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Champagne does not affect professional judgment


Or so says David Pannick QC.

Somewhere back in the mists of time, I suggested that Chambers hosting schmoozing parties didn’t have much effect on solicitors’ choice of barrister, at least in my experience.

David Pannick’s response to a rather sniffy Bar Standards Board consultation paper on the perceived propriety of chambers getting solicitors squiffy for free begs to differ at the same time as agreeing with me. The article is truly hilarious, if not perhaps wholly deliberately so.

Beginning, naturally, with a classical quote (in translation, alas), and followed by a reference to H. L. Mencken, this being written for a newspaper after all, we move right to the heart of the matter. I summarise and comment:romans

Whatever the public might think of barristers stuffing Ferrero Roche down solicitor’s gullets is neither here nor there.

Quite right, there is no privity of contract with the great unwashed, after all, and there is no need to ensure their trust in one’s appearance as an independent member of the Bar as long as the client can’t prove anything.

It is also ludicrous to think that a solicitor would have their professional judgment in choosing Counsel impaired by said Counsel brandishing tickets to Centre Court and a magnum of ‘poo. Where is the evidence?

Again, quite right. Solicitors are reknown for their utter lack of self-interest and their ability to set aside any thought of strawberries and cream accompanied by the thighs of [insert tennis player of choice] in the greater interest of their client.

So, given that solicitors are, by definition, uncorrupted by the temple of delights that Chambers, genii-like, lay before them, why do it? Well, and I quote:

The object of hospitality […] is rather to communicate the expertise of the barristers to the solicitor in a relaxing and enjoyable environment, so that the solicitor can be better informed about whether particular barristers have the qualities that are needed by the solicitor’s clients.

Of course. The way I prefer to exercise my professional judgment is to be enjoyably relaxed for free at some length so that I am in a suitable state for a barrister to better inform me as to his or her qualities. I feel I make my best judgments in this way, so I seek such enjoyable and informative relaxation at every opportunity.

David Pannick QC is quite right to suggest that marketing is important, and particularly so for the junior Bar, and also to suggest that the Bar Standards Council has come over all Patricia Hewitt in this consultation. But, much though I enjoy the (usually lukewarm – standards have slipped) champagne, might I suggest Chambers could consider more cost effective marketing, one that doesn’t have the downside of potentially making the solicitor – counsel relationship look a bit sad to the punters?

Giles Peaker is a solicitor and partner in the Housing and Public Law team at Anthony Gold Solicitors in South London. You can find him on Linkedin and on Twitter. Known as NL round these parts.



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