My favourite add is ‘Communist with own knife and fork seeks fellow Communist with steak and kidney pudding.’ Could a collectivist approach ever seep into the structure of chambers?
The bar is fiercely competitive. Over the years I have heard muttered voices about X and Y doing little more than my returns and with no work of their own. Mouths to feed is the frequent epithet. So any suggestion of a collectivist structure or even partnerships will meet fierce resistance. But is there a middle way to provide a guaranteed wage to all, whilst allowing the best to prosper still, as indeed they should if you believe in merit.
The starting point may be a pragmatic choice: the bare minimum which a given set of chambers would expect its lowest earning member to receive. It will vary and I shall not suggest a figure.
Then take chambers turnover, the percentage we pay for all expenses including wages and the number in chambers
Then work out what the contribution would be if on the first day of January, every member in Chambers were to receive the minimum wage. That presupposes a friendly chambers bank prepared to come up with the cheque on the basis of previous years turnover.
Now the difficult bit. What would that cost those who hitherto have received more and much more than the minimum cheque? Put another way, how much would they need to put in the chambers pot to put such a system in place? What are the tax issues – and the really big question – why should they do it anyway?
This may be the point where I have lost my diligent and perceptive readers for good.
But think of the principle. Is there a way in which we could follow the solicitor’s partnership model without losing altogether the competitive zeal that still rewards individual skill and ability?
Here Dear Reader, I confess it is much easier to ask the question than to provide the answer. But I am left with the nagging feeling that that far better financial brains than mine may see a way to promote a new model that might work.
By the way, that is not the Baldrick plan. But cooperative steps are part of it. More anon.
Nigel Pascoe QC