Take it from a former barrister: Chris Grayling is right to reform legal aid

There’s only one problem with Chris Grayling’s legal reforms – they don’t go far enough

8 June 2013

9:00 AM

8 June 2013

9:00 AM

Shakespeare took it a little far in Henry IV, Part II, when Dick the Butcher said, ‘Let’s kill all the lawyers.’ Chris Grayling hasn’t made the same proposal but you could be forgiven for thinking otherwise, listening to the howls of anguish and indignation coming from the Inns of Court. Grayling, the first non-lawyer to be made Lord Chancellor since the 17th century, has simply said he wants to make some savings in the legal aid bill. To the lawyers, unaccustomed to having their privileges and subsidies challenged by anyone, this means war.

Already, 90 millionaire QCs — poor, impoverished Cherie Blair among them — have written a letter to the Telegraph attacking legal aid cuts for judicial review cases. A group of leading solicitors wrote to the Times to declare the reforms ‘an attack on the fundamental rule of law’. A retired Court of Appeal judge, Sir Anthony Hooper, has claimed that cutting this subsidy would destroy England’s ‘world-renowned’ system of fair justice. All of these bleating lawyers appeal to the need of society’s most vulnerable people for specialist legal advice.

It’s odd how these barristers never suggest cutting the ruinous cost of that specialist legal advice. At a time when Britain is flat broke — and most people are making savings — it is far from clear why QCs get vastly inflated fees from public funds to pay for Georgian terraced houses, Buckinghamshire country piles and children’s school fees. Barristers still benefit from the gilt-edged perks of the last great unreformed profession (I write as a former barrister). And now they fear that, for the first time in half a millennium, the rule of pampered, flattered lawyers may be coming to an end.

In his still-minor attempts to spring-clean the legal profession, Mr Grayling may kick off a revolution — one twitch on the thread and, fingers crossed, the whole moth-eaten brocade of the British legal system will come apart. Barristers don’t just hate Grayling for not being part of their fraternity. They hate him because he is exposing the overcharging charade they preside over and seems utterly unimpressed by their bluster about ending justice as we know it.

The lawyers much prefer their don’t-rock-the-boat insider Dominic Grieve QC, the Attorney General. Parliament is full of these legal insiders — of the 107 professionals voted in as Tory MPs at the last election, 56 were solicitors or barristers. Another 26 Labour MPs came from the legal professions. Just like it took two outsiders — Margaret Thatcher and Michael Gove — to take on the unions, it will take another to explode the cosy myths of lawyerdom.

A false equation has grown up over the slumbering centuries when barristers’ lucrative boondoggles have lingered on, largely unchanged. Because barristers wear old-fashioned clothes, work in handsome, 18th-century buildings and charge a fortune, they must be geniuses, or so the warped thinking goes. A few of them — like the late George Carman, who I worked for — are brilliant; in the same way there are a few brilliant writers, engineers and plumbers. But most barristers are intellectually ordinary, standard graduates — with one extra year of academic law training, or two, if they are non-law graduates.

There’s no reason why they should be paid any more than other graduates in less overrated jobs. But their high prices, and their dashing reputation, stoked up by Charles Dickens, John Mortimer and a million courtroom dramas, have conspired to produce this delusion of brilliance. It is a delusion many of them fall for themselves.

A few specialist areas — banking law, trust law, intellectual property — require brainiacs with Oxbridge firsts, who deserve to be well paid. Most of the rest of it is child’s play. Divorce, death and housebuying are straightforward enough — lots of us manage them with little difficulty — and so is the law associated with them. But over the centuries we’ve let a small group of not particularly gifted people monopolise the legal control of these routine, if crucial, acts.


It’s true there’s been a tiny chipping away at the barristers’ monopoly on addressing a court. More and more solicitors have rights of audience, a typically obscure legal expression implying there’s some peculiar, arcane gift needed to talk to a judge. Most things barristers do for hundreds of pounds an hour could be done as well not just by solicitors but by any intelligent person. Many of the things high-street solicitors do, too — conveyancing, divorces and wills among them — are a doddle, especially in the age of the internet.

I’ve just done my will for £15 online — with a few friends signing it — rather than pay a lawyer £1,000. In America, they’ve set up wevorce.com, an online legal company offering internet divorce packages for $7,500, rather than the US average of $27,000. Instead of our adversarial system, where two barristers and two solicitors bleed a couple dry, wevorce.com uses a single lawyer as a mediator, and provides the boilerplate legal documents online. At the click of a mouse, the staggering waste of money on solicitors, barristers and paperwork disappears.

Lots of civil cases in England could go down the same budget path, cutting as many overcharging barristers out of the equation as possible. And for ministers in the British government, who have been fooled by lawyers into taking their advice into everything they do, much could be saved with a clean sweep — sack all the government lawyers.

The barristers who wrote to the Telegraph were practically all QCs, or senior counsel, as they call themselves in their self-important letter. There’s no reason to split barristers from QCs, or solicitors from barristers, except to construct a false hierarchy which demands bigger fees the higher you climb the ladder.

It also produces a wicked duplication — or triplication, or even greater multiplication — of legal representation. If you visit a court’s public gallery, or, even worse, if you’re actually in court being represented, prepare to be horrified by the number of people on both sides. For a big case, each side will have junior and senior counsel and a couple of solicitors. Throw in the judge, and the costs rise to thousands of pounds an hour.

Big cases have months and months of preparation, too, with your barrister billing you crazy sums for basic jobs: hundreds of pounds for a phone call or to read a letter, even more to put finger to keyboard. Only this week it emerged that a bag-carrying junior barrister in the Leveson inquiry — Carine Patry Hoskins, who had a fling with Hugh Grant’s barrister, David Sherborne — was paid £218,606 of taxpayers’ money for 16 months’ routine work.

You’ll waste thousands, too, on conferences between solicitors and barristers to discuss the same set of papers — papers the solicitors will charge you to draft and the barristers will charge you to read. And best of luck if you try to complain about the way your case is handled. This week, the Legal Services Board declared that the Bar Standards Board, the barristers’ regulator, failed to reach satisfactory standards in every area it operates. Complaints go unresolved for years; two thirds of complainants said they were treated unfairly. But what are they going to do? Sue?

On top of your barrister’s voracious demands, the legal fees you pay also subsidise the ludicrously high costs of chambers. Barristers are essentially freelance, each renting a room. Charming as the Inns of Court are, you don’t half pay for the privilege of working there. Successful junior barristers don’t get much change out of £5,000 a month in return for a pretty office and the most antiquated appointments-booking system on earth: a room full of barristers’ clerks. In return for a hefty cut of the barristers’ earnings, clerks do little more than sort out their bosses’ fees and diaries, and carry papers to court — nothing a computer and a big trolley can’t do.

But then it’s not the barristers that pay for all this in the end. You do. It’s bad enough if it comes out of your own pocket but at least you’ve chosen to waste your money like this — well, you have if you’re the claimant or petitioner; there’s no such choice for the poor old respondent or defendant.

Even worse if it’s the poor old taxpayer who’s on the hook for a legally aided case. Like all free money, it’s sprayed around like there’s no tomorrow, because the only person who isn’t represented in the lawyer-packed court is the taxpayer. There’s no one around to cut costs, no one to insist each side should be represented by a single solicitor, let alone a magical lone lawyer for both sides, as used by wevorce.com.

No surprise, then, that the number of state-funded cases has soared. In 1974, just 160 applications for judicial review were made. By 2000, it was 4,250. By 2011, it was 11,000. Legal aid has been massively abused by vexatious litigants — and there’s always a salivating barrister waiting at the cab rank to take the taxpayer for a ride.

Scams have proliferated, many of them under legal aid. Under the last government, anyone wanting to stop a school becoming an academy tracked down an unemployed person to register a spurious complaint, and then claimed legal aid: one team of taxpayer-funded lawyers sued the government; another lot defended them. The complications of European law — jamming up the well-oiled, cheaply run cogs of ancient British common law — have added to the feeding frenzy.

Chris Grayling is trying to staunch the flow of taxpayers’ cash, and time-wasting cases, by introducing new tests and conditions to get access to judicial review. He hoped to slice £220 million from the government’s £2.1 billion legal aid budget, and would withdraw it only from people with disposable incomes of more than £37,500 — that is, after they’ve paid tax, national insurance, mortgage, council tax, childcare and living expenses. Grayling equates that to people earning gross incomes of over £100,000. Hardly unfair.

In Bleak House, Dickens gives a vivid description of the English legal system in 1852. The Court of Chancery, he said, ‘so exhausts the finances, patience, courage, hope, so overthrows the brain and breaks the heart, that there is not an honourable man among its practitioners who would not give — who does not often give — the warning “suffer any wrong that can be done you rather than come here!”’ In 2013, there is a reason barristers rarely go to law themselves; why married divorce barristers rarely get divorced, however much they hate each other. They know what an overpriced, agonising racket the British legal system is.

To remedy this is the real prize awaiting Grayling. It’s time to reform the whole profession: cut fees, dissolve the distinction between barristers and solicitors, and make it much more common for people to represent themselves. Legal aid should be just the start. It is time to give the entire legal profession the spring clean it so richly deserves.

Listen to Harry Mount debate this article with pupil barrister Greg Callus on this week’s View from 22

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Show comments
  • callsaul

    Surely not the same “bitter” Harry Mount described in this ‘The Lawyer’ article?


    (BTW, top trolling Harry)

  • Sam Roake

    did Grayling write this?

  • MaltonTom

    It is Henry VI. A schoolboy error, sadly replicated in the remainder of this ill-informed rant masquerading as journalistic comment

  • Konran

    This report ignores the reality of the cuts the bar has already taken on board, ignores that the VAST majority of those 90 millionaire QCs earnt their money completing private paying work, which these reforms will not deal with.

    You talk about the £100,00 a year earners, but fail to accept that even if acquitted, they won’t get their legal fees back, they will get a percentage of those fees, capped at the Legal Aid level, which you are happy to see cut yet again, without realising that Criminal Barristers will charge more for private work to make up the difference, and there will be a new market forced to pay for that new private work….thus increasing the amount that Barristers will earn?

    You ignore the fact that most Barristers are complaining about this system because of the injustice it will cause…not about their own fees. This appears to stem from your own deep-seated animosity towards the bar and a lack of understanding about what these changes mean.

    Anyone who is accused of a crime and has to defend themselves will be tens of thousands of pounds out of pocket. Being accused of a crime will result in bankruptcy, loss of family homes and destitution….and that is if you win!

    This Government, in the last few years, has consistently made this statement:

    “We cannot interfere with the bonuses and pay of those in the Banking industry, because all the best people will leave.”

    Yet, this same Government is happy to see all of the best people leave the Criminal Bar?

    Which underlines the ideology behind these changes. They are yet another attack on the poor and the working/middle class in our society.

    They simply don’t deserve a proper defence when accused of a crime, they are poor; they are probably guilty anyway.

    This is the Mantra of Cameron, Grayling and their ilk, and it appears you too?

    • Deayzee

      They won’t get any of their costs back in the Crown Court. LASPO abolished defence costs orders for Crown Court cases on acquittal. If you get legal aid then you get contributions back.

