John Fuller-Carp, head of Chambers at Forecourt Buildings, is ambitious, amoral, pompous, and willing to sell his grandmother to fulfill his long-held ambition to become a QC. In the course of his struggles he tries to join the Masons and and attempts to inveigle himself onto Crimewatch. He is desperate to win cases and impress people and undergoes all kinds of painful moral contortions to do so. On one occasion he joins a fox hunt so he can get close to some Hight Court judges and then has to represent some animal rights activists. He is more than willing to destroy or tamper with evidence in order to win a case.
Sadly, Fuller-Carp is no more than a mediocre lawyer, and, some animal cunning apart, lacks any kind of acute forensic intelligence. Forecourt Buildings is hardly one of the more respected Chambers. Impeding his constant attempts to network with the great and good in the world of Law is his lack of charm and tendency to upset those he wants to impress.
However, Fuller-Carp's continuing lack of success gives him an underdog's sympathy and he has a caustic wit which keeps us from being fully alienated from him.
Hilary Tripping is gauche, shy and ineffectual as Fuller-Carp's partner in chambers. He will do anything to avoid conflict, which makes him just about as unsuitable as possible for the profession of being a Barrister. His painful awareness of not having the killer punch makes the situation worse. Although anxious to please, he is sexually highly nervous, which on one occasion got him into difficulties in a gay lawyers' bar.
From Fuller-Carp's viewpoint, Hilary's big plus point is that he is easily manipulated and never argues. But his sheer lack of efficacy in the courtroom just about cancels this out.
Vince is Fuller-Carp's one ace in the hole. He works as the Clerk in Forecourt Buildings but has a criminal past -although it is hardly his past as he is still up to his neck in all kinds of dodgy dealing in Dagenham. While his boss flounders in his machinations, Vince has genuine street-level, underworld cunning. Even better, he still has all his criminal contacts, invaluable when you need someone to tamper with the evidence such as, in one case, adding more courses to a wall to fool the jury when they go to the scene of the crime.
Though normally polite and professional, Vince's lack of regard for his boss is evident. However, he is always ready with the kind of down-to-earth advice Fuller-Carp needs, and regularly gets him out of trouble. Amoral himself, Vince has no problem with helping the barrister in the the double-dealing and lying he has to do to establish himself.
Clive Coleman said that his major inspiration for the sitcom was the interplay between the worlds of law and crime. This theme comes together in Vince.
Ruth Quirke is Fuller-Carp's other partner in Chambers and is more of an adversary than Hilary Tripping. As played by Lesley Sharp in Series 1, she was overtly left-wing and hard-headed. After Sarah Lancashire took over, the character softened somewhat.
Ruth is the only really competent barrister at Forecourt Buildings, and is intelligent, able and articulate. However, during Series 2 and 3, she became more neurotic and insecure, especially regarding her sex life. While staying professinally in control, her private life became more of a shambles.