Blog1: What i will address if elected to Law society council
This is the first blog of what I intend will be many, setting out for the benefit of those I want to vote for me, what I will do if elected to the Law Society Council.
For the first time in nearly 20 years in the law I have considered it appropriate that I stand for Law Society council elections. Never before would I have considered such a move. We are however witnessing reforms to the legal system like nothing we have experienced before. I am not averse to change, in fact I consider myself rather forward thinking and innovative but some of the changes being implemented by our current “lay” lord chancellor are catastrophic to the rule of law, access to justice and legal businesses a-like.
As I explained in my personal statement, I started life as an office junior in a law firm when I was 18yrs old. I went on to study for my law degree via correspondence and then qualified before soon thereafter making partner. After 9 years of undertaking a range of work covering a multitude of disciplines, I left the firm where I trained in order to pursue an exclusively criminal defence practice and so I spent three years working for Henry’s in Stockport before setting up my own firm almost 8 years ago which I have managed along with my 2 co-directors.
Accordingly, I consider I have the relevant knowledge and experience to represent all solicitors and firms in my role on the council.
I am not unique in holding these attributes however. I do on the other hand consider with the benefit of other character traits I have that I am the right person to stand for Council to effectively promote the interests of the profession and those individuals it is our job to represent.
I am passionate about our legal system and refuse to stand idly by while it is being ruined. We boast one of the most highly regarded systems in the World, one that other Country’s seek to emulate. We are proud to be known for our strong reputation of affording the appropriate level of protection to those most vulnerable within our society and who seek redress through our courts.
At the heart of everything that our legal system stands for, in addition to a strong independent Judiciary and profession is the Legal Aid system. Over the course of this government we have seen a whole sale reduction of access to justice for the most vulnerable in our society:
1. Legal aid has been removed for most family law cases leaving so many without recourse through the courts when their family units break down. Victims of domestic violence will suffer disproportionately, many being trapped accordingly. Women who sacrificed their career to look after children cannot afford lawyers to take on their husbands in court;
2. Legal aid for immigration has been all but completely removed. This Country, once renowned for its readiness to take in those persecuted elsewhere now leave non-English speaking, homeless and isolated genuine cases of asylum to fight for themselves against an unsympathetic, agenda driven Home office;
3. Victims of personal injury are now unnecessarily hindered by virtue of recent government interference in what is essentially a private industry. Lawyers’ fees have been restricted, claimants now unreasonably expect to pay towards legal fees out of their damages and ATE premiums are no longer recoverable. A cynic might suggest these reforms influence law firms to under-settle claims and to take on only those more simple claims with an almost 100% of success leaving those with slightly more complex but nevertheless genuine and often more serious claims without recourse through the courts;
4. And finally, the government’s latest attack once again targets those most vulnerable within our society, those accused of crime. Fees are to be reduced so drastically that the quality of representation will inevitably suffer and curbs to the granting of legal aid will result in many unrepresented defendants.
I have not even gone into detail on any of the issues noted above nor have I touched upon the plans this government has for judicial review and already this blog is longer then I had intended.
What concerns me most of all is the disingenuous manner in which our government seeks to justify these measures. Their propaganda machine plays on peoples’ fears and prejudices, they blame high immigration, a cultural reliance on benefits and fraudulent personal injury claims. They claim immigrants overly burden our health and other services, allege a high proportion of fraudulent benefit claimants and accuse wealthy criminals of claiming legal aid when in fact they could afford to pay for it themselves. None of this is in fact true;
Net immigration is falling. As a matter of fact, those who come here to work and pay into the system far outweigh those who do not. Similarly, whilst there will always be those who make fraudulent benefit claims, personal injury claims and falsely claim asylum, the reality is that there are many more whose claims are genuine. These reforms are punitive, affecting a high proportion of the needy but they are seen as popular policies in the minds of the voter.
Notwithstanding the above I refuse to do nothing while this Lord Chancellor destroys law firms that have been established over the generations and into which committed and passionate lawyers and non-qualified staff have poured their souls only to soon be made redundant. Again, lawyer bashing has become a popular past time of late and this government has not failed to seize the opportunity to join in to bolster its own popularity.
The unwritten constitution of this Country is based upon the separation powers, which I believe is fundamental to a civilised democracy. Through these reforms, and further planned reforms we are seeing the erosion of the protections afforded to the citizen by our constitution. This cannot be tolerated and I cannot help but think that the arrogant, self righteous government currently in power knows this too well. Ultimately, we lawyers get in their way.
I hope by now, it is obvious how passionate I am about the issues affecting us as a profession and those we represent. If you elect me to the Council I promise to do what I can to advance these causes.