  • http://transatlanticfaredodger.tumblr.com sosr

    So sad, it’s like when a guy gets dumped by his girlfriend and starts slagging her off to all his mates to make himself feel better.

    And does Dickens ‘stoke up’ lawyers’ reputations or not? Mount seems to be rather confused.

  • Ian Wells

    If it is, as you describe “childs play”, how is it that you couldn’t secure tenancy after your pupillage? Is this anything more than you hitting out at a profession that you clearly wasn’t good enough to last in?

    And if Chambers is charging £5000 per month for a room, then i would seriously consider approaching a different chambers.

  • Guy Skelton

    This article displays a dazzling ignorance of the legal profession on the part of the author. He may have trained as a barrister and undertaken pupillage—an account of which is available at all good book stores—but he is clearly not aware of the realities of the legal sector.

    The staggering stupidity of this article makes it difficult to know where to start.

    One thing that must be made clear is that Mr Mount clearly has no appreciation of the difference between legal aid and the wider legal profession. Much of what the author discusses has nothing to do with legal aid. Will writing, the expense of the Leveson Inquiry, intellectual property, the vast majority of civil law (thanks to LASPO 2012) and banking law are not within the remit of legal aid. Legal aid is a relatively small pot of money set aside to allow those in society who cannot afford legal representation to have assistance at their most dire times of need—when their liberty is at risk, when they need redress against the action of the state etc. These are not frivolous claims and the author is simply wrong to imply such. The taxpayer who Mr Mount defends is the beneficiary of legal aid, not the victim.

    The protests from all corners of the legal profession are in recognition of the importance of this work for the public at large. The letter in the Telegraph from 90 QCs – many of who have never, and will never, undertake legal aid work – demonstrates that this is not a protectionism on the part of the legal profession. Dinah Rose QC who spoke at a recent protest said that her income would not be affected by the cuts to legal aid, but that she was protesting because they are fundamentally misguided. The legal aid budget has been cut year on year for the past decade, the cost of which has been borne by the legal aid lawyers who work long hours for meagre remuneration.

    A junior barrister who works in the legal aid sector can expect to earn less than a teacher and far less than their peers (with the same grades and intellectual attributes) who pursued more lucrative careers in the City or private legal sector.

    This article is a smokescreen to try and shift attention away from the true nature of the cuts. The government refuses to engage in any real dialogue as to sharing the burden of the cuts and continues to instruct experts from the private sector to assist them whenever they see fit (3 QCs instructed by Ms May in the Abu Qatada case and £108,104.00 spent on external counsel in March alone). The government seeks to remove any equality of arms from its citizens and to distance themselves from their responsibilities to provide legal assistance to citizens in need.

    These cuts and the proposed reform of criminal legal aid under price competitive tendering will: destroy a free market; increase costs; deny individuals their choice of representative; leave thousands without access to justice; damage the reputation of the law in this country; and break a line of legal progress started at Runnymede.

    Even Mrs Thatcher, one of Mr Mount’s outsiders (a barrister herself) would not be in favour of these reforms.

  • disqus_ocCWwJB19H

    What a Quisling little toad! I have never met a more biased piece of self-interested whinging! No wonder you failed at being a barrister, when your research skills are so appalling that you mistake Henry IV, Part II for Henry VI. Christ! Thank God you are out of the profession that I love. I would love to know where you get your facts from, Toad Mount. Hundred of pounds a day?! As a junior barrister, I’m lucky if I get 100 for a whole day. Tell you what, how about you come and meet me for a beer and we can discuss some amendments and than forthcoming retraction and grovelling apology to the profession you were too lazy to succeed at?

  • Jaime Hamilton

    Leaving aside the fact that I find it hard to understand why someone who describes themselves as a former barrister would also describe themselves as working “for” George Carman this piece is so full of anachronistic stereotypes and inaccuracies that I do not know where to start. So I shall content myelf with this- the legal professions have faced cuts after cuts for a number of years now. As a barrister I do not charge the taxpayer by the hour. I work for fixed fees that were set by an independent review in 2007. Since that time there have been no increase in those rates to reflect inflation. However those rates have been reduced by a series of cuts so that they are about two thirds of what they used to be. I often spend all day at court for a fixed fee of £100. I often spend all day at court for no extra remuneration at all. Last week I conducted 2 conferences (meetings with criminal defendants, one of which was at a prison), conducted two cases (one of which was a sentence for a man of previous good character) and drafted papers for case. My working day lasted from 6.30 in the morning until 10pm. I am sure the author would foam at the mouth at the prospect of me billing 15 hours of work including travel at £150 per hour to the taxpayer. Sadly for him the reality is all the work I did that day attracted no additional remuneration at all. Not one penny. Not even a payment for my travel.

    I can only think one of two things have happened here. Either the author knows the realities but has chosen to paint a wholly misleading picture or else he knows nothing of the Bar or the modern barrister. In either event his views are worthless and simply contribute to a degree of misunderstanding. I will be charitable to the author and work on the basis that ignorance is at the root of this piece as it seems he is wholly oblivious to the true nature of what is suggested in the consultation document. His figures are not even right.

    So, if this was just some cossetted barrister being woken from his burgundy induced slumber in some oak pannelled room by a non-lawyer trying to slash my vast income why did I not notice when the axe fell on my fees year in year out? It is because this is not just about fees. I am not going to pretend that I have not reached the point where enough is enough. I am not going to pretend that the latest cuts are not going to lead talented lawyers to abandon crime. But I am also not going to ignore that these proposals impact upon justice. A cursory moment of research on the internet will produce a wealth of responses to the consultation from people and groups who have no financial interest in the results of the consultation process but who do express grave concerns as to its impact on the criminal justice system.

    Then again, why would the author let a little research get in the way of a little diatribe?

    • Sharon Watson

      Well said.

  • Simon Myerson QC

    This does need a rebuttal, although whether The Spectator will offer one is a different matter. Let me offer a numbered list of errors, starting with the most spectacularly lazy:

    1. Harry Mount believes that to deny legal aid to those with a gross income of £100,000 is hardly unfair. Alas, he has neither read nor comprehended paragraph 3.27 of the Proposals. This makes it clear that the £100,000 is the household income. If you are charged with a crime, then your income is aggregated with that of your partner. Two teachers might qualify. So might police officers. And, what’s more, if the person charged is innocent – and it does happen – they will not get their legal costs back. For a journalist not to bother to research or understand what he is opining on is shoddy and unprofessional.

    2. The 90 QCs who wrote to the Daily Telegraph are not all millionaires. Moreover, it is sneering to suggest that they are (and sneering at someone for having earned money really IS foolish). It is also guesswork – which good barristers avoid.

    3. The average pay for barristers doing publicly funded work (crime and family) is readily available. I believe that good journalists research. But I suppose that if The Spectator is more interested in polemic and screeching, research would get in the way. Funnily enough, two junior barristers on average earnings would qualify for legal aid.

    4. The Judiciary is united in the belief that litigants in person slow down the Court system and thus delay justice to its millions of users. That belief is also public knowledge. Why Harry Mount – with a pupillage behind him but no discernible practice at the Bar – is better placed to opine that “Most things barristers do for hundreds of pounds an hour could be done as well not just by solicitors but by any intelligent person” is beyond me. He is entirely wrong. My own (self-kept) records covering 12 years sitting in civil and crime suggest that litigants in person double the length of a hearing. It is not because they are not trying to be helpful. It is because they are not expert. Harry Mount might know enough to diagnose a cold, but that does not mean he should be practising medicine – tempting though it is to suggest that he should do so on himself.

    5. If this really were “child’s play” then why do so many people who can afford to pay (including HM Government) want lawyers? Perhaps the collected experience of millions of people is a better guide? The reality is that Chris Grayling’s proposals are aimed at the poor. I know that Harry Mount – public school, Oxbridge, The Bullingdon – may not have that at the top of his list of priorities, but that is no excuse for failing to actually think through what little he has read and assimilated.

    6. Any couple can get divorced for less than £5,000 if they agree everything. As Harry Mount must, surely, know, the adversarial system only kicks in when there are adversaries: i.e. when people cannot agree. I have looked at the website he quotes: the service is a mediation service. Mediation is a good idea. But no one can be made to mediate. This is, it seems, a deliberately false analogy, in which case The Spectator should be ashamed. If it is not deliberate, then it is foolish in the extreme. Does no one fact check these articles before they are published?

    7. If big cases are legally aided the solicitors are not in Court, because the Government will not pay for that. In my last long fraud, a man’s liberty was at risk and his solicitors hired a newly-qualified paralegal to assist counsel, because they would not be paid to come to Court and help him. If that had been a civil case – with £2.5m at stake – the parties may well have decided to have solicitors to assist counsel. That is because the case had taken 2 years to prepare and involved approximately 65 full lever-arch files of documents.

    8. No one charges hundreds of pounds to read a letter, unless the letter is about 20 pages long. In that case it may well take hours to read and understand. Ditto phone calls. I am sure that this sounded brilliant when Harry Mount read it aloud in his bath. But, in the cold light of the printed page it is simply daft.

    9. Judicial Review is how ordinary citizens resist the power of the government. I do not know what Harry Mount proposes to do about that, and it seems that he doesn’t either. Perhaps just saying ‘ok’ to everything is his idea about how a country should be governed. After all, the chaps know best, don’t they? This sort of supercilious nonsense may well underly the way in which this government wants to deal with individuals. I am surprised that the press supports it.

    I am happy to deal with the rest of this article – and perhaps the axe which its author appears to wish to publicly grind (although my free legal advice is to be happy with what you do, rather than bitter over lost opportunities) – if offered the opportunity. Perhaps Harry Mount could give up his next column? He could spend the time doing proper research for the one after that and we would all be better off.

    Simon Myerson QC

    • disqus_ocCWwJB19H

      I believe, Harry Mount, that is what the kids refer to as getting “pwned”. Sit down and shut up, Mr Mount.

      • Michael

        I call on The Spectator to give a right to reply in full to Simon Myerson QC. If Harry Mount cannot defend his assertions then his article should not have been published.

    • Colin

      OK, so let’s not do anything, then. Everything’s fine. A legal aid bill of over £2 Billion is acceptable.

      The problem I have with the reported response of the legal industry to these proposals is that, the legal industry appears to see no scope for improvement or efficiency. That’s a bit like the attitude of creatures like chakrabarti in relation to human rights legislation. It’s a position with zero credibility. One “senior” legal muppet claimed on radio 4 that this could lead to serious civil unrest, with rioting in the streets.

      A roll call of who’s upset is a clear indication that Grayling is heading in the right direction. Personally, I’d like to see him go much further. Putting an end to legally aided shysters, trawling foreign conflict zones, past and present, looking for victims of alleged abuse at the hands of British institutions should be next on the agenda.

      • Konran

        Here are some figures for you Colin; figures not put forward by the MoJ.

        To prosecute a criminal requires more than simply a legal aid budget, and dependent on the system the burden of cost will be carried by different areas.

        In Europe the systems they employ place a larger burden on the prosecution and the court than the system employed in England and Wales which places that burden upon the defence.

