Some avid readers have read a recent article in the Solicitors Journal entitled “Judge condemns 'forum shopping' by claimant personal injury lawyers”. In this article a Romford-ian circuit judge is referenced as being “deeply troubled” as to what he appeared to perceive to be PI lawyers attempting to “boost costs” in a recent case before him.
The judge made explicit reference to counsel’s fees for attending infant settlement hearings. The article quotes him by suggesting: “there is simply no basis for allowing counsel’s fees for attending the settlement hearing in a straightforward case”. Not stopping there, the judge continued to refer to another mainstay of much of the junior Civil Bar – credit hire. The Solicitors Journal quotes him as suggesting “the same attitude of mind is becoming equally prevalent in the field of credit hire where arguments are regularly being presented to district and circuit judges which have been clearly rejected by the Court of Appeal and the House of Lords”.
The judge justified his eruption with reference to the “huge and increasing pressure” on judicial resources. Again the article records him as somewhat cynically expounding that “The civil procedure rules were not made in order to provide a fruitful source of gainful employment either to solicitors or to the junior Bar”.
Not surprisingly as a member of the said “Junior Bar”, I have to respectfully disagree with the learned judge.
Anybody who has attended a few approval hearings will be very aware of the importance of counsel attending, especially where some aspect of the child’s injury has been overlooked previously, or when there are outstanding issues as to costs. [Frances McClenaghan of 1 Chancery Lane recently penned an article on the subject - www.1chancerylane.com/documents/newsletters/New_Tenants_Briefing.pdf]. Likewise, surely without consistent testing in the lower courts, it is a certainty that the common law shall stagnate. This could well be seen as especially true of the law governing credit hire, the development of much of which has come by way of the appealed decisions of district and circuit judges.
It would be a matter of extreme professional impropriety (not to mention, potentially also of criminal liability) for any member of either branch of the legal profession to ever take a step in a case purely for personal gain. It is a fundamental right for anyone in the population to be free to litigate as they please. The legal professions exist to service the exercise of this right. In my opinion, legitimate concerns as to the pressures on judges and the court system should not be used to attack the litigators.