An Open Letter to the Law Society

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 FrescoThe 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”.

Yours

Dan Bunting

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7 thoughts on “An Open Letter to the Law Society

  1. Disagree entirely. Your analysis of the proposal is wrong. There is no concession on cuts and the vast majority will survive unlike with PCT. There are a number of issues with duty solicitors and the rotas which have been the subject of debate for many years, which i would be happy to discuss with you further,

    • There are two issues : the proposals themselves and the way that they were put forward.

      On the first, I guess we’ll see. The stated direction of travel is towards greater consolidation, and in two years time a firm will have to have a minimum of three duty solicitors. Any sole practitioners or two people firms will have to close for example.

      That’s one example. Most people will see something they like in the LS proposals, and most will see things they don’t like. The point is whether now was the time to put forward alternative proposals and whether it is appropriate for a representative body to put forward proposals that some of those they represent may fundamentally disagree with.

      I’m aware of many of the issues in relation to duty solicitors and more than happy to discuss but as someone else has commented, you’ll have to give me your email address!

      Anyway. Richard Atkinson has sent an email around in explanation this morning.
      http://crimeline.tumblr.com/post/54580221563/law-society-stance-on-pct
      Hopefully it will calm down in the next few days and once the ill-feeling is
      ironed out unity will Hopefully will calm down in the next few days and once the ill-feeling is ironed out unity will prevail!

  2. Interesting this, ‘split’ I keep hearing about.

    It seems to me that those who support the Law Society are all employers who would be delighted to acquire the duty slots. Those opposed are the employees who will lose their slots and jobs or at least suffer dramatic cuts in salary.

    Not for the first time we find ourselves in the rather daft position that the Law Society acts for both the employer and employee. It is hopelessly conflicted.

    Odd too that those who support the proposals were calling reps at the weekend. Loving the idea in principal is not that same as going to the police station during the Wimbledon finals in would seem!

    Its impossible to see how any of this could actually be implemented in any case. Its just nonsense.

    Need more than three duty solicitors? No Problem! We just set up an umbrella company and ask every firm in the UK to join for free. In theory there would only be one firm with 8,000 duty solicitors. Hey presto! The proposals have been circumvented.

    Need to cover 95% of the work in house? Well we all comply with the existing 80% that is in force currently, don’t we? Don’t we? Oh hang, on that didn’t work either.

    The Law Society says its proud of the unity in the profession. Yet only Lucy Montgrief agreed to see the Lord Chancellor before his select committee appearance. Everyone else said that the meeting was scheduled after the appearance and could see no reason to rearrange.

    The Law Society might want to ask itself who it represents and then try practising what it preaches.

  3. Pingback: Save UK justice: the blogs | ilegality

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