        This is the cost for the prosecution, legal aid and the court service in 5 different European countries:

        Budget Allocated to Courts, Legal Aid and Prosecution:

        Germany – 8,171,552,490
        England – 4,458,810,000
        Italy – 4,427,485,116
        Spain – 4,202,016,219
        France – 3,935,548,101

        These are the numbers for reported crime:

        Germany – 6,054,000
        England – 4,339,000
        France – 3,521,000
        Italy – 2,630,000
        Spain – 2,335,000

        I think that you can clearly see that despite high numbers of reported crime, compared to our European counter parts, we run an incredibly efficient service. Yet, we maintain our position as one of the best legal systems in the world.

        Bringing criminals to justice in this country is done efficiently, it is done quickly and it is done justly and fairly.

        Let’s not throw that away because the MoJ have put forward misleading figures about the singular cost of legal aid.

        • Colin

          So, £2 Billion is ok?

          • Konran

            All European countries spend a comparable amount on ensuring criminal justice for their citizens.

            Criminal Legal Aid is valued at £980m, not £2bn, that is the entire Legal Aid budget and that is a different argument, one for civil lawyers to argue their corner and criminal lawyers to argue theirs. To throw it in one pot in a single argument is a mistake; there are different arguments for each.

            Whether we spend the £980m in Legal Aid or we spend it on the Court service, or we spend it on the Prosecution, I am not sure what difference that makes?

            Are you suggesting that England can spend less on criminal justice than every other comparable European country, and yet still maintain an equal standard of justice? I do not believe that to be possible.

            We have an efficient service and a high standard of justice. No one else of comparable size and crime rate spends less, and many spend far more than we do, these complaints are misguided and are being driven by the ideology of a Conservative party that sees yet another opportunity to attack the poorest and most vulnerable in our society.

            Here is some more information for you Colin. A single person earning £13,000 charged with an offence heard at the Magistrates’ Court, who pays £60pw in rent and £800 a year in Council Tax is NOT entitled to Legal Aid for their hearing.

            £13,000 per year is “too wealthy” to be given Legal Aid?

            That is the situation today Colin. What will it be after these “reforms”? I shudder to think.

          • hitchslap11

            Konran, as a non-lawyer I’m finding your replies to Colin and Owen difficult if not impossible to rebut (refute? both?).

            I would humbly argue that correlation does not necessarily imply causation.

            What does however stick in the craw is that a large number of commenters have chosen ad-hominems as their line of attack. I have long been suspicious of the pupillage system let alone the seemingly arbitrary nature of QC status.

            I’m in a profession that enjoys high barriers to entry due to statutory qualification requirements together with various financial and legal impediments.

            Consequently my profession (in aggregate) earns above average incomes even compared to graduates.

            I have however no quarrel with members of the public that choose to “self diagnose”.

            The law, and those that practice it remains a mystery to the man on the Clapham Omnibus. No matter how tiresome it may be to answer the logical fallacies that he raises, answer them you must, and in a way that does not come across as self serving.

          • Konran

            I don’t see the point of becoming angry about it; before I began my road to enter the profession, I knew very little about it.

            The only way to show people what the profession is about, and what the truth is , is to tell them in the best terms that you can.

            Personal attacks tend to put not only the person reading the piece, but anyone that happened to think it was true as they were reading it, on the defensive. People on the defensive are spending too much effort thinking of ways to argue against you to seriously consider any of the points you are making. It is unproductive.

          • hitchslap11


          • AnotherOldBoy

            Yes – if you want both to have the number of criminal prosecutions we have and a proper system of justice which gives the innocent competent representation.

    • sampsonbrass

      I write as a former barrister (I went deaf so had to cease practice) and solicitor. Myerson QC is quite correct, but what Mount spectacularly misses is the fact many legal aid solicitors are close to insolvency (and not because of their jet-set lifestyles but because their income is less than many teachers) and many will close their doors as the game is no longer worth the candle.

      • Latimer Alder

        And the public should worry about this because of why exactly?

        Many would feel that we already have too many lawyers generating work for other lawyers. Fewer, but better, lawyers would be a good thing.

        • Edmund Body

          Do you not understand how supply and demand works?

          • Latimer Alder

            Tolerably well. Less money sloshing about in legal aid —> fewer lawyers.


            They should use their talents on something productive, not merely incestuous.

      • Owen_Morgan

        If what sampsonbrass said were true, it would be somewhat amazing that the legal aid system even existed any more. After all, if the poor, benighted lawyers can’t take legally aided cases and break even, why are they so keen to handle them?

        I recall a case which showed up very clearly that unscrupulous lawyers will fight tooth and nail for legal aid (and not on the merits of the case). I am not going to go into details, but a writ was served to pursue claims of a jaw-droppingly audacious nature. Let’s just say that the plaintiff, had her whereabouts been common knowledge in the previous eighteen months, might well have faced criminal charges.

        Despite the blatant dishonesty of the “case”, she was awarded legal aid. This meant that the target of the writ, who was not eligible for legal aid, could only lose financially, since there was no chance that he could recover any of his costs, even after winning the case. Luckily, since he was himself an experienced lawyer, he was able to cut out some of those costs through his own efforts.

        Back then (I don’t know if this still applies), a legally aided case was supposed to come to court within twelve months of the legal aid grant. If it didn’t, the legal aid lapsed and, in ordinary circumstances, the case would be dismissed. In this instance, however, after the expiry of the grant, the solicitor urgently petitioned the legal aid board to renew the legal aid. The case hadn’t miraculously acquired any merits in the interim, but the solicitor was desperate to keep it going and the legal aid board was perfectly happy to play along. Legal aid was extended.

        Finally, the case came to court – and was thrown out within minutes. Quite why it hadn’t been dismissed as vexatious right at the start, I don’t know, but the real point of the story is that there was (and undoubtedly remains) a nexus of very cynical, avaricious lawyers who will insist that they hate legal aid work and that it doesn’t pay and blah…blah…blah, but who are curiously reluctant to let it pass them by.

        If lawyers can’t make a living, perhaps they are in the wrong job (that particular solicitor certainly was; his undoubted metier manque was the stitching of mail-sacks). That’s no reason to allow his kind to free-load at the taxpayers’ expense.

        • Konran

          The problem with what you saw Owen, is that it is either outdated, as in very old information, or it is just plain wrong.

          Legal Aid has a two part test, financial and merit, this is the merit test:

          1. You have as a matter of law reasonable grounds for instituting, defending or being a party to the proceedings for which legal aid is sought

          2. You are reasonably likely to be successful in the proceedings

          3. The proceedings for which legal aid is sought are the most satisfactory means of achieving the result sought by you

          4. Having regard to all the circumstances (including the probable cost to the Board, measured against the likely benefit to you), it is reasonable to grant the application

          So, your opinion that the claim was entirely without merit, was not shared by the Legal Aid board.

          You complain that the Defendant in the case would have to bear their own costs, yet the proposals put on the table will force any FAMILY with a disposable income over £37,500 to pay their own costs….win or lose….in criminal cases.

          You should, accordingly, be appalled.

          As to your comments about why people continue in a poorly paid profession….perhaps you should talk to Policeman, Fireman, Teachers, Soldiers, Nurses…etc etc, they earn the same as 90% of Criminal Defence Barristers.

          People, who are committed to their profession, treat it as a vocation. They didn’t enter the profession for the money, if they had we would all be Commercial Lawyers. People do it because they think it is the right thing to do.

          No matter how much you think you are doing the right thing, when you can’t pay the rent/mortgage, when you are struggling to make ends meet, when the crippling student debts become too much. You will move on.

          This is one of the fears of the Criminal Bar. We will end up with young, inexperienced, idealistic Barristers starting their career at the Bar. That will be great for the types of cases where a Barrister can cut their teeth. The problem is, who will do the really serious cases? Who will defend those accused of terrorism, rape, murder, paedophilia? There won’t be the Barristers with the knowledge, the skill and the experience to run those cases, because people will grow out of their idealistic nature when the mortgage payments become difficult, when they notice their children are going without because they are in a profession that is treated like garbage.

          I am sure none of this will have any effect on your thought process, as you have a single anecdotal example, which cannot be independently tested, cannot be verified and cannot be debated in any sensible way regardless of the fact that it flies in the face of the very basic rules of Legal Aid.

          • Owen_Morgan

            That is a pathetic answer and an absolute justification for the root-and-branch reform of legal aid. All of those “principles” were supposedly in place when the case, to which I referred, occurred. Unfortunately, as Harry Mount described, principles are an alien concept to many, even most, in the legal “profession”. There was never any merit in the case I described, but an unscrupulous solicitor took the case and a legal aid board twice granted taxpayers’ money to prop it up.

            When the case came to court, it withered and died.

            Konran is either incredibly stupid, or just a solicitor.

          • Konran

            Why should anyone give any weight to your anecdote? You clearly have an axe to grind, hence your personal attacks against me for doing no more than providing you with some information.

          • Duncan Bowtell

            My girlfriend is a barrister and what you describe to me sounds more like solicitors being unscrupulous, which does seem to be an issue. Solicitors are much more able to target the legal aid system than barristers who have to be booked by solicitors.

            The problem is that there is a panoply of barristers. Even within family law you can be working on a divorce or representing a family in care proceedings. I’m sure you’ll agree that when a local authority makes a grab to remove a child from its parents that someone should be able to give the parents a fair representation – imagine if they could just come and take one of your family members away without a fair trial.

            The rich ones don’t tend to do the legal aid ‘gravy train’, so I would dispute them ‘getting rich’ off it. Throw in the fact that they are self-employed (no holiday/sick pay) work weekends and evenings and I think you’ll agree you probably get good value out of them.

            Mr Mount is being very disingenuous with many of his arguments, so I wonder exactly whom he is in the pay of now and why post this stuff?

    • Sharon Watson

      I agree with every point Simon Myerson QC has made; that such a spiteful, factually incorrect and reckless piece of “journalism” should be printed is something that both the author and Editor ought to be ashamed of.

    • Karla’s Man

      186, 59 and 70 anonymous Guest votes?

    • AW1983

      I was going to reply myself and then I saw Simon Myerson QC’s excellent response. Poor Harry Mount couldn’t make his bitterness to fail to secure tenancy more obvious if he tried; the obvious flaws in his article were obvious even to a lay person like me (although calling someone a bag carrier without explaining the significance in the profession was an excellent example of gutter journalism at work).

      • AW1983

        Wow, I really used ‘obvious’ three times in the same sentence. This is why I’m a lay person and not a lawyer!

  • mrclaypole

    And with one article my 20 year subscription to the magazine come to an end. How sad. That a grand old dear like the Spectator can be endorsing the removal of right to choice for the individual against the state at its most acute (the removal of liberty) says it all about the muddled Tory managerial thinking which is giving us the rise of UKIP.

    • Simon Mills

      Don’t give up your subscription to a great magazine over a man with a chip on his shoulder, who has no idea what he is talking about, and who is simply trying to stir up a row to draw attention to himself.

      • Deayzee

        Take a subscription to Private Eye who have run sensible pieces about PCT instead.

