Home » Uncategorized » Monday Message 8th July. CBA observations on Law Society proposals

Monday Message 8th July. CBA observations on Law Society proposals

There has been a lot of comment on Social Media about Michael Turner QC’s remarks about the Law Society response to the MoJ last week.

The problem with Twitter, and to a lesser extent, Facebook, is the limited space to spell out an argument.

The ethos of this Blog, and our Twitter account, is expressed above. “A Place For The Voice of The Criminal Bar to be Heard.”

Well let’s extend that to Solicitors as well.

We have reprinted MTQC’s post below.

We invite constructive comments. If we know what you are thinking, hopefully we can put your ideas to good use.

But please remember. Unity is all, so #PlayNicely!

Following Mr Grayling’s appearance at the Justice Select Committee hearing, there has been a good deal of disquiet about the meeting he had with the Law Society in advance of giving evidence.

I would like to set out what happened at the Joint Practitioners meeting and how the proposals came about.

The President of the Law Society had arranged to meet with Mr Grayling initially after his evidence session before the Committee. Mr Grayling however sought to bring the meeting forward. The CBA together with the CLSA and the LCCSA advised that no meeting should take place until after Mr Grayling had given evidence, fearing that he would use such a meeting to try and break the current unity. The President insisted that she attend the re-scheduled appointment. Preferring that the President had an alternative proposal as to structure alone, the meeting sought to provide such a document. The scheme only dealt with the solicitor profession and said nothing in relation to the Bar. The proposal was a collaborative effort but there was no means unanimity as to the entirety of it.

The proposed scheme seeks to deal with two particular issues a) the spectre of the ghost solicitor and b) over supply in the market place.

No one can sensibly argue that the practice of selling duty solicitor slots should not be banished forever. What has caused alarm is the proposals for change coupled with the spin put upon them by Mr Grayling.

Far from seeking to crush small firms these proposals seek to protect them. Small firms will be allowed to maintain their size for a year, after which the Law Society may instruct them to take on further staff if wishing to remain in the market place. This could be as little as one extra duty solicitor. The firms will then have a year to comply. Additionally the Law Society is seeking to introduce a scheme whereby two one-man firms may come together under an umbrella management structure whilst maintaining their identity.

Whilst the CBA stood back from structuring this scheme, it appears it has a lot of merit to it. The BFG had wanted minimum contract sizes, which would have decimated the small firms. This proposal is nowhere near that. It allows the small firms to upsize slowly and proportionately.

There is absolutely no mention in the proposals of a cut in fees nor a concession from the Law Society that one is required.

Mr Grayling has failed to understand his own scheme. PCT is dead with client choice restored. You can not tender for a contract if you do not know what slice of the market place it gives you.

Mr Grayling’s reliance on this meeting gave the impression it was more than it was. He used it to try and drive a wedge between the Bar and solicitors profession. This attempt has sadly been assisted by others within the professions who should frankly know better.
All of us have pledged to fight cuts and PCT to the bitter end. We have joined side by side to do just that. Do not allow ignorance and spin to pull us apart.

Whilst there was no agreement as to the tactic of meeting Mr Grayling in advance of the Judicial Select Committee, the Law Society has not sought to sell either its own profession or ours short.

Richard Atkinson who has worked as hard as anyone to keep us all together explains the proposals HERE.

The only thing politicians are really good at is sowing the seeds of doubt in others. There is not a leader at the Bar or within the solicitors’ profession who is in favour of making cuts and indeed there is simply no moral or practical case for them. Indeed the opposite is true.

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5 thoughts on “Monday Message 8th July. CBA observations on Law Society proposals

  1. I also agree with the comments made above. I think the timing of TLS meeting with the Lord Chancellor was unfortunate, as it appeared to give him a “Get out of Jail” card at Justice Questions last week, at a time when it seemed as though many of the questions put to him would be unanswerable. The sight of him merrily referring to the constructive approach from TLS, and pretending that he had long ago changed his mind on client choice due to representations from interested parties and his willingness to listen, whilst being mealy mouthed and critical of the Bar, was hard to stomach, and no doubt played a part in the reaction that immediately followed. I also have no doubt that it was exactly the reaction he was seeking, and I am very, very glad that we have had chance to step back, re-group, and renew commitment to fight together the remaining intolerable aspects of his proposals for the justice system. Efforts to divide us will not succeed, and I, for one, have learnt yet another lesson about the lengths to which the Government will go to force through an agenda which it cannot defend in any principled or reasoned way.

  2. I agree with Mr George as realistically legal aid has been cut since the implementation of contracts back in the late 90’s with LSC contracts, fixed fees etc. There are other areas that over charge MOJ that can be looked at to make adequate savings ie G4S tagging, Capita et al

  3. MTQC’s clarification is very welcome. The current unity amongst the two sides of the profession has been hard won and must not be surrendered. It cannot be overstated that neither solicitors nor the Bar can sustain further cuts in the fees currently paid. The MoJ recognised that cuts had gone as far as they reasonably could under RAGFS (see para 4.2 of the Consultation Doc) and that two-thirds of all advocates (essentially the junior Bar) earn under £50k including VAT (para. 5.34) and before the deduction of expenses such as travel and others which reduces the real (not the Grayling fantasy) figure pre-tax to about £27k. Put bluntly further cuts will mean many at the Bar will default on their next tax bill, will be forced into bankruptcy and will probably leave the Bar to try to seek better paid employment elsewhere.

    We owe it to ourselves, our families, future generations of legal aid lawyers as well as our clients to be prepared to stand up and argue our case and to say that when we say “NO MORE CUTS” what we really mean is “NO MORE CUTS”. I know some people feel a bit awkward about arguing that we are underpaid when so many are suffering from the effects of this government’s austerity programme, which I have argued elsewhere is an ideological choice in seeking to dismantle the welfare state of which legal aid is an undoubted part, but we should not feel bad about seeking to maintain a decent standard of living. Just because we work for the public service doesn’t mean we are not entitled to be properly paid for our skills. How can we hope to attract good quality lawyers into legal aid work if the rates of pay are so meagre?

    We all know that there has never been an increase in fees since the graduated fee system was introduced in 1997. Carter managed to achieve the mirage of an increase only by taking the fee for the 2nd day of trial away, so as to make us work for a day for free,and adding part of it into the brief fee but with all the other freebies for pre-trial hearings, cons and sentences it was never an increase in our rates.

    Without getting too dramatic we must make it entirely clear to the MoJ that any further cut in grad fees is simply not an option we are prepared to consider. If we “win” on PCT (and many think the MoJ was always prepare to bin PCT once it had served its purpose of frightening the legal profession so that by comparison cuts would seem a good alternative) and then cave in and accept further cuts we will have lost everything. If there is scope for further cuts elsewhere in the MoJ’s budget that’s one thing but we have already suffered a 13.5% cut from 2010 to 2012 thanks to the last Labour government on top of all the other cuts we have sustained and that must be it as far as we are all concerned.

    We have made our position clear and drawn our line in the sand. NO MORE CUTS TO LEGAL AID.

  4. There has to be room for the different professions and different special interest groups within the professions to debate and propose ways forward. There has to be unity of purpose and the purpose is to preserve the safety net of legal aid, maintain access to justice, protect the provision of high quality representation and preserve the rule of law.

    One thing to emerge from this is a continued and obvious rejection of any further cuts. On that we speak with one voice. It also serves as a reminder of how the Government will seize upon any advantage, perceived or manipulated, to push through its agenda.

    We need to fight on. We need to learn. But fight on we must.

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