Update for Liverpool Law Society by Beth Quinn, Key Account Manager – the Law Society
Last month, the Law Society was represented the Labour, Conservative and Liberal Democrat party conferences. We hosted a number of events and held various meetings to make the case for our policy priorities with key policital stakeholders, including the new lord chancellor, Dominic Raab MP.
Our flagship reception, held alongside the Bar Council and Society of Conservative Lawyers, concerned international issues facing the profession and how best to promote our jurisdiction as a global legal centre. This was well attended by party members, MPs and ministers. We also held a fringe panel on levelling up justice, co-hosted with the Bar Council, APPG on legal aid, and Legal Aid Practitioners Group, saw a lively discussion on access to justice, regional disparity and the rule of law.
TLS president Stephanie Boyce met with new Justice Minister James Catlidge and Security Minister Damian Hinds, leading to productive discussions on legal aid, the backlog in the courts and economic crime. Across the conference, alongside rising gas prices and the cost of living, the courts backlog was recognised as one of the major issues facing government.
Highlights from the Labour conference were hosting events alongside Shadow Lord Chancellor David Lammy, the Shadow Attorney General Lord Falconer and Shadow Solicitor General Ellie Reeves. Lammy used his speech at one of our events to endorse our call for an independent review body to set legal aid rates. The Lib Dem conference was held virtually and attended by our VP Lubna Shuja.
New trade deal – New Zealand
The UK and New Zealand have agreed in principle a trade deal which reflects the importance of market access for services in both economies. It includes professional services and recognition of professional qualifications- which confirms existing rights of UK and NZ lawyers to advise clients in their home-country and international law; and to provide arbitration, mediation and conciliation services in the other country’s territory using their original qualifications and title.
The trade deal also proposes a domestic regulation chapter – a first in New Zealand and UK free trade agreement practices.
TLS Climate Change Resolution
Our Climate Change Resolution has been passed by Council and has now been published.
By way of background, the resolution is a statement, setting out our commitment to tackling the climate crisis. It also urges our solicitors to commit and act in a way which is consistent with international and national legislative targets on climate change so they may future proof their provision of legal services. The Climate Change Resolution was drafted under the guidance of the Law Society’s Climate Change Working Group assisted by our Climate Change Resources Adviser.
It is an opportunity for firms to adopt practical measures and policies to reduce the climate impact of their business and highlight what they’re doing to tackle climate change. We are encouraging firms to use our resolution to commit to taking action, and to evaluate how this will affect their daily practice.
The resolution consists of:
- our commitment to taking action by adopting science-based targets for our own business operations, and providing the profession with guidance on how to take climate change into consideration when providing legal services (sections 1-2)
- a call to action for law firms and solicitors (sections 3-5)
While there is no formal procedure for signing up to the resolution, we are asking that firms demonstrate their commitment to tackling climate change by sharing their support for the resolution on their website and social media. We also encourage it to be shared with colleagues, and for practices and policies to be implemented internally in line with the resolution.
ACCESS TO JUSTICE
Chancellor Rishi Sunak’s autumn budget has promised additional funds for the justice system. We’re pleased that the UK government has heard our calls for much-needed investment to address the courts backlog, invest in a sustainable civil legal aid market and help the justice system recover from the covid-19 pandemic. Few key points:
1. The MoJ will have a £3.2billion increase in its budget to £11.5 billion in 2024/25. This is equivalent to a real-terms growth rate of 3.3% per year on average over the spending review period.
2. The government has committed to better access to justice by investing more than £1 billion to increase the capacity and efficiency across the courts system; tackle the courts backlogs and help the system recover from covid-19.
- £477m has been allocated to fund the criminal justice backlog, improve waiting times for victims of crime and reduce the Crown Court backlog from 60,000 cases to 53,000 cases by 2024/25
- £324 million has been committed to address the backlogs in the civil, family and tribunal jurisdictions, while more than £200m is aimed at completing the MoJ’s court reform programmes by 2024/25.
