Get Up, Stand UP, Don’t Give UP The Fight!
I love Bob Marley’s music, he is arguably one of the greatest singer-song writers of all time. His music is enjoyed irrespective of whether or not you feel any affinity to the message contained within. Bob wrote about the suffering of a people but his songs were never negative in their content. Rather, they were songs of hope, songs that brought joy and relief to those with whom he connected, but above all his songs provided inspiration to millions and consequently he played his part in changing history.
Don’t worry, I am not about to compare myself to Bob Marley but I do think that we lawyers need to take a lesson from this great man. As a profession, we face unprecedented change and reforms. Some of the changes are to be embraced, particularly where technology and efficiencies are concerned, others are worrying to say the least. The reforms, whether they be to immigration law, family law, personal injury and/or Legal aid generally are reforms that will inevitably cause those most vulnerable within our society to suffer.
As a profession we carry a great responsibility to the people of this Great nation. We stand between the state with all its resources and power and the all too vulnerable citizen. It is our duty to protect the citizen from the oppression of the state and its executive arms. It is our job to give the little man a voice.
For far too long the constitution of our Country, upon which the above is in part based, has been taken for granted, forgotten possibly and now there is a very real danger that is being replaced, subtly, by an over-zealous, “lay” Lord Chancellor. Those of you who have not yet noticed, the state is becoming ever more autonomous and the judiciary ever weaker and less independent.
You may be wondering what this has got to do with you:
Well, you can do something about it. You can set aside the apathy, take action, speak up and make a difference. For far too long those of you not affected by certain reforms do not stand against them despite knowing they are wrong.
This must change, we must stand together as a profession, reign in this government and re-establish the basis for our constitutional existence.
The Law Society of England and Wales has many functions, sometimes so many it is hard to decipher exactly what it is reasonable to expect of them. Over the years its role has become more and more political which in itself presents something of a conflict.
I want to see a Law Society that puts the interests of its members and those they represent first. I think most of the profession would agree with that. For too long, however, the Society has been wheeled out by the government to showcase our first class legal system around the world in order to attract foreign investment and promote the great city of London with its banking, financial and legal sectors, all of which it seems are for sale.
Do not misunderstand me though, I am equally proud of London, it is quite rightly a world leader in all of the above sectors. However, I truly believe that as a nation, our reputation can only be enhanced if before any of the above, we are first seen and recognised as Country which looks after its citizens, practices the freedoms and democracies that we preach to others and affords the appropriate protection of the law equally to all.
It is not satisfactory that we as a profession have to turn to splinter organisations for promotion and safeguarding of our respective professional interests.
It was left to APIL to challenge the governments reforms to the claimant personal injury sector, the LCCSA and CLSA have jointly issued proceedings to fight the governments onslaught of criminal legal aid and recently a charity, The Howard league had to judicially review the governments reforms to the field of prison law.
I have seen the incredible work of many of these organisations, the CLSA for example of which I am a committee member is led by our Chair Bill Waddington and Vice Robin Murray. I have been left in awe at the hours they and others members of the committee have invested in this fight for the benefit of the members but more importantly the clients we represent.
I have been fortunate enough to have met with and heard from small regional committees, set up to make local challenges to the threat to access to justice for their clients. Hull, for example have recently enjoyed tremendous national media coverage over their refusal to take on crown Court work in protest at the reforms. Other regions such as Merseyside have led the way in formulating and adopting protocols pertaining to the withdrawal of good will by solicitors. Please accept my apologies if I have failed to mention the great work of others, but this is not intended as an exhaustive list.
Then there are the rest, those who bury their heads in the sand, turn a blind eye, don’t act because it does not directly affect them. We have seen what a difference action can make so whilst I urge you to vote for me in this years Law Society Council elections in order that I get a say in developing Society strategy I remind you of the words of the great Bob Marley:
Get up, Stand up, Don’t give up the fight!
Get up, Stand up, Stand up for your Rights!
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