I know that over the years the bar and solicitors haven’t always seen eye to eye, but I thought that we were together on this one. So I was pretty disappointed to see your ‘alternative’ plans to PCT.
Now, I’ll accept straight off that the Bar Council doesn’t come to this with clean hands. The way they sold you down the river behaved over Carter was wrong. If the Bar Council was in any way a properly representative body, then I’d apologise for them. But they’re not, so all I will do is point out that at the public meetings the ‘rank and file’ of the bar did not support the Bar Council’s position. We knew they had got it wrong, but they didn’t listen to their members, thinking either that they knew best or listening to their own vested interests. They were wrong, but I’m disappointed that you seem to have made the same mistake.
Why did you break rank just as we had Grayling on the run? I’m not saying that we would definitely have won, but it felt like we were certainly getting there. Why accept the need for cuts when we were way ahead of the game at having our incomes slashed? The evidence was clear – legal aid spending was not out of control, it was going down. I know that the MoJ don’t like facts, but why hand Grayling this on a plate?
This has given the MoJ a perfect get out and we’ve seen Grayling already using it. The Law Society is a prestigious body and to have you supporting his agenda undermines all the good work and campaigning that so many (solicitor, barrister and other) have done.
‘No To PCT’ was the rallying cry. Yes, your plan keeps client choice, which is good, but what kind of choice will it be? This is PCT, just in a revised format.
But it’s not just high principles. I get that you’re a representative body and you are there to look after your members. Certainly over the years you’ve done a much better job than my one has. But what I don’t get is why this scheme? It’s not going to help out most of the firms that you represent, on the contrary, it’ll be the death of them.
If this was naked protectionism they I’d understand it. I wouldn’t like it, but I’d understand it. But who are you protecting?
The small(er) or niche firms? No. The stated aim is for them to go out of business merge with others (as the gazelle merges with the cheetah). You’ve even want to ‘facilitate market exit’! One of the big objections to PCT was that a ‘one size fits all’ model is not in the public interest. That’s what you’re proposing though? Ok, it’ll take a few years longer yes, but it’s the same thing in the end.
Given that pretty much all of your solicitor members are duty solicitors, you don’t seem particularly keen on them. Scrapping them will cause the salaries of solicitors to slump won’t it? I’d be surprised if that’s what your members want, but I assume you’ve asked them. At least, I hope you have before putting up this plan.
You claim that rolling contracts will make matters more competitive, but you don’t really believe that do you? It’s going to be pretty much impossible for a new firm to set up as they’ll have no duty work to speak of. Some of the best and most successful firms started out that way. You’re not protecting solicitors this way, just the current big firms?
I’m not going to get into the other problems with your proposals – but I’ll just say this. I don’t understand why you did this, and why you did this now. If the bar had gone behind your back and cut a deal, then you would have been livid, and rightly so. This is worse than that – it’s like the Bar Council putting forward a scheme that protects the silks and everyone else can go to hell.
You could do worse than read this piece by Matt Fresco “The Law Society simply want us to slash wages, create mega firms and have the few remaining solicitors work like dogs. This is a mental proposal. The only alternative offered in this proposal is the word alternative on page one. Its alternative in the same way that Bernard Manning was an alternative comedian and ABBA were an alternative rock band. It isn’t an alternative, its the same dumb idea with the word alternative in the title. ”
So I do hope that enough solicitors read this and force a Special General Meeting “to debate a motion rejecting the Law Society’s proposals to transform legal aid, expressing no confidence in the President, and requiring a ballot of the membership on the issue”.