The [Pounds Sterling]2million Lawyers; Barristers in Commercial Law Set New Pay Records

Article excerpt

Byline: DUNCAN GARDHAM

LAWYERS at the top of their profession are raking in more than [pounds sterling]2million a year.

The highest earners are all men who specialise in commercial or tax law, a survey has found.

While only a few have made it to the [pounds sterling]2million club, the average barrister in London's most prestigious firms or 'chambers' still gets a considerable [pounds sterling]460,000 a year.

The profession's highest earners have become millionaires representing big businesses desperate to avoid huge tax bills and fend off unwanted mergers.

In a highly competitive profession, those who work for the top chambers are also most likely to go on to be High Court judges.

Although there is a growing number of [pounds sterling]1million-a-year lawyers, the survey found six barristers had broken through the [pounds sterling]2million barrier.

Two, David Goldberg QC and Michael Flesch QC, are tax specialists from the same chambers, working on some of Britain's biggest company mergers and commanding fees of [pounds sterling]900 an hour.

Few are public figures apart from the New Labour peer, Lord Grabiner QC, a commercial law specialist, who prepared a report on tax evasion and benefit fraud for Chancellor Gordon Brown.

He also led the failed late-night attempt to stop publication of fellow Blairite Lord Levy's [pounds sterling]5,000 tax bill.

Another of the [pounds sterling]2million club, Gordon Pollock QC, is known for his abrasive manner and riding to work on a scarlet motorbike. Jonathan Sumption QC, has been described as the 'cleverest man in London'.

Their cases have included representing Sony against pop singer George Michael and the Home Secretary in General Pinochet's extradition hearings.

Cameron Timmis of Legal Business magazine, which carried out the survey, said: 'There is a select club of barristers who continue to command huge fees.

'It seems that whatever the state of the market, there will always be instances where the top (solicitors') firms will pay extraordinary rates to guarantee the very best.' The survey found barristers can earn far more than any other lawyers because of the way the profession is run.

Although they work together in chambers they are technically self-employed and can make profits of up to 75 per cent.

Solicitors' firms, even those representing big business, have profit margins nearer to 40 per cent, and their top earners can make about [pounds sterling]1million a year. …