The Hot 100 effect: The man who crowdfunded the Brexit challenge

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Ahead of the publication of the Hot 100 2017 next week, The Lawyer has caught up with four leading lawyers in the Hot 100 2016 to find out how their lives have changed since appearing in the list.

For Devereux Chambers’ Jolyon Maugham QC, the last 12 months have not just meant significant tax cases and time in court. He took on one of the most divisive issues in the UK: Brexit.

Jolyon Maugham QC
Jolyon Maugham QC

After appearing in the Hot 100, Maugham says he received “a lot of praise and congratulations on social media”.

“It’s a very nice accolade to be awarded,” he explains.

But he barely had time to catch his breath, as his development into a leading commentator and campaigner on all matters Brexit put him in a prime position to do the unthinkable – set up a crowdfunding initiative to finance the People’s Challenge in conjunction with the headline Gina Miller case.

“I launched that before anyone else broke cover,” he comments. “It raised north of £300,000. As we speak we are awaiting the result [of the Supreme Court judgment on Tuesday (24 January)].”

This was the first time public crowdfunding had ever played a part in funding a major court case.

“It is a relatively recent development in the legal field,” Maugham explains. “I was very conscious of the public perception of the Remain camp as being run by big business for big business; and so it seemed to me that we needed to counteract that narrative by demonstrating that we had broad support from less wealthy individuals.”

Maugham says that he capped the maximum donations at £100, and insisted that the lawyers worked for materially below their market rates to counteract the public perception of this being a “feeding frenzy for lawyers”.

“Most lawyers are very socially conscious and will absolutely put their shoulders to the wheel when they perceive an important issue to be raised,” he comments.

As with many of the high profile lawyers involved in the Article 50 challenge, Maugham has been subject to attacks from the media and the general public.

“I’ve been attacked repeatedly in the Daily Express in particular,” he says. “For a time I received thousands of abusive messages on Twitter and the police became involved on one occasion.”

This doesn’t phase him. “I think as a profession we need to be aware that sometimes we will do a job that others will disapprove of,” he says.

“For me it was a natural extension of work that I had been doing. Even before I was awarded the Hot 100 I had acted as a whistleblower in the field of tax avoidance. We all make our moral choices and I don’t question anyone else’s.

“I felt that I had the professional and personal skills, and that I would be able to advance an agenda that was very important to me. I felt enormously lucky that I had already taken silk because it enhanced my effectiveness in the role but removed a type of accountability that I might otherwise have found constraining.”

Maugham has also crowdfunded a significant challenge, of which he is one of the claimants, issued in the Dublin courts this week about whether Article 50 can be revoked unilaterally by the UK.

This initiative, which raised £70,000 in under 36 hours, explores whether the triggering of Article 50, planned for March of this year, could be reversed.

“It’s possible by the summer or early Autumn that will be reversible,” he says.

With several other major projects underway for 2017 in both the tax, Brexit and pro-bono fields, Maugham has certainly proven his worth as a star in the Hot 100. Watch this space.

Hot 100 2016: Jolyon Maugham QC, Devereux Chambers

For a tax barrister, Devereux Chambers’ Jolyon Maugham QC has an unusually high profile.

Just over two years ago Maugham began a blog with the aim of better informing the public about tax in a bid to start a “more nuanced debate”. That blog has made him the go-to commentator on tax issues.

Maugham is also involved in driving the political debate. He advised former Labour leader Ed Miliband on tax in the run-up to the general election and continues to advise both the Conservative and Labour parties on tax issues.

Maugham’s case list is impressive, with a series of major disputes progressing through the courts last year and this year. Notably, having taken silk in February 2015, he is set to lead the Supreme Court appeal in a claim brought by film financiers, after previously being led in the lower courts.

Somehow, Maugham also finds time to sit on the Bar Council’s policy and diversity committee.

Read the entire Hot 100 2016 here and watch out for the Hot 100 2017, published on 30 January 2017.

The post The Hot 100 effect: The man who crowdfunded the Brexit challenge appeared first on The Lawyer | Legal News and Jobs | Advancing the business of law.



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