According to a new report, your elite law firm is destroying access to justice in this formerly great nation, the UK. By extension so are you, you monster.
You claim you're harmless, because you spend your days picking through a database of 50,000 emails for mentions of insider trading. Your hands are clean. You're not personally reversing miscarriages of justice, sure, but you're not finding loopholes for Japanese whalers, either. You make no real impact on the scales of Lady Justice either way, is your position. A gentle press on the positive side, because you did some pro bono work before you got too busy. Balanced out by a couple of kilos on the negative dish because you do also act for BAE Systems - not exporting their mines to the DRC or anything - another part of the business, a bit that does electronics. Overall you're innocent.
Well buckle up, because a costs lawyer called Jim Diamond has some news for you: that's bullshit.
In his report, The Price of Law, he drops a truth bomb that blows up your precious innocence, and your ignorance, and leaves you with poor people's blood on your hands.
The implication is clear and at the same time baffling: the high price of City lawyers is forcing everyone to pay through the nose for access to justice. Last Friday, because for the first time in 2016 a legend didn't die (celebrity deaths, this year's celebrity paedos), Diamond's unimpeachable conclusion was splashed on the front page of the Independent.
Because of you, if you are a partner at a top London firm, and also you, if you work under that partner, hunched and brutalised, you complicit scumbag, because of you, the ordinary man in the street "seeking to comply with UK legal procedure" is "forced" to instruct expensive lawyers. And the man in the street can't afford it. Dennis just wants to get a will drawn up for his dear old mum. Dennis runs a garage in Somerset. He has no savings to speak of. But now, because he needs to comply with a UK legal procedure, he has to find £1,000 an hour to pay a Magic Circle partner to ensure that £25 is bequeathed to Elsie's best friend, Iris.
No wonder it made the Indie's front page. It's a scandal. Diamond's report includes a pre-packaged pull quote for ease of reporting:
"Today’s astonishing findings from costs lawyer Jim Diamond shed an entirely new, and in some quarters probably not entirely welcome, light on the past couple of years’ trading environment for the UK’s leading lawyers. The fact that not one magic circle partner was willing to go on the record for a story about a resurgence in law firm pricing smacks of embarrassment at a time when lawyers are supposed to be bending over backwards to accommodate clients."
Embarrassment, sure, that's why he couldn't get any partners to go on the record.
"Hello, is that a partner at A&O?"
"How much do you charge an hour?"
"Who is this?"
"Jim Diamond, I conduct the Jim Diamond Hourly Rate Survey."
"The Jim Diamond Hourly Rate Survey."
"I don't want any jewellry."
"I don't sell-"
"Or suits. Laura. Laura! You're supposed to filter out tailors."
Clearly these silent partners had something to hide. Sacks of beloved heirlooms, for starters, handed over by desperate asylum seekers with nowhere else to go. And guilt, for compelling small business owners to sell their children into sexual bondage so they can afford a few minutes of Magic Circle legal advice.
Elsewhere in his report, Diamond admits that City firms are not the only option for the huddled masses. But, he says, they are still to blame, because, in a kind of reverse price war, their exorbitant fees have driven up the cost of all the firms in the UK which once were affordable. He doesn't provide evidence of this. But it doesn't matter. He has an axe to grind. He reveals his hand a bit when he advocates their utter destruction: "The associated high salaries enjoyed by top law firms attract a significant proportion of top graduates - highly competent workers who could instead be employed elsewhere, in more productive industry [sic]." Like a Jewish mum in opposite land, he wants top grads to stop becoming lawyers. Be gymnasts. Be singers. Anything but City law. You're killing your father with these crazy dreams.
Diamond horrified the Indie with some specific examples of out-of-control behaviour. Get ready to clutch your pearls.
A veritable bargain, if accurate. These partners are the cream of the cream. They have to rest their heads in wheelbarrows when they want to get around after 3pm, because their brains are so massive their tiny withered necks can't support them anymore. Their hearts can't send enough blood to their giant brains, either, so trainees have to donate plasma day in, day out. £1,100 an hour barely covers the cost of drips and disposable gloves. These benevolent Mekons are so clever it would take them 0.01 microseconds to point out, "No-one is forced to instruct me, now give me my blooooooood".
I'm worried about Jim if it takes him 30 seconds to type "no". Does he work underwater? It takes me about one second. Not only has Diamond missed the opportunity for a much juicier accusation than the one he came up with, he may have a problem with his joints.
Lanima is not a chip shop, Shoreditch is not in Essex and Ashurst's deals are surely never, ever, 'bog-standard'.
If the client met up with the partner to discuss his legal issues, the charge is legitimate. If the client met up with the partner because he thought they were friends, he has been disabused of that notion. He now knows he is a terrible bore, so eye-clawingly dull that even a quick drink in his company requires thousands of pounds in compensation. His sense of injury, while regrettable, is acceptable collateral damage.
A sandwich fee? I have never heard of a firm charging a sandwich fee. I have to say it shattered my monocle. With these £22 fees for sandwiches, access to justice is surely over. Although it feels like a very low-budget move for a top 15 firm. Wise though. You get a couple of Tommy Tuckers like these two jokers and before you know it they've mowed through an entire platter. I bet they rushed over as soon as they heard the tinkle of the trolleys arriving and when the smoke cleared, only the tapenade ones were left.
To Diamond, this dubious poll tax of stomachs is more proof of the rapacious greed of City lawyers forcing ordinary folk to their knees, strangling access to justice. It doesn't stack up. Don't like paying for City firms? Don't use them. Can't find a cheaper one? They exist. His truth bomb is pure, cold-pressed, organic, grass-fed, free-range bollo. The biggest load of bollo since Cain told Abel to close his eyes, he's got a lovely surprise.
The Price of Law depends. I award this report one sandwich out of five.