  • http://49chambers.wordpress.com/ Alistair Mitchell

    Amazing that a public schoolboy with an Oxbridge degree like Harry Mount was not able to make a career at the Bar with all his advantages. With the cuts to legal aid driving out those without the same privileged background – the 90% of the criminal Bar who earn less than £50,000 gross – there will be better opportunities for the likes of Harry as diversity at the Bar goes the way of the dinosaur and the profession reverts to one predominantly populated by rich white men.
    If Harry and Grayling really want £220M cuts in public spending, they should address the soaring cost of Housing Benefit. At £23.8bn this year alone, it dwarfs the legal aid cuts sought.
    Why does Harry not propose a rent cap on this vast subsidy for landlords who’ve seen rents rise by an average of 37% in the last five years? A cap of just 10% would produce a saving of £2.38bn: enough to restore the legal aid services withdrawn from family disputes, plug the £200m shortfall in funding for cancer drugs and still leave hundreds of millions to waste on Trident submarines.

    • PaulOnBooks

      To be fair, Mr Mount’s degree was ancient and modern history (presumably on Gove’s hit list) so he couldn’t be expected to do much other than write for the Telegraph. Should have got his plays correct though.

  • Nigel Poole QC

    Given your low regard for the importance of verifiable evidence to support argument you made the right decision to leave the Bar. By the way you forgot to mention that minor players in the justice system such as HM’s Circuit Judges also oppose the legal aid proposals. Are they part of the racket? Finally could you pass on a request to “Dear Mary”? You see I am a QC but I am not a millionaire (at least not yet!). People who have read your article will make false assumptions about my wealth. I do not want to lose face, but is it wrong not to come clean? Could Mary advise?

    • Karla’s Man

      Circuit Judges are themselves barristers, no?

      • Nigel Poole QC

        No. Many are former barristers. That is because barristers work in the court system and are very well qualified to become judges. The judiciary certainly cannot be accused of having a “vested interest” or being part of “racket” as Mr Mount calls it. Of course if you are involved in the justice system you tend to be more aware of the impact these proposals will have. It seems that if you dare to speak out against them then you are accused of being partisan or self-serving. Should barristers remain silent about proposals which they believe would awful if implemented? Of course not.

        • Karla’s Man

          The whole thing is a gravy train, and you know it; and neither is the British public on your side.

          There was this case in Hong Kong recently, and an English Q.C. (Monica Carss-Frisk) had to be parachuted in for the Government of Hong Kong as the respondent, and it never ceases to amaze me the difference between the English Q.C. and her female Hongkong Chinese counterpart, and just how much better-paid an English Q.C. is!
          (https://encrypted.google.com/url?sa=i&rct=j&q=%22monica+carss+frisk%22&source=images&cd=&cad=rja&docid=1zOs3Bp6jyDvtM&tbnid=lOZ9Qdf7P2QAOM:&ved=0CAIQjBw&url=http%3A%2F%2F3.bp.blogspot.com%2F_kC5MT2r5U8s%2FTNXF3mryzTI%2FAAAAAAAARG8%2F7DSBVsmQIDY%2Fs1600%2FMonica%2BCarss-Frisk2.jpg&ei=lua1UdDmNIGn0AWEm4HoAQ&psig=AFQjCNG-01Rf9uR7xhNO59eOcAmdgTF59w&ust=1370961820007808 )

          • Nigel Poole QC

            Don’t agree re gravy train. Nor do I “know it”. The reason why there is a heated response to an article like Mr Mount’s is that many of us feel it misleads the public. If the public is informed about what is being proposed I believe they will be against the proposals. Indeed it looks like most of the national press is now against them including, perhaps surprisingly, the Daily Mail.
            Unlike you I don’t know what Monica Carss-Frisk was paid but perhaps the Hong Kong government thought it was money well spent. In any event our government’s proposals concern legal aid in this country. Chalk and cheese. That’s enough food metaphors.

          • Karla’s Man

            Well, the case was eventually lost in a higher court. I have no knowledge as to the fees rendered, which was probably kept secret.

            Well, if “the natives” in Hong Kong (one of the most expensive cities in the World, just behind London) can presumably survive on a lower pay and still manage to do their jobs, then why can’t the same happen in this Country?

          • Edmund Body

            The cost of living is lower in hong kong than London. Also people who are better at there job/more experienced tend to get paid more its called supply and demand.

  • Ian Unsworth QC

    This is bereft of facts, devoid of reason and absent of rationale. I,of course, welcome a debate but it must be based on facts.

    I would urge your readership to read the analysis of the Council of Circuit Judges. They cannot be described as “Fat Cats” nor can the argument of self – interest be lodged at their door.

    The author fails to recognise that the very same barristers that he attacks also prosecute cases. The newspapers are littered with stories of trials on a daily basis. Many involve horrific crimes which must be prosecuted by highly experienced advocates. These cases have a huge importance to society, victims and all too often, the families of the deceased.

    If the Bar is destroyed, then it is not just the defence lawyers who will be disappear it will be those that prosecute as well.

    Had the author remained at the Bar he would know that those who prosecute these cases work tirelessly, 7 days a week, for months on end to ensure that these cases are presented as effectively as they possibly can.

    There is a huge public good in what the Bar does. To trivialise it in the way that this article does is nothing short of shameful.


    You should listen to the Spectator’s own podcast in which Mount gets destroyed. It is perfectly obvious Mount has done precisely 0% research for his article and his working purely from his own prejudice.

  • Reece

    So… I would like to know which set of Chambers charge £5,000 a month rent? Also, saying that Clerks are outdated, this author is clearly living in a dream world. Clerks are practice managers, the same as any other profession would have a practice manager(s), every set of Chambers need them to ensure the smooth running of administration. It is a bit like saying let Drs. book their own appointments and manage their diaries, is that outdated too?

    Anyone would think this ‘author’ works for wevorce.com the way he harps on about it. Yes barristers CAN earn a decent wage, but you know what, they deserve it. Barristers have studied hard, specialised in their area of law and earned their money.

    • Karla’s Man

      Not from the British Tax-payer, you are not!

      • Reece

        You don’t seem to understand, much like Mr. Mount. Please explain how barristers clerks are different from any other publicly funded administrator/practice manager. Do you understand how a set of barristers chambers operates? If you don’t, which I don’t think you do, a set of chambers need a clerking team and administration staff to operate, much like hospitals need staff to deal with patients etc.

        • Karla’s Man

          Which should also be cut, as part of the deficit-reduction process.

    • Barristers Clerk

      Clerks do MUCH MORE than sort the fees/diary and take papers over to court!!

  • http://www.farringdon-law.co.uk/index.php/billryan Bill Ryan

    Just for fairness Harry can you say what your experience as a barrister is (i.e. how long and where you were a tenant) and why you left? We would not want readers getting the idea that there were any sour grapes here.

  • Arden Forester

    There’s a whole load of difference between sneering at the adversarial system and pinpointing money-grubbing lawyers. The problem here is whether a person can “choose” a lawyer best suited to represent them rather than having a Grayling appointee thrust upon them. It may appear naive to say so, but the legal profession should be honourable and seek justice before profit. A proper remuneration is fine.

    We do not need to add to miscarriages of justice, civil or criminal, by having avaricious lawyers exchanged for jobsworth lawyers.

  • Justin Leslie

    Lest we forget David Pannick’s review of Harry Mount’s book on life at the bar…


  • Sarah Froggatt

    Clearly a jealous man who couldn’t make the cut and is now choking on his own sour grapes. Displays a complete lack of research, shocking one sided presentation and misleading “facts”. Wonder why he was rejected by the bar…..

  • Simon Mills

    “Most of the rest of it is child’s play”. Thank goodness this man left the profession. He should try the daily workload of a criminal practitioner, although he wouldn’t last long I suspect.

  • Bill Cordingley

    My understanding was that having completed pupillage Mr Mount left the bar. It is a bit rich quoting oneself as a ‘former barrister’ when one has approximately 365 days of experience.
    Anyone who has read the book will know that he paints a dark and Dickensian picture of the modern bar which is not even vaguely like the reality.
    I also understood that he had little to nothing to do with criminal work and so does not speak with the authority he claims.
    Factually, as Simon Myerson QC points out, he is grossly incorrect and if the standard of research for this article was the standard of research he put into his cases it is no wonder the bar left him….which is actually the gist of his book!

  • Geraldine Kelly

    Sounds like sour grapes from a man who was unable to compete with and succeed amongst “the intellectually ordinary, standard graduates”. Shamefully inaccurate and deliberately misleading.

  • Lucas Clover Alcolea

    ‘A few specialist areas — banking law, trust law, intellectual property — require brainiacs with Oxbridge firsts, who deserve to be well paid. Most of the rest of it is child’s play. Divorce, death and housebuying are straightforward enough — lots of us manage them with little difficulty — and so is the law associated with them. ‘

    No, no its not. To talk about a subject I know a little about, housebuying is not straight enough, what if easements (rights over others land) are involved or restrictive covenants (restrictions on what can be done on your land) etc…? These things are not at all easy, they are a very very complicated part of law and require a lot of paperwork, arguing (potentially) and rarer still, a site visit. Death is also not straightforward enough, there are tax planning issues for example, or the interplay between trust law and death etc… If I can say all that as a law student, let alone a qualified ex-barrister, I have to wonder whether the author of this article actually ever represented anyone or was just writing this article in bad faith? There is simply no way anyone who had even read a part of a chapter in even a student textbook on any of these issues, let alone a fully fledged barrister, could claim these areas of law were ‘simple enough’!

  • http://headoflegal.com/ Carl Gardner

    I know this is mostly about legal aid, but I’m interested in the proposal that the government can save money by sacking all its own lawyers.

    Unfortunately that would mean probably losing the infraction proceedings the European Commission has just brought about benefits, for instance. That case may actually be winnable by the government’s excellent lawyers. But if it is lost, as it surely would be if no lawyer helped the government with it, that case alone could cost HMG, every year in benefits, more than the annual cost of the government legal service.

    Plus of course, there’d be no one left for Dave Hartnett’s successor, in future, to be expected to run his tax settlements past.

    Also, it’d make life easier for future Abu Qatadas, and prisoners wanting the vote. And it’d make it easier for people to succeed in all sorts of legal challenges to government policy, including even its legal aid plans, perhaps. If Chris Grayling is confident his plans will withstand legal challenge, it’s only because government lawyers have advised him.

    Conservatives who want to protect the public purse should not be so dismissive of government lawyers.

  • smlangford

    I simply cannot get over how appalling this article is. I can barely stand to read it again: basic inaccuracies and falsehoods in almost every paragraph? I find it totally extraordinary that the Spectator would wave this through?

