel, then all bets will be off. And who can be sure that a beautiful friendship will survive?
There are no simple answers to widespread criminal silk underemployment. Diversification will be possible for some, not I think the majority. Others will go in-house. Some will leave the law in anger and despair. Most, like me, will soldier on, hoping against hope for a better day and remembering that brief out of nowhere. Eventually, over years, we shall slim down and then demand will grow again for our services. That is the reason for longer term optimism, if that is the right word.
So can nothing be done? Like Baldrick, I have a cunning plan. But that is for another blog..
Nigel Pascoe QC