Your place or mine

Change of tone. Well, Christmas is coming and there is much to be said for a pause in hostilities and a simple question.

Is there room for a negotiated settlement?

You see, to my knowledge, not so many years ago there was a Lord Chancellor who behaved with admirable common sense. When a Circuit Leader went to see him, he sent his civil servants away and talked to the Leader man to man to understand the problem.

A politician’s trick? I think not. A reflection of the LC certainly. And yes of course it was a talk between two lawyers. Not much chance you may think that would happen today…

And yet and choosing my words very carefully, a sensible approach may be more welcome than the profession realizes.

Hang on – I had better qualify that. We are not talking about deals in smoked-filled rooms; talks which would infuriate those who believe that past bar leaders have been selling us down the river for years in precisely that way.

No, I mean the bar leaders isolating key issues and inviting independent mediation.

There are plenty of senior trusted legal figures out there who would fit the bill – I can think of three immediately. Someone who understands the coal face and the true picture of legal poverty. I mean poverty. Tax demands from better years, mortgage arrears and real depression masked from colleagues. Don’t tell me otherwise.

My own list would not be everyone’s, but I would start with the concept of a realistic minimum fee for all procedural court applications and unforeseen adjournments. Not particularly radical but listen to the robing room anger at wasted days for damn all. Then I would invite a very detailed analysis with comparable professions existing in the public sector. Travel costs need to be re-addressed, as does paid necessary preparatory paper work. Even VHCCs could be back on the agenda, despite the anger that has been generated. The price would be no implementation of proposed cuts before mediation has been tried.

Now before we get back to barricade talk and of course we probably will in the New Year, perhaps those preparing for the worst might like to put out negotiation feelers. Only a truly stubborn man would want the chaos to escalate, if there was another way.

Finally if this doesn’t bear immediate fruit, think beyond catastrophic chaos and loss of good will.
If MPs can have an independent settlement, so can we.

So Mediation may be the sleeping dog that saves us.

PS I have received a powerful blog saying that calm straight talking with The LC was tried and has failed.. In short that he will not negotiate. To which I would say simply – it will happen in time, but our prospects are linked to the way we pursue our cause.

Nigel Pascoe QC

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