  • Peter Glenser

    David Pannick QC on reviewing Mount’s
    book about his time as a pupil: “It is difficult to take seriously an
    author on a legal subject who erroneously states that the great New York jurist
    Judge Learned Hand was an “American Indian judge” from California. Nor
    contrary to Mount’s assertions are barristers required to wear trousers with
    turn-ups….Indeed for someone aged 31 when starting as a pupil Mount is
    surprisingly ignorant. … Contrary to his belief advocacy does not amount to
    the “slapping of desks”…Mount is astonishingly naive. He offers the
    insight that “dealing with law of films is not the same as dealing with
    films”. Mr Mount’s hope was that his chosen career would provide the same
    professional gratification as he attributes to the late George Carman QC: the
    fees, the drama and the publicity. It does not occur to him that there was only
    one George Carman who achieved success after a long apprenticeship doing less
    celebrated cases. Mr Mount wants to do well at the Bar without what he regards
    as the optional extras of “filling files with paper” and then
    “re-reading them” – activities that clients and judges would see as
    necessary preparation. Mr Mount’s analysis of his own qualifications …
    suggests a certain lack of familiarity with the world of today’s barrister. He
    has a ” good degree in Ancient and Modern history, a loud clear voice, he
    is “comfortable in London” whatever that means, and was used to
    “ancient cloisters packed with men”. It is to the credit of the legal
    profession that such characteristics are no longer a passport to a place in
    chambers…fatuous assertions about the lifestyles and personalities of
    barristers continue to deter talented students…”

  • Mark Dubbery

    Bleak house was published between 1852 and 1853 but set prior to 1842. Mount would have needed about 30 seconds to confirm that fact.


  • Richard Benson QC

    Ah, so Mount did pupillage and did not progress further at the bar; One wonders why!.His tedious book reveals a whining “never would be”. Former member of the Bullingdon club, related to the present P-M. ugh! says it all really. What a slight unmeritable man ( he’ll find that quotation in Julius Caesar).

  • S4mmyW

    The responces here I think about cover how utterly terrible this article is. The Spectator, you surprise me – I would have thought you’d have taken some kind of pride in your work. This article is a text book example of ‘Shit Journalism’.

  • Andrew

    At no stage in this article does the author outline the proposed reforms and why he supports them. I am left wondering if he has even read the proposals. I am left with no uncertainty however, as to his complete lack of understanding of just what areas of law are covered by legal aid, how such cases are paid and as to his unabated bitterness towards the legal profession (particularly the bar – which the author doesn’t really understand either). Saying “I’m a barrister” does not give automatic credibility, it simply cries out “I don’t like you anymore”. What is the source of this bitterness? I’m assuming a failure to get pupillary/tenancy, or an inability to make a living through failure to get instructions? Whilst it is always entertaining to see the same old hackneyed stereotypes and nonsense thrown about, it is deeply troubling that the Spectator has given a forum to this. It is more akin to a blog (www.chiponmyshoulder.com) I hope that the Spectator will approach the Bar Council for a considered response, which is then printed. To leave this without reply would be wholly unfair.

  • Simon Perkins

    Ill informed, bitter tosh from a failed Pupil Barrister. Setting aside the thoughtless regurgitation of Grayling’s propaganda; setting aside the adoption of inaccurate stereotypes concerning Barristers’ remuneration; setting aside the convenient timing of this tawdry little piece by Gideon’s school pal; the point about the selective quotation from Henry VI is that it is a rhetorical flourish whilst discussing the introduction of dictatorship – for which the aspiring dictator needs first to “….kill all the lawyers” – because it is lawyers who protect the rights of all citizens irrespective of colour, religion, politics, and accusation. The legal aid system Grayling aspires to destroy ensures that those accused of crime by the State are provided with professional, ethical, high quality representation irrespective of their ability to pay.
    Lets hope the Spectator has the courage to allow a right of reply.

  • Brian Moore

    It’s not fair is it – all your establishment credentials and they still wouldn’t give you a tenancy; just not fair.

  • Christine 1954

    Hell hath no fury – which particular scorn was heaped upon you were turned down for tenancy everywhere? Was it because you were so poor at research – you clearly cannot distinguish true fact or authority from fictional accounts and I would suggest, judging by this piece, that your written opinions were discounted by any pupil master as being poorly and inaccurately drafted. I have no idea how you might have come across when on your feet, if indeed you were ever on them at all, but as you refer to having “worked for” a senior QC I take it you left after a failed pupillage and did not have the opportunity to see how brilliant advocacy can turn a case on its head, pulling truth from fantasy and establishing innocence where only guilt had so far been seen. In 30 years as a clerk, I have seen people like you a thousand times – so self important, so dismissive of those who instruct you, so arrogant when it comes to your staff and oh so indignant when you are seen for what you are – inept and self deluded. Fortunately, your like are weeded out at a very early stage from the Criminal Bar because it does not entertain those qualities in someone who will be representing clients who are the most vulnerable, the most frightened and those with everything to lose if their barrister is inadequate.
    Your piece is rubbish and its effect is simply to make the profession stronger, more committed and determined that justice in this country will neither be sold to the lowest bidder or left in the hands of barristers such as you clearly were; one who cannot form a decent argument based on belief in their clients right to fairness and justice.

    • Latimer Alder

      Paragraphs are permitted in the comments section.

      I read your remarks, and – apart from a personal attack on Mr Mount – they are without any substance at all.

      I believe – if you will forgive my lapse into Latin, m’lud – that this is called an ‘ad hominem’ argument.

      And the concept you rely on ‘I must be right because the opposer is A Bad Person’ is not a very persuasive one.

      It seems that you yourself have connections with the legal profession. Your contribution does not shed a flattering light upon it.

      • Edmund Body

        Personal attacks on Mr Mount are relevant as it highlights his vested interests.

        • Latimer Alder

          But it didn’t.

          It just said he was a lousy barrister. Whether that is true or not is irrelevant to the argument.

          No mention of vested interests at all

  • Alex Cracknell

    Misguided, ill-informed, sickening rubbish. Absolutely disgusted.

  • Stephen Nunn

    Until I read this utter self serving nonsense I thought this was a serious publication. There is little hope for the future when the press are prepared to publish such ill informed, inaccurate tosh. Shame on you all

  • Jules

    A thousand pounds for DRAFTING a will? Please identify the lawyers who charge this?!

    (I stopped reading after that part, it was so ludicrous)..

  • Justin cole

    Bitter and ill-informed bleatings from a malcontent who has spent his adult life raging against a system that didn’t fling open its doors for him because of his titled background. The brilliant and struggling young barristers who represent people under legal aid come to the profession with £40 000 student debt, unlike Mr Mount, I suspect.
    Harry, I am so sorry you failed to get a tenacy at the chambers you trained at, despite having ” a good speaking voice, and knowing your way around London” ( according to your book). Time to get over it.

    The main deception in your article is you deliberately confuse the world of commercial law, where companies privately pay a legion of lawyers, with the utterly bleak world of legal aid lawyers, who average £ 25 000 p.a. before tax, before these proposed cuts. That amounts, I suspect , to a month of Harry’s trust fund income.

    • retundario

      No you’re confused – the loudest complainants are Barristers, who can earn up to £500,000 per year from legal aid and even suggested this outrageous sum as a cap

      • MaltonTom

        Alas I fear you have taken your statistics from the same ‘source’ as the author of this ignorant and mendacious piece. Mr Cole knows whereof he speaks. If you cared to read the Ministry of Justice’s own figures in the consultation document concerning earnings you may be enlightened.

      • Justin cole

        I see you shield under a pseudonym, and I don’t know if have any experience of the criminal courts. Only a few historic and exceptional cases have ended in legal payments of £500 000, even though the government spin machine keeps recycling them, year after year. Spend a day with a stressed out legal aid barrister prosecuting serious crimes, or one who defends, for a derisory pittance, then comment. You are also mistaken that its barristers complaining loudest: look at the papers. It,s judges, solicitors, Liberty, etc etc

      • Jaime Hamilton

        The consultation document comes with annexes that tell the true position. 65% of advocates receive an income of less than £50,000 from criminal legal aid. That isn’t a salary but a payment to a business. It equates to a taxable income of less than £25,000. No barrister has earned £500,000 in the last two years from crime. And in that time there have been more cuts.

  • retundario

    Great article –

    • Otherpleasespecify

      Is that you Harry?

      • retundario

        Look into the issues.

        • Otherpleasespecify

          Errr… right OK. It seems from your comments that you may know something I don’t. Darned if I can work out what it is though.

  • Dominic Bush

    So we see the caliber of Mr Grayling’s support. He has no shame.

  • Otherpleasespecify

    This really is pure unadulterated tripe. At first reading I thought Mr Mount must be just another clicktroll
    (http://www.urbandictionary.com/define.php?term=clicktroll) but the poor
    chap really does appear to be in genuine anguish about his failure to
    achieve tenancy. I suspect that his editor has taken advantage of his vulnerabilities in a crass attempt to draw traffic to this site.

  • Eugene Egan

    This is the most disgracefully composed article I have ever read. I am a criminal barrister of twenty years call. The article shows absolutely no understanding of what barristers in the Crown Court do and is pitifully ill informed in virtually paragraph. Mr. Mount should spend a week with someone who is either prosecuting or defending a child rape case and then comment when he has a scintilla of a iota of a fraction of first hand knowledge. Until then he should shut up. Or as someone who also read Classics at Oxford like Mr. Mount, just take this simple advice – oportet te tacere.

    • Latimer Alder

      I tried to follow you argument.

      You present no facts at all.

      I can summarise it as ‘But we know better, sonny’.

      Maybe so, but we,- the ‘sonnys’ of the world – are the ones who eventually pay you guys to administer an expensive system that you guys invented.and which often seems to be operated for the benefit of the lawyers not of the clients nor the lay public.

      Until you can dispel that charge it seems quite reasonable that we should have a say in how much we pay – despite your protestations of expertise.

      The squealing and wailing and rending of raiment and gnashing of teeth on display here – emphasised by the lack of reasonable argument – suggests that these modest proposals have hit a big fat nerve.

      • John Campbell

        The “modest proposals” you appear to defend will not give you a say in how much you pay, or to whom. That is unless “sonny” has sufficiently deep pockets to make that determination for himself.

  • Andrew


    How do you explain this? Where is their vested interest?

    • retundario

      Yes no pro-legal system vested interest, they only work in the crown court christ’s sake! The Crown Court legal aid system needs reform, taxpayer fleeced

    • Karla’s Man

      Judges are themselves barristers and ex-barristers, no?

  • L. Mustard

    Given the distinct lack of both truth and fact in your ‘piece’ Mr. Mount, it surprises me not that you were not suited to the Bar of England and Wales. Never let the truth get in the way of a good story…I say good story but really I mean a bitter diatribe, which leaves the reader cringing at the bitterness. Surely you can do better, or perhaps this is your best? I can’t say I noticed the Henry the VI point, my working class background and comprehensive education have let me down, yet still, I was able to complete pupillage and secure tenancy. Although it is exceptionally unlikely that anyone from a similar background will be able to do so if Grayling’s proposals ‘go through’. Indeed it is likely that I, along with a great many of my hard working and dedicated colleagues will be forced to leave this great profession. Sadly the average wage earning public and those earning less than average will lose their choice/voice – simply because those persons accused of a crime are not deemed worthy of exercising choice – if that isn’t creating a much larger underclass I don’t know what is.

  • Barristersclerk

    Poor poor article from someone who has no idea and clearly not researched the Grayling consultation and lacks any knowledge of the Bar past or present.

