The Queensland Law Society (QLS) has responded to suggestions that junior barristers are struggling to gain experience because solicitors are bypassing them in favour of direct briefing.
Speaking with Lawyers Weekly, Queensland Bar Association president Christopher Hughes recently said the ‘nursery’ of junior bar work has dried up for a number of reasons, including the fact that solicitors are increasingly appearing in court and not engaging barristers.
Mr Hughes had said: “We don’t need to attack the solicitors necessarily, but we need to try and get the message across that engaging barristers, including junior barristers, can be very cost-effective.”
Queensland Law Society president Bill Potts has responded, saying he sympathises with the plight of juniors but that solicitors aren't to blame.
“This is nothing new – solicitors have always done a lot of court advocacy, and with good reason: many of them are very good at it,” Mr Potts said.
He emphasised that there is no need for a solicitor to make a client pay for a barrister if the solicitor is a capable advocate.
“There is no logical reason that a solicitor with 10 years’ experience appearing in court should hand over thousands of dollars for a barrister who has been admitted for a year or two, just so the barrister can get an education – and it is hardly in the client’s best interests.”
Mr Potts said an alternate reason for the lack of work could be fee-based.
“There are times when it would appear that young members of the bar overestimate the value they add to a matter, and perhaps price their services inappropriately,’’ he said.
Changes in the court could also be attributed on the availability of work, according to Mr Potts.
“Magistrates rarely allow cross-examination at committal hearings any more, despite the fact that it leads to earlier pleas and frees up valuable court resources,” he said.
“If magistrates started allowing this again, there would be more work for junior barristers, and much shorter delays in court.”
He added: “Of course, it almost goes without saying that if Queensland had sufficient judges, especially in the Federal Circuit and Family Courts, there would be a greater call on the services of all barristers.”