My last blog could have been called ‘Batten down the hatches.’ It sought a limited way through the very worst scenario of no respite from the proposed cuts and the very serious effect that will have. If all fails, I argue we must consider a Chambers minimum wage by pooling our incomes or part of them. I believe that is the rock bottom position, which would save some but sadly not all careers. However uncomfortable and unfamiliar road that would be, it does address partly the prospect of widespread desperation and, let us be blunt, professional poverty.
That is the bottom of the pit. But are there yet things we could be doing to prevent that happening?
This week a very serious mistake was made before the Justice Committee. The Lord Chancellor, plainly badly briefed, estimated the fee for a silk doing a 60 day case to be £135,000. The accurate figure pointed out by our excellent Chairman was just under £20,000.
Now I will avoid obvious points about the scale of the error. The more interesting issue for me is whether such a misreading reflects a wide scale public misunderstanding of our real fees in real cases, both now and after the full cuts take place.
At which point I want to wind back to a suggestion in an earlier blog. We need to spell out with real life examples exactly what we are paid. And we should add real life comparisons with other professions and occupations over a comparable period of time. So for example at the top of the chart the daily rate of the top civil servant in the Ministry of Justice. At the bottom the starting rate of a new young teacher. In between, a consultant NHS surgeon doing no private work and similarly a GP. The examples we give of our our cases must be authentic, collected for example by the Circuits and the CBA.
Now the interesting bit. We need a really attractive document setting out comparisons. We might even consider a broadsheet format mimicking the Daily Mail.
The point is that, although I cannot accept that Direct Action will work or should be our route, I absolutely believe that the fight must go on with every legitimate tactic we can employ. To that end I shall continue to offer my own small suggestions to fight the good fight.
Nigel Pascoe QC