  • Jonathan Kent

    Judging by the comments on Mr Mount’s apology for an article people don’t seem inclined to ‘take it from a former barrister’ any more then they seem to be inclined to accept that Mr Mount was ever a barrister worth the name.

    I know journalists aren’t wont to disapppear into their studies with a loaded revolver and do the decent thing but I wonder how Mr Mount will recover the confidence to approach a keyboard again without a real fear of righteous ridicule.

    Having failed at law and now at journalism what is left to him? Please, please don’t say social work or teaching – neither deserves him.

  • Otherpleasespecify

    Harry talks even more unsubstantiated groundless rubbish in the audio debate with Greg Callus, who blows him completely out of the water. It’s quite astonishing that he insists even in that debate on reiterating the staggering misconceptions that appear in the article and even embellishes upon them.

    Harry is actually a fantastic advertisement for the (admittedly slow) advance of meritocracy at the bar. Having been born with a silver spoon in his mouth and glided his way effortlessly along the traditional route by which the privileged sons of the wealthy and well-connected in our society have since the dawn of time found themselves sitting pretty behind a big desk in an oak panelled room in the Temple, he now finds that none of that is enough and he doesn’t make the grade. What he seems particularly upset about is that through hard work and dedication others made it through, despite not having been blessed with an elitist education and the sense of God-given entitlement that so often comes with that. He is left raging that those that succeeded are “not actually very bright” (I paraphrase). Leaving aside the fact that to get your foot in the door you actually do need to have a exceptionally good degree, where does it leave Harry if he’s right that those that got tenancy aren’t as special as he obviously thought he was when he went into pupillage?

  • SimonToo

    I think of all the baristers I knew who left the bar for tax reasons – they wanted to earn enough to pay some.

    • Latimer Alder

      So they failed to join the ‘get rich at the public’s expense’ club. Tough.

  • Tim

    Oh dear! Reading this leaves one with an embarrassed sense of having intruded upon personal grief. Or is it perhaps the clumsy relief of pent-up frustration? Either way, I hope Harry had plenty of tissues to hand. Next time, Harry, please find somewhere more private and don’t forget to clean up afterwards.

  • Catherine Silverton

    Mr Mount, for your information defence barristers working on criminal legal aid graduated fee rates (eg defending people for GBH/rape/robbery) receive the following remuneration for conferences, including those conducted in prison -£0.

    Should you be interested in the relevant facts, all legal aid rates are readily available to the public.

    As you are clearly not a lover of facts I shall desist from sharing any more. It must have been very difficult for you to learn that the bar is in fact a meritocracy. Do try not to choke on those sour grapes.

  • rebecca wood

    I spent 8 years at the bar and was getting paid £35 a trial. You ignorant man.

    • Latimer Alder

      Poor dear. Nobody forced you to become a barrister, did they?

  • Ian Ball

    For those of you who can’t wait to hear more from Harry Mount, Amazon are offering 242 second hand sheets of toilet paper in a hard binding for £0.01 under the unfathomable title ‘My Brief Career: The Trials of a Young Lawyer’….

    • Richard Benson QC

      if the lavatory paper really is second hand was it bound to cause a bit of a stink?

  • Sarah Roberts

    I don’t know whether to laugh or cry! WHAT on earth is The Spectator doing publishing this drivel?

    “Grayling, the first non-lawyer to be made Lord Chancellor since the 17th century, has simply said he wants to make some savings in the legal aid bill.”

    Has he indeed? Have you read the proposals at all or just The Daily Mail? If you have in fact read the proposals I am sure that you will be able to explain how your ‘£15 online will signed by your chums’ has anything whatever to do with the removal of client choice from the criminal legal aid system or the imposition of a residency test for civil legal aid for example?

    Perhaps you could enlighten us with your understanding of what junior criminal legal aid barristers in fact get paid. If you bother to read the consultation document at all, you will find the Government’s own figures at paragraph 5.34.(65% of them receive annual fee income of £50,000 or less gross of
    tax and expenses)

    How predictable that you should consider that banking lawyers ‘deserve’ to be well paid and yet those representing the poor and vulnerable deserve nothing but your contempt.

    So that you don’t accuse me of self interest, I am a solicitor advocate; one of the people who you consider should be conducting ‘big cases’… on my own… without an opponent … or a Judge… a ‘magical lone lawyer’ I believe you call it. Have you ever prepared or conducted the advocacy in a murder or serious fraud case? If not, how can you possibly feel qualified to comment? Perhaps ‘big cases’ just required too much reading of “mind-numbingly boring documents” for you. http://www.thelawyer.com/time-at-the-bar/110229.article

    It is astonishing that you cannot even detect the hypocrisy in your attempt to
    lend credibility to your derogatory assertions by parroting ‘I used to be

    Much as I would love to assume the title of ‘magical lone lawyer’, I know my limitations; perhaps you should review your limitations as a journalist. I would have
    thought that responsible journalism at the very least involved the accurate
    reporting of figures. ‘Hundreds of pounds for telephone calls’ on legal aid? What?

    I can hardly be bothered to point out your entirely false dichotomy between the
    recipients of legal aid and the taxpayer, or draw your attention to the civil and criminal procedure rules which require efficient active case management. The £37,500 figure relates to household disposable income.

    You really ought to know these things both as a ‘former barrister’ and as a journalist.

    • Latimer Alder

      Just to say that – should I ever be in need of a ‘solicitor advocate’ – your name will be top of my ‘don’t touch with a f….g barge pole ‘ list.

      I expect clear thinking, a logical case and a calm exposition from a lawyer.

      Your contribution’ above is no more than a fact-free emotional rant. If you can do no better than that then no client should be laid so low that they have to rely on your services.

  • Trevor Leo Meegan

    You don’t need to be so bitter Harry. You seem to have carved out a successful career in lazy shock-jock populist diatribes.

  • loverat

    I think many of the comments here sum up why the legal profession needs a good clean out. Apart from a few contributions there is very little substance in the replies and mainly criticism and abuse about the author. I have come across this mentality before from many lawyers who are simply incapable of making a rationale argument. Very few speak of injustices in the legal system or recognise much unfairness in the current legal aid system.

    They do not speak on behalf of the public but their own self interests. I also agree with the above about many areas of the law being childs play. Well it is. Lawyers always seek to over-complicate the law for their own ends and this is shown in so many of the cases which get thrown dismissed as completely absurd.

    Libel law is a classic example of an area lawyers simply do not understand. In a spate of recent cases they have represented several people who somehow qualify for fee exemption and this money has been squandered on nonsense such as name calling on the internet – just the sort of stuff I am reading here. All this trivia thrown out by the courts but only after vast sums of money have been wasted. I’m afraid ambulance chasing is a fairly good description of your average PI or libel lawyer and of course a blatant disregard for many of the solicitor rules of conduct. No wonder they hate their own regulator when at long last they are pursuing the worst offenders for these excesses.

    If you think the McAlpine V Bercow judgement was aburd (not to mention wrong in law) this is the proud CV of one well known libel lawyer who operates in Ireland but the UK also. I think it speaks volumes and why the legal profession needs to sweep out the dinosaurs.

    Career high: ‘In 1987, I acted for two QCs accused of
    fighting over the last remaining chocolate eclair in a cake shop. The
    paper that printed the false story was ordered to pay them £50,000 each,
    which in 1987 was a very great deal of money.’

  • Latimer Alder

    Great to see the massed ranks of the legal ‘profession’ on parade here, pleading poverty and throwing their toys out of their prams.

    But I note – on careful reading – very few calm collected pieces of analysis to show where either Grayling or Mount is wrong.

    Instead lots of self-regarding remarks about how poor barristers are, how hard they work and what noble and fine chaps and chapesses they are. And what a s**t Mount is for saying something disobliging about them.

    Are you all absolutely sure that this is the image you want to put across to the public? Because I sure can’t tell the difference between this form of argument and the worst sort of rabble rousing beloved of the TUC in olden days. Venal. self-serving, arrogant in the extreme and dripping with barely concealed contempt for the layman who pays the bills.

    If I ever need a lawyer, I hope I’ll find one who thinks clearly, analyses the case well, presents my case logically and calmly and represents my interests to the best of their ability.

    Judging on the comments here, such beings are very few and far between.

    • Simon Myerson QC

      I think you’ve rather missed the point of the article. According to Harry Mount – you don’t need a lawyer. It’s interesting that his main point is one you instinctively reject.

      Grayling is wrong because he seeks to deny people both the ability to take on the government and their own choice of representative. An interesting call for an elected politician and a betrayal of our values, which you don’t seem to have spotted (a point I only mention because you are so very keen to show how stupid all lawyers are and, by contrast, how clever you are).

      Mount is wrong because he is a fool.

      • Latimer Alder

        I’m not out to show ‘how how stupid all lawyers are’.

        Merely observing that the responses here do not cast a good light on their skills in analysis and logic.

        More playground abuse than forensic dissection of his case.

        And your last sentence

        ‘Mount is wrong because he is a fool’

        illustrates my point exactly.

        Abusive. lacking logic and unrelated to the question in hand.


        • Otherpleasespecify

          “Abusive. lacking logic and unrelated to the question in hand.”

          A perfect description of Harry’s article.

          • Latimer Alder

            And the finest legal brains in the country can do no better?

            At least not according to the evidence presented by their contributons here…..

        • Paul Cross

          OK, let’s have some forensic dissection. There seems to me to have been plenty already but in case you missed it, here is some more:
          1. Grayling’s proposals principally affect criminal legal aid. Harry Mount’s piece wanders randomly through the legal system making no distinction between civil and criminal cases, nor between private cases and those on legal aid.
          2. Mount asserts that Grayling “has simply said he wants to make some savings in the legal aid bill”. In fact the Green Paper proposes a system in which virtually none of the existing providers would be able to bid. The criminal legal aid system will therefore be destroyed and in its place there will be an untested and untried system that has not even been evaluated in any depth by the MOJ. Quantitative analysis in one of the responses (not lawyers) shows that any bidder securing a contract would be bound to fail. The biggest complaint therefore is perhaps that the proposed system probably won’t work and at best it is an enormously high risk strategy.
          3. Mount says that lawyers are unaccustomed to having their privileges and subsidies challenged by anyone. He also refers to money “being sprayed about like there’s no tomorrow”. In reality legal aid rates have been constantly cut over the last ten years. One of the major objections to these cuts is that the legal aid system has been cut to the bone already. This is expressly acknowledged in the Green Paper, where it is said that the market is too fragile to sustain a further cut in rates.
          4. The article talks of the “ruinous cost” of specialist advice. It is not clear which particular advice he is speaking about but the cost of legal aid represents only 0.5% of Government expenditure. An independent survey shows that most people regard this as good value for money.
          5. The article claims that junior barristers pay nearly £5,000 a month for an office. Since the average junior on legal aid earns about £50,000 per annum such a rate would take up all his or her earnings. Again Mount appears to be eliding privately paid work with legal aid.
          6. Harry Mount claims that if you visit a court’s public gallery you should prepare to be horrified by the number of people on both sides. This may be true of the highest profile and most complex cases, but in the ordinary legal aid case in the Crown Court there will be one barrister and sometimes a paralegal. His references to lawyer packed courts are highly misleading, to put it at its most charitable.
          7. The article asserts that most barristers are intellectually ordinary, standard graduates. In reality the entry standards require at least an upper second class degree and competition is fierce so that having the minimum qualifications is not usually enough. Furthermore, sets of chambers look for talent in conducting court proceedings, something Mr Mount appears to have lacked.
          8. The suggestion that the law is child’s play is absurd. Harry Mount couldn’t do it after a top class degree and two year’s training in the law. It is also important to bear in mind that many of those who appear in the criminal courts do not have Mr Mount’s academic advantages. The law is complex, mainly due to the way it is drafted by Parliament; read any recent statue and this will be obvious.
          9. The repeated references to barristers earning hundreds of pounds per hour are again misleading. In general barristers on legal aid are not paid by the hour at all.
          10. Who, I wonder, quoted Mr Mount £1,000 for drafting a will? They must have seen him coming. Most high street solicitors would do it for a tenth of that amount.
          11. The hierarchy of solicitor, barrister and QC is not false at all. It means that remuneration is in proportion to the difficulty of the work being undertaken.
          12. The level of inaccuracy, coupled with the gratuitous vitriol spewed out by Harry Mount does lead to a reasonable assumption that he is indeed bitter about his rejection from the Bar.

