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Judges initiating long overdue reform of barrister restrictive practice?

  • January 21st, 2015

In an elegant 13-page decision Justice Joe Williams  applies the electricity transmission pricing methodology to the North Auckland and Northland (NAaN) network. It might yet be followed by a turgid Court of Appeal 100-pager.

Only a few lawyers will get to appreciate the beautiful legal prose. But many more could be interested in the revolutionary kicker at the foot of the decision.

The Court document records the “solicitors” on record in this case as being none other than Thorndon and Shortland Chambers.

As far as I am aware there are no firms with those names. They are of course collations (I dare not use the technical description of partnership, or practical description of ‘firm’) of lawyers who operate from the same premises, market a collective brand, and otherwise share expenses and interests in much the same way as do ‘eat what you kill’ law firms.

But barristers have clung to the anti-competitive rules that prohibit practicing in collectives, and stop clients contracting directly with them. Instead unwilling clients are forced into countless artificial contracts. They must expensively channel their ‘instructions’ to barristers through cooperative ‘post-box’ solicitors.

Have the Courts recovered their common law mojo, and seized back the power to regulate those granted audience before them (admitted lawyers)? Has Williams J decided to end the farcical ‘direct intervention’ rule, by approving barristers’ chambers as de facto solicitors firms for the purposes of the rule?

I fear not. More likely this is accidental – the felicitous outcome of a judge’s clerk drafting the way he or she has seen things actually working, without seeing the precious historical toes thereby trod.

But the oddity may attract attention nevertheless to the elegance of an arcane judgment.

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  • Tauhei Notts
  • February 16th, 2015
  • 7:26 pm

Once upon a time barristers could not sue for their unpaid fees. I think their courtroom garb included a part at the back into which their clients could place the appropriate fee. And so on, so that any junior lawyer who appeared for a client, without receiving the fee in advance of the courtroom appearance, would be severely admonished by the seniors in that firm. The late Trevor Di Cleene once said that “if I was successful the client said he should not have to pay as he was always innocent. And if I was unsuccessful the client said he should not have to pay because the barrister was useless”. No pay in advance= no pay at all.

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