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Bar Talk
3 September, 2009  
Challenge to cosy clerks' club

Berlinda Lyus, the feisty barristers’ clerk from Sydney, is banging on the door of the Victorian bar … She has met resistance … So too has Norman O’Bryan’s Barristers’ Logistics … Suddenly there are inner clerks and outer clerks … Update – exciting new manoeuvre by the bar

imageThere’s a commotion at Vic’s Bar & Grill over the ancient clerking arrangements.

Out of the blue this week bar management suddenly created two categories of clerks – “licensed” and “other”.

This was a direct response to longstanding Sydney clerk Belinda Lyus tapping at the door with a request that the Victorian bar council allow her independent Lyus LeGal online clerking service to be listed on its web site.

Lyus is a formidable clerk of more than 30 years experience with a list of 26 barristers, including two in Melbourne – David Denton SC and Geoffrey Slater.

Eleven days after she made the request Stephen Hare, the general manager of VicBar, replied saying that the executive committee met on August 20 and has “referred the matter to the bar council to determine policy in relation to this and like matters”.

The next development was that the bar’s web site listed all the 13 inner-circle clerks as licensed and Lyus and Norman O’Bryan SC’s innovative Barristers Logistics clerking operation were badged as other.

Cries of discrimination and anti-competitiveness have filled the air, forcing the bar executive into a huddle at lunchtime today (Thurs. Sept. 3) to try and resolve the crisis.

David Denton fired off an email to Hare and bar chairman Lord Digby, requesting “immediate revisitation of this extraordinarily unhelpful move… [It] is petulant and … anti-competitive”.

imageLyus also shot back an email to Hare saying she was “not amused” about not having a proper place in the clerks’ list.

Norman O’Bryan was also on the case with a missive to Hare on Tuesday (Sept. 1):

“Would you please explain why on its website the Victorian bar has recently (and so far as I am aware, without notice to anybody) decided to identify Terry Hawker [GM of Barristers Logistics] as not a licensed clerk?

Please provide me with any relevant communications, discussion papers, etc. that explain the reason for this move and it’s intended effect.”

Yesterday (Sept. 2) O’Bryan pressed the issue further:

“Commonsense would suggest that ever since the approval of clerks became the preserve of the bar under the Legal Practice Act there has been no role to play for the antiquated private bar clerking licence system, of which the poorly drafted agreement you gave me this afternoon is an example.”

* * *


By this evening (Thurs, Sept.3) there was a new manoeuvre by the bar executive.

The home page of the web site has been “adjusted” with a link that just says barristers clerks.

We discover that there are now three categories of clerks.

There are licensed and approved clerks (the magic 13), approved clerks that aren’t licensed (Barristers Logistics) and clerks that aren’t licensed or approved, i.e. “other” (Lyus LeGal).

Barristers Logistics has gone up a notch – from “other” to “unlicensed approved”. LeGal is stuck on “other”.

Apparently, all this is in accordance with the Legal Profession Act.

* * *

The 13 “antique” clerks in Melbourne run a closed shop business, with some informants claiming that they charge up to eight-ten percent – and in the process make millions and millions of dollars.

In Sydney there are about 105 barristers’ clerks operating in a more competitive environment.

Lyus is an example of just how competitive, having left Maurice Byers Chambers this year and hung out her own shingle.

Here’s her current list:

T.E.F. Hughes QC
R.J. Burbidge QC
G.T.W. Miller QC
Paul Menzies QC
C.C. Branson QC
John D. Harris SC (ACT)
M.J. Cranitch SC
Campbell Bridge SC
Paul Blacket SC
Ian Roberts SC
Brian Ferrari
David R Conti SC
David H. Denton SC (Melbourne)
Angela Bowne SC
Kim Morrissey
Bruce Connell
David Hooke
Michael Green
Ben Zipser
David Roberts
Mark Sneddon
Turvey To
Benjamin O’Donnell
Jennifer Beck
Elisabeth Peden
Geoffrey Slater (Melbourne).


Reader Comments

Posted by: Anonymous
Date: September 3, 2009, 3:34 am

I don't know of any clerk that charges 8 to 10%, more common range up to 4.5%, with caps set once a barrister's fees reach a certain level.
Posted by: Anonymous
Date: September 3, 2009, 9:16 pm

Perhaps the next career move for John Della Bosca and/or his loving correspondent Bob Carr?