          • Otherpleasespecify

            Thank you Paul, all the points I would have made had I not become too bored of Latimer Alder’s trolling to bother.

          • Latimer Alder

            But you didn’t make them. Paul Cross did.

            And I guess we’ll never know whether you have the capacity to have done so. But I have my suspicions………

      • Karla’s Man


        If only those barristers had not taken up so many cases from those Pakistanis and other assorted Muslim foreigners!

        • BarondeHat

          Britain is built on the rule of law. Typical racist to prefer to apply it racially.

          • Karla’s Man

            Just like the financing for the construction of new Mosques, the Kingdom and Government of Saudi Arabia and the Governments of the Islamic Republics of Iran and Pakistan can perfectly pay for the legal aid of Islamic terrorist suspects, in my view.

          • BarondeHat

            True Brits are proud and respect the law. If those accused of terrorist acts have’t the means to pay we have ensured they are adequately represented.

          • Karla’s Man

            No, in cases of terrorism, they should always be first of all encouraged, nay induced, to plead guilty, regardless of any actual guilt, in return for a reduced sentence but without a right of appeal.

          • BarondeHat

            Leave our laws and their practice alone, interloper.

          • Karla’s Man

            If one is truly innocent, then surely, no inducement would be sufficient to entice a plead of guilty.

  • D B

    Henry VI Part 2.

  • Justin cole

    To the person who commented that the replies lack analysis, the problem is that his comments are so ill-informed they are not worthy of analysis. If a sacked nurse( dismissed as Sir Harry was, after his training contract)and then published a piece saying all nurses are rubbish and being paid £ 200 000, all you could do would be to point out their genuine salary, like these replies to, and point to the fact she is a bitter, disgruntled ex with a revenge agenda, again, as these to with Sir Harry
    The article was so poor that The Spectator should be ashamed, it was as unworthy of analysis as racist abuse is. Lest anyone feels the attacks on Sir Harry are unworthy, the article is by-lined ” take it from a former barrister”, which cries out for a context corrective.

  • MrJuniusDunning

    As a fellow failed barrister, I must take issue with Harry Mount’s castigation of the legal profession as archaic and wasteful, and his accusations of greed and self-interest in resisting the Government’s proposed demolition of 800 years of the English system. One is reminded of Lady Bracknell’s exhortation of her nephew “do not speak ill of society, Algernon, only people who cannot get into it do that.”

    Criminal barristers, motivated by professionalism are paid so badly that I know of two threatened with bankruptcy, and several who regularly do work that pays less than the train fare to get them to court. For a rich man to slag them off as fat cats is disgusting.

    The Government is attempting removal of your rights as a citizen to challenge its actions by way of Judicial Review; the removal of the presumption of innocence in criminal trials by incentivising your representative to secure a guilty plea; stripping non-EU citizens of their right to due process; preventing access to the family courts for vulnerable people; and promoting false allegations of domestic violence by subsiding the legal costs of those who allege it. But no-one cares about that because lawyers are fat-cats, right?

    Why is it so important to demolish your access to justice in this way? Because our legal system doesn’t exist for your benefit as a citizen. No, the reason we spend £3.5 billion a year (only twice the estimated cost of fraudulent benefit claims) on a world-renowned legal system is so that you, no-longer citizen, but taxpayer, can Prince Alwaleed bin Talal’s use of the English courts to sue Forbes magazine for claiming he was slightly less rich than he is.

    Like all of the Government’s austerity reforms, the stripping of the legal system as a public good is not motivated by a sincere desire to save unaffordable costs, but by a desire to take that which once benefited the public as a whole, and offer it in supplication as a further bauble for international capital.

    The Government’s restructuring (do not use the word ‘reform’, as it is wholly inaccurate), is alarming and vicious. Harry Mount’s attempted defence, as pointed out by Simon Myerson QC is not only shockingly inaccurate, but shameful in its ignorance of the substantive issues.

    Mr. Mount is right to suggest that in the legal system, there are costs to the taxpayer that a free society might wish to rethink, but I do not think these are the bare-minimum costs of criminal justice, or the right of citizens to defend their rights against the diktats of the overmighty state. They are the costs borne by all of us of the ultrarich defending their entitlements in the defamation courts, the land tribunals and the court of chancery. If these are abolished or reformed so that they subsidise the legal system as properly understood by the relationship between citizen and state, then this will be a fairer and more just country.

    • Latimer Alder

      Looks like the ‘fat cats’ remark has struck a nerve. I can hear the squealing from here.

      But at least you presented some form of analysis as well, even if superficial.

      Please accept the sound of one hand clapping.

  • Minnie

    Well………..what about that, Eh? A multitudinous cacophony.

    It’s a good thing that The Spectator is not being charged for these comments (or dare I say shrill whines of protestation) by this cabal of lawyers.

    Mr Myerson, in his well written and persuasive comment, certainly puts the alternative argument but there is something somewhat distasteful about the amount of positives given to each lawyer’s comment. It’s as if they wish to drown out any criticism.

    I would state one fact and that is that this country is broke. Let’s not go into whom is responsible, the list is endless. Constructive argument as to how to improve efficiency in what appears to the public to be extortionate fees would be appreciated.

    I’m certain that in this proliferation of opinions there must be someone who has attempted to do this but less screaming at Mr Mount and more consideration of the taxpayer might be beneficial.

    • ohforheavensake

      However, when something is so obviously, insultingly incorrect as Mount’s column, a furious response is the least we should expect.

    • david

      Yes – we do need a more efficient system.

      There have already been huge cuts in legal aid in civil / family work now taking effect – although the knock on costs of this in terms of social consequences will more than wipe out any ‘savings’.

      For the future : delivery of remanded defendants to the correct court at the proper time would be a start. Proceedings are regularly delayed while the contracted providers struggle with the work they are responsible for. Disbandment of in-house prosecutors in the CPS would help. How about funding legal aid out of the confiscated proceeds of crime, too?

      The ‘shrill whines’ you mention are exasperation that a reputable publication has repeated many of the baseless accusations put about by politicians who, having lost the argument on the facts, simply want to put up a smokescreen to cover their mismanagement of the justice system.

      As for extortionate fees, the fees paid in legal aid often work out at less than the minimum wage. Less than £50 a day for a day’s work (before VAT and overheads) is not uncommon. 2/3 of LA barristers earn less than £50k before VAT overheads, pension, holidays. That means in reality they are paid less than £30k – and on a zero hours contract.

      A good many lawyers no longer take on legal aid work because it is so badly paid, those that do usually do it because they feel a sense of moral duty. Fee rates in private work are much higher – and in a highly competitive market too. By the way, when the government wants representation in court, it happily pays much higher rates than it allows its citizens to ‘spend’ on a legal aid lawyer

      Legal aid was brought into being in the wake of WW2 when we really were on our uppers as a nation. It was thought appropriate then to fund it. Perhaps we really could manage without it – in just the same way that we could manage without the NHS : possible, but surely unconscionable?

  • Vernon Stradling

    But Harry doesn’t mention the criminal bar once. All you hard-up criminal lawyers seem to have overlooked that. £50k p.a. is more than a junior doctor or a junior officer in the armed forces earns. Do you think a junior lawyer is worth more?
    Judicial review is now being used as a (largely taxpayer-funded) tactic to delay or defeat Government policies that their opponents have been unable to stop through the normal democratic process. It’s a disgrace – and equally disgraceful that the countless lawyers involved have taken the money without a qualm.

    • loverat

      I think the post by Latimer makes a good point – if these posts are reflection of the people against the reform.

      Go and have a read of what David Allen Green is saying on Twitter. He says people are dismissing the concerns of those people who are against the reforms but have good arguments and do not have vested interests. Well, that may be so, but the people who are against these reforms because of their own interests and are posting here are drowning out any sensible discussion with their abuse and bluster.

      Is it any wonder nobody listens to lawyers anymore? Is it any wonder that on so many recent issues, the government simply ignore their views? If for once in your lives you actually produced a decent argument you might find someone will listen.

    • Paul Cross

      £50k p.a. is the average TURNOVER of a junior barrister. This works out at about £25k as an equivalent salary. Substantially less than a junior doctor or junior officer in the armed forces. Comparisons are totally invidious in any event.

      • Latimer Alder

        And the turnover of a senior one?

        Just because you choose a business model that has a very narrow pyramid – as compared with other models that are flatter – doesn’t give you special consideration.

        You could choose to organise your businesses any which way you;d like to. There is no obligation to do it the way you do. But having chosen that model you must take the consequences of it.

  • MrsHenderson

    I’m glad I was never a client of yours Mr Mount. What a pompous fool you are. Have you any idea what defense barristers make? You malign the female barrister working on the Leveson inquiry (she did get paid too much btw, we all know how the gov’t likes to pay itself- oh and well done throwing about gossip about her sexual life- I’m guessing you’re around Jimmy Saville’s age?) and somehow liken her to the ordinary barristers who travel through, over and across our fair old country every day to get paid £50 for a mention hearing. Money they don’t see for months, by the way. You obviously worked in the ‘good ol days’ and are writing from your house, which I’m guessing you own? You do realize this is a pipe dream for young barristers, self-employed and completely broke, having to rent into their late 30s? Not that you care. Working their guts out to the early hours for clients who can sack them or ruin their reputation in a course of a day. Just regular old standard run of the mill professionals are they? NOT. These are hardworking, intelligent people without any job security who have spent at least 6 years or longer and taken out huge loans to become Barristers, so that they can represent the people this stuck- up- its- own- ass society spits on- people like you- because they believe in upholding YOUR justice system, because our law is fundamentally fair and people deserve a defense.- reputation is ALL they have, their only currency- how dare you look down from your commercial, smelly old throne and say PCT is something to be welcomed to because we are fat cats and its about high time? Its you who’s salivating you old dog. I look forward to your update in 2015. As usual this Government is pretending to save money while choosing a scapegoat to distract from their un-researched, unreliable proposals- this time, instead of the benefit scrounger its the defense lawyer- who they hoped would be an easy target- we’ve got the public on our side this time. Chris Grayling is not an economist, not a lawyer, and not a man of the people. He is doing irreparable harm. Shame on him and shame on you.

