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Exclusive: Hardwicke Chambers proposes £125k rent per barrister
30 November 2012
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Barristers at Hardwicke Chambers are in uproar following the announcement of a raft of modernising proposals.

Hardwicke's management is looking at a comprehensive overhaul to avoid financial difficulties in the future. A document was sent to members of the set suggesting changes that include:

  • Five yearly reviews, with barristers who don't pull their weight being shown the door;
  • Details of individual earnings being shared around chambers;
  • Members being made consultants before retiring;
  • Heads of chambers being authorised to access other members' emails;
  • And most controversially: "Minimum rent scheme (only to apply after 5 years of practice). Two possibilities have been discussed: a simple minimum (say £125,000 a year after 5 years in practice) or a more complex model that applies to members after 5 years - a rent that assumes a minimum of 1000 hours a year at your median hourly rate".
Are they really suggesting an annual rent of £125,000? Will each barrister be moving to a floor of the Dorchester?

Solicitors have had to suffer such indignities for decades, but the Bar is now facing real change too: 24 members of a rival set, 4-5 Gray's Inn, defected to 39 Essex Street this week. But Hardwicke barristers accustomed to membership for life, long lunches at the Garrick and a nice snooze in the afternoon have apparently "hit the roof".

    I shouldn't have had that third port

Head of Chambers Paul Reed Q.C. has invited disgruntled briefs to meet him one-on-one for a discussion. But an insider says the take up has been poor: possibly because the former army man is said to have "reputedly garroted two men during a battle".

Hardwicke said that the "information about minimum rents has been taken out of context and misunderstood", but failed to clarify it.
 

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anonymous user
30/11/2012 10:04
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Average % rates for rent at the Bar vary between 15-25% depending on the set.
If Hardwicke Barristers are really earning enough to pay £125k rent then they are all earning £1m plus per annum; or ROF has clearly got the wrong end of the stick...?
anonymous user
30/11/2012 10:13
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I suspect that the £125,000 is actually an annual billings floor, which would mean minimum annual rent of £18,750-$25,000. That doesn't seem unreasonable.
anonymous user
30/11/2012 10:37
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OMG! RoF - you just outed me to my friends as being a +£1M earner! But it is a relief as it's a 50% reduction on the £250K rent we currently pay at Hardwicke.

A wealthy Hardwicke Barrister
anonymous user
30/11/2012 10:53
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The Garrick......I only ever get invited for fish and chips once a month!
anonymous user
30/11/2012 11:17
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Obviously £125,000 is not the rent. It's the base annual billing on which rent would be calculated.

Joking aside (and RoF I can't believe you seriously thought that 5 years call barristers were being asked to pay £125k!), do any other chambers have minimum billings reqs?
3-ducks
30/11/2012 11:50
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All this business with the rent aside - what on earth are they thinking? Individual earnings being shared with other members?! HoC reading his learned friends' emails?!

This is the sort of behaviour one has come to expect from the junior branch of the profession. Really quite unbecoming for Counsel to act in this way.
anonymous user
30/11/2012 11:57
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Thanks to ROF for raising this issue. It is high time a light was shone on some of the outrageous practice by some chambers.

Some chambers charge members on a pure percentage of earnings basis (generally in the 15-25% range as your first comment says). That is obviously fair and sensible. It sounds as though that is what Hardwicke does.

But others charge a combination of a fixed amount (sometimes related to 'years of call' sometimes just fixed) plus a percentage figure. And some still (I believe) just charge a flat amount regardless of income or other factors. Obviously, those with a substantial fixed contribution are penalising the lower earners (some of whom may be working part time for reasons of disability, child-care or whatever) and those starting out. That perpetuates the problems of access to practice at the bar (and their career progression) for people from backgrounds which are still woefully under-represented at the bar. So even though (say) the proportion at start is 50:50 men and women, it all contributes to the attrition which means that, as careers progress, the profile of the bar still looks increasingly white/male/posh/etc. Not good.

But even where contributions are percentage based, some chambers also apply 'caps' on the amount that high earners pay (either levying a lower percentage on the top tranche of income or simply putting a cash ceiling on the amount any one individual pays in to cover central costs). Where that happens, as ever, the richest get richer faster!

But anyway, what Hardwicke is proposing (if correctly reported by your mole) sounds entirely in line with - and indeed at the progressive end of - what is common across the bar. That is particularly so if the £125,000 minimum earnings figure would not be applied to someone in part time practice for reasons such as disability or being a carer. Given that Hardwicke recently won the Black Solicitors Network's top 'Diversity Award', it would be surprising if that was not the case.

Now let's hear from other of your contributors about some of the real outrages from other chambers........
  

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