How does it work?
CLIPS is run by the ChBA in association with RCJ Advice Bureau and the Bar Pro Bono Unit. The scheme operates every day in the Applications Court in the Chancery Division of the High Court (Court 10), and on Fridays in the Central London County Court (CLCC). Barristers are instructed by the Bar Pro Bono Unit, and can therefore rely on their own Bar Mutual cover (but not any top up insurance). The scheme is also supported by the RCJ Citizens Advice Bureau, the Personal Support Unit in the RCJ, and LawWorks, the solicitors’ voluntary service to assist litigants in person.
Unfamiliar with the type of Chancery Application which might need to be dealt with?
There may be a reluctance to sign up for CLIPS on the basis that COMBAR members may well be unfamiliar with the type of Chancery Application which might need to be dealt with. Within the CLIPs room at the CommCt there is a useful lever arch file containing ‘cheat sheets’ with a couple of pages of the most relevant material that would be used in dealing with commonly occurring applications. The following links also provide useful information for those interested in volunteering:
The scheme operates by having one or two barrister volunteers making themselves available each applications day during term (Fridays in the CLCC). In the High Court, a volunteer attends at 10 am outside Court 10, where Conference Room 18 is the dedicated conference room available, with telephone, wireless broadband, a printer and copier; outside the room our banner makes the service highly visible. In the CLCC the volunteer attends (at 9.30am) the ground floor reception area where there is also a dedicated conference room (the middle room in reception). Theoretically, you may be contacted the day before, if a LIP has brought paperwork to the RCJAB in advance, and you can then collect the papers the day before the hearing. In practice, that will be a relatively unusual case.
In Court 10, when you arrive at 10.00am and announce yourself to be the CLIPS representative, the Associate or usher on duty will hand you the CLIPS file. This contains the key to the conference room – which must be kept locked when not in use – and some important and useful information, including all the judges’ clerks phone numbers, contact numbers for the Advice Bureau, Personal Support Unit, Pro Bono Unit, Law Works, etc, the week’s volunteer rota, a mentor list and “phone a friend” list and, an up to date list of vexatious litigants and those against whom civil restraint orders have been made.
In the CLCC, you need to arrive at 9.30am. The CLIPS file is kept at reception and spare copies are held by the clerks to the rota Judges: HHJ Walden-Smith and HHJ Dight.
The barrister or barristers on duty will be available from 10.00am (9.30am in the CLCC) and at 10.30am (10am in the CLCC) will go into court whether or not they have been contacted previously by a LIP: there may be a LIP who has gone inside without making contact. The Judge will invite any LIP to consider whether they would like to make use of the free advice or representation on offer: they cannot be forced to and some may decline. The Judges are extremely accommodating and grateful for the CLIPS service: they will understand that where the LIP is being assisted, the case will need to be put further down the list.
If a LIP makes contact, you will do what you can, within the obvious constraints of the service and your professional obligations, to give that person some advice, and if appropriate and possible (and if they agree) to represent them in court. The Judges will fully understand that there are limits to what you can do. In many cases, you may simply be asking for the application to be stood over. In other cases, it will be possible to agree an order with the other side. Or it may be obvious to you that the LIP needs other help, in which case you will refer the LIP to the RCJ Advice Bureau. If there is no Advice Bureau volunteer at Court 10, simply walk the LIP round to the office in the RCJ, or phone for someone to attend the Rolls Building/CLCC.
If no LIP has appeared by 11am or thereabouts, you can return to chambers, but you are on call for the remainder of the day (up to 4.30pm). You must therefore be by a phone number that you have given. On many days, therefore, you may only be giving up an hour or so of your time. But on some days, something much more interesting may happen.
The scheme works though the licensed access rights of the Bar Pro Bono Unit, so there is no need for an instructing solicitor and your Bar Mutual insurance (although not any top up insurance you hold) will automatically cover the work that you do under the scheme.
How do you volunteer?
Tell your clerks. Disaster may strike if a barrister volunteers but does not tell his/her clerk! Senior clerks play an important role in this scheme, both in terms of persuading barristers to give up a day for this very worthwhile scheme, but also by being the main point of contact with Seymona Cole in the RCJ Advice Bureau.
Volunteers - you simply ask your clerk to put your name down for a particular day or dates on the rota that Seymona keeps:
See here for the Court 10 rota
or ask your clerk to contact Seymona Cole at the RCJ Advice Bureau who will put you or your clerk on her mailing list for when the rotas are published. Once you have done that, it is a professional commitment, and you must, please, keep the booking unless there are exceptional circumstances that prevent you from doing so – we will of course not mind if you swap dates with another barrister or find a substitute, as long as it is not at the last minute: if that happens, the important weekly list of volunteers and contact numbers will become inaccurate and the scheme will not work as efficiently as it should.
If you would like to sample the scheme then please let Francesca Compton, the ChBA Administrator email@example.com know so that she can put you in touch with one of the mentors who will take you court with them and show you how it works.
CLIPS, CLCC Q & A, May 2015
CLIPS, CLCC Explanatory Note, May 2015
CLIPS, CLCC Protocol, May 2015
CLIPS, High Court Q & A, May 2015
CLIPS, High Court Explanatory Note, May 2015
CLIPS. High Court Protocol, May 2015
CLIPS Concluding Letter