    • Latimer Alder

      Lawyers may not realise it, but the use of paragraphs is permitted in the comment section.

      Kerching – 50 quid please for advice. I’ll type it up and send a letter confirming.

      Kerching – another 25. And three quid for the stamp

      Total 78 quid. Plus VAT – call it 90.

      Thank you.

  • starfish

    My personal experiences of solicitors and barristers is pretty poor

    Anyhoo this issue is largely about saving public money

    The beautifully drafted abuse is neither here or there – what is important is that the taxpayer cannot continue to fund litigation at this scale

    So, let’s make things simpler, use more mediation, reduce court time and improve the efficiency (and let’s face it clerical competence) of barristers’ chambers and solicitors’ offices and the court system

    Anyone in the legal profession arguing for that? I though not

    • Otherpleasespecify

      I think you’d probably find almost everybody in the legal profession arguing for that.

      • Latimer Alder

        Then why the frigging heck haven’t you done it? Nobody’s stoppping you from getting better at doing your own business. You don’t need an Act of Parliament to think that maybe its a good idea to do things as quickly – rather than as slowly – as you can.

        Dickens wrote Jarndyece vs Jarndyce in Bleak House in 1852. There’s little to suggest that ‘the law’s delays’ have been addressed since then.

        And the people who can address them are – guess who? – lawyers.

        • starfish

          Spot on

          Who really has an interest in reform?

          The litigants, the courts, the solicitors or barristers?

          Maybe the latter should be paid on the basis of cases sorted out rather than time taken

          After all, a taxi driver who knows you are a foreigner won’t take you on the shortest route to the hotel will he?

  • John Smith

    Good article but who will really take this bunch of crooks on?

  • Justin cole

    Sir Harry’s cronies are trying to present some sort of show of support here, but I’m afraid it rings hollow against the weight of these comments. No doubt the cronies will now post a few little barbs about fat cat lawyers but do you realise how thin, tired and lazy this has now become to the thinking person who believes in justice. As for “Latimer Alder”, you disturb me, and I suspect you are just an Internet troll, rather than someone who understands any of the issues. May I withdraw please from the discourse, and no doubt you will delightedly add an informed last word. The world awaits your wisdom.

    • Latimer Alder

      If ‘justice’ were really the centrepiece of the discussion I’d have expected to see some lawyerly remarks here in the comments about that lofty and abstract concept.

      But they are few and far between.

      Instead I see lots of legal eagles throwing their toys out of their pram over the far more practical and less lofty questions of their incomes. And a lot of personal abuse towards the article’s author.

      So – as an outsider – I conclude that the financial side is the true motivation for the lawyers, not the noble ideal.

      And, given that we taxpayers pay the bill for legal aid, we too have an interest in this topic.

      Often when a reformer takes on a vested interest – especially if he starts as an outsider – the level of squeals show how correct he is to do so. And here there is a lot of squealing. I conclude that Mr Grayling is on the right track

      And the low level of discussion here has not enhanced the reputation of lawyers one little bit. Quite the opposite.

  • Badly Done Emma

    I’ve never read such well written, outraged and informed comments – well done! I enjoyed the article too though….and from my, albeit limited experience of lawyers as pals, I suspect there must be some truth in it.

  • Gybb

    Failed at law, so try journalism? I suspect a few doors were opened in Fleet Street by the name (but not the quality of the writing).

    • Coleridge1

      Mount attended Westminister School, was a member of the Bullingdon Club at Oxford , failed to get a tenancy following pupillary (hence his bitterness at the Bar) and is also David Cameron’s cousin.
      May I applaud the Bar of England and Wales for maintaining its high standards by keeping riff raff like Mount out of its profession.

  • Atanas Krussteff

    It is obviously a worldwide problem that media refer least professionally to legal issues. One can feel couple of things inappropriate for magazines like Spectator: bias, total negligence and too disgraceful language for such a basic social activity as law, strong prejudice, obviously coming out of personal negative experience with legal profession, and above all bad literature.

  • Coleridge1

    If the failed barrister Harry Mount really thinks that barristers earn millions out of Legal Aid he is deluded otherwise this piece is deliberately misleading. Barristers earn £46.50 for prosecuting per-trial hearings for rape or murder cases and about £500 for a week’s trial for either types of case. Defending on LA pays about £100 more. Grayling thinks barristers should be paid £14 per day defending in long cases! If Mount were prosecuted for a serious criminal offence and was completely innocent, how would he feel if his state appointed advocate was paid £14 per day?
    And if Mount thinks its absolutely imperative for the government to save £220 million of taxpayers money, why doesn’t he encourage his Tories friends from stopping to allow their multi-national friends and donors from evading billions (yes billions) in tax?
    It’s also odd how the concerned Mount has nothing to say about the fact that his mate Grayling fleeced the taxpayer of £108,000 when claiming expenses for a flat in Pimlico when his constituency home was a mere 17 miles away in Epsom and he simultaneously owned and rented out two flats in Wimbledon? Can’t think of many barristers who’ve fleeced the taxpayers of such amounts. Maybe in Mount’s next brilliant piece for the Speccie he can explain to us why his friend Grayling wasn’t prosecuted like other fiddling MP’s

  • Linda Franklin

    I couldn’t agree more with Mr Mount. I’ve been dragged to the courts several times these past few years (spousal support, a family will etc) and have found it much better to represent myself: lawyers might have a bit of training but often not the brains to justify their fees. Nothing worse than paying thousands to hear your case botched.

    The government should put online general principles of different sections of law as a general resource, have dedicated legal aid lawyers at each court (as at the PRFD) and give advice about how you act in court: what to call the judge, when to speak etc – so they’re not wrong-footed on protocol – and let people know what really happens in courts so they’re not overwhelmed.

    Encourage judges to find the truth and NOT intimidate self-reppers (which some can as they don’t like them). Always remember that you are the one who is most interested in your own case. Everyone should be taught some law at school or classes made available to the rest of us. The legal system is only really fair when any citizen can get a fair hearing from a judge and an impartial determination whether your represent yourself or have a team of lawyers behind you – that is our basic right – not to have our time and tax payers money wasted by third rate lawyers.

  • Peter Newman

    Ugh. What terrible sour grapes from a man who describes himself as a ‘former barrister’ but in reality was never actually offered a tenancy in a chambers and quit the profession after completing only 1 year of training.

    It reflects pretty poorly on The Spectator. Has the publication just become a forum for the disgruntled to express opinions that are entirely fettered by their own failures?

    If Harry Mount feels that the Bar is such a run of the mill profession, one wonders why (i) he so hard tried to join it, (ii) wrote a book about it, and (iii) harbours such sour grapes, so many years later.

  • Francis FitzGibbon

    It would be charitable to Harry Mount to say that his failure to get a tenancy was the Bar’s loss and journalism’s gain; but his muddled thinking, prejudice, tendency to disregard facts, and an excess of bile would surely have stopped him getting many or any briefs, and they stop his writing being witty, wise, or even clever. Badly and sadly out of touch with reality.

  • ak

    Absolutely disgusting bit of attention-seeking drivel. It’s only journalism, but some of the fools who read this will form their opinion by it. You have a duty to write responsibly. I’m ashamed to say I have several friends in common with Harry Mount.

  • Dalek_1963

    Fifty shades of Grayling.


    I’ll get me coat.

  • https://twitter.com/SaveProbation Save Probation

    Failing Grayling couldn’t be more wrong. Very soon an individual will be able to be investigated by G4S police staff, prosecuted by a G4S prosecutor (without access to legal aid), in a G4S Court, then taken in a G4S security van to a G4S prison, to be locked in by poorly paid G4S Prison Officers and rehabilitated and mismanaged on release by unskilled G4S Probation Officers (probably while restricted from welfare or creamed and parked on an A4E work programme). This is madness and nothing to do with savings or justice. We need to stop this man before we have no Justice system left.

    Have you seen our petition? Do not privatise the Probation Service

  • Karla’s Man

    The barristers are self-deluding themselves. They are no more liked than the bankers, certificated bailiffs or estate and letting agents.

  • Meyer Culper

    Myerson’s Comment
    Para 2. ”The 90 QCs who wrote to the Daily Telegraph are not all millionaires. Moreover, it is sneering to suggest that they are (and sneering at someone for having earned money really IS foolish). It is also guesswork – which good barristers avoid.”
    Would Myerson please state (without guessing) how many of the 90 QCs are not millionaires. If a QC is not a millionaire (taking all his assets into account) he/she should probably not be a QC. I fear Myerson is confusing income and capital. Mount is not sneering at people who have earned money but (if he is sneering at all) at those who have been paid money.
    Para 5 “Harry Mount – public school, Oxbridge, The Bullingdon . . . ”
    Myerson attended Carmel College, Wallingford. “Typical boarding fees in 1996 (the school closed in 1997) were £10,000 per school term (i.e. £30,000 per year). Pupils who attended were generally upper/upper middle class or of a social standing that allowed private schooling.” (Wikipedia)
    Mount attended Westminster School. Boarding fees in 2012/13 £10450 per school term. (School website)
    Myerson went to Downing College, Cambridge: Mount went to Magdelen College, Oxford. The only thing that stopped Myerson applying for membership of the Bullingdon was that he went to the wrong uni.
    Para 6 ,”. . . the adversarial system only kicks in when there are adversaries: i.e. when people cannot agree.”
    Has Myerson never considered the possibility that some people may be encouraged to be adversarial by practitioners of the system?
    As for the rest of Myerson’s “comment” (which is half as long as Mount’s article) it is long on invective and devoid of constructive ideas. It is, to use the good man’s own words “polemic and screeching” and little more.
    Meyer Culper

  • Nick

    HA HA HA HA HA! I’m absolutely CHUFFED to nuts that the barristers and solicitors are having their wings clipped…….Good flipping job.
    With regards to defending criminals,perhaps if the barristers and solicitors actually sought to achieve justice instead of doing their level best to get their clients off (when they are obviously guilty) then they wouldn’t be subject to these cuts to legal aid.

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  • sophoclesthecat

    Love this article. Thank you Harry Mount!!
    The legal profession and its practitioners in London are rotten to the core.
    Go go Grayling – sort them out!!

    • sophoclesthecat

      The comments on this article are so vicious and spiteful – this is exactly why reform against you nasty lot is necessary!

  • Justin cole

    A last minute marshalling of Harry’s Trustafarian troops to leave their hate mail!
    This is turning into Moneywithnobrains( Harry’s Trustafarians) v Brainswithnomoney(Legal aid lawyers), each side hating each other for what the other has. And a few green ink Spectator letter writing types who only need to read “public money,” “criminal”, “lawyer” to reach for their pen and blood pressure tablets.

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