- This won’t solve all the problems afflicting the justice system but it’s a step in the right direction. We have long warned the civil legal aid sector is in a precarious sate and urgent action should be taken. We are encouraging the government to build on this by fully funding the recommendations of the Independent Review of Criminal Legal Aid, restoring legal aid for early legal advice and ending the legal aid deserts that now stretch across most of England and Wales.
3. More funds will be available for small and medium-sized businesses in the ‘levelling up’ agenda. The government has allocated £196m in 2024/25 for the Help to Grow Schemes which aim to enable more than 100,000 SMEs to access training tools to boost productivity and performance.
4. On homes/cladding – the government has previously committed more than £5 billion, including £3 billion over the spending review period, to remove unsafe cladding from the highest-risk buildings. This is supported by revenues raised from the new residential property developer tax. The hope is that this tax will generate £2 billion over 10 years to fund the removal and replacement of combustible cladding. However, the full cost of cladding remediation is estimated at as much as £15 billion.
- We’ve called on the government to provide additional financial support to leaseholders to help cover the costs associated with managing and rectifying the dangerous cladding on their homes.
- It’s disappointing that no new money was found in the budget to assist long leaseholders in unsafe properties.
- In addition to the financial and emotional burden on some leaseholders, the concerns about unsafe flats are impacting on flat sales in the wider property and lending markets.
5. Lastly, there is some disappointment with the economic crime levy.
- An investment of £18 million in 2022/23 and £12 million per year in 2023 to 2025 has been allocated to deliver reforms in the economic crime plan and tackling fraud. The economic crime levy was also referenced and will be used to tackle economic crime.
Our position is that we strongly oppose the imposition of the levy on principle and are disappointed the government has decided to move forward with it. The levy effectively represents a tax on the provision of legal services, undermining the competitiveness of a key British industry at a time when the sector should be championed.
Discover more about the economic crime levy and how we’re championing members’ interests.
Next steps will be to:
• continue to push for greater investment in our justice system
• actively monitor the implementation of the policies contained within the budget
• work with members, government and parliament to shape the response to the issues affecting the justice system
Judicial Review and Courts Bill
The Judicial Review and Courts Bill has had its second reading in the House of Commons. As you know, the bill will make significant changes to judicial review processes, alongside other provisions relating to courts. Its second reading debate was on Tuesday 26 October.
The Society gave evidence to the Judicial Review and Courts Bill committee in parliament. Our main concerns relate to proposals in part one of the bill, on reforming judicial review. Changes are being proposed which make life easier for government at the expense of accountability and justice.
So-called prospective-only remedies are proposed, which would lead to judgments that would apply only in the future, leaving past wrongs to stand. The Law Society strongly opposes these. A statutory presumption in favour of these future-only remedies – which puts legal limits on when judges could make an alternative judgment that would right a past wrong – would further entrench the injustice of these changes.
One of the changes the government wants to make is to push judges towards rulings that would leave people who suffered because of unlawful state actions without full redress. This is plainly wrong and would have a chilling effect on justice.
Individuals and businesses should have confidence that where public bodies breach the law or infringe on legal rights they will be able to enforce their rights and secure redress.
We support the introduction of suspended quashing orders, which would allow a judge to give the state time to make necessary arrangements before their decision takes effect. However, this should only be at judges’ discretion and not, as is proposed, the norm which could only be deviated from in prescribed circumstances.
All in all, the ultimate consequence of these proposals would be that more unlawful actions by public bodies could go unchallenged or untouched. The root purpose of judicial review – to ensure good, lawful decision-making by public authorities – would be lost, undermining this vital check against executive overreach.
Read the briefing in full – parliamentary briefing: Judicial Review and Courts Bill – House of Commons second reading
Watch the evidence sesson (from 15:30): https://parliamentlive.tv/Event/Index/0f07e827-05d8-450a-90ce-1976fb0e38f1
DIVERSITY & INCLUSION
Pride in the Law: An up to date look into LGBT+ experiences and equality in the legal profession
The Law Society has released a report, based on findings of a survey conducted earlier this year, which shows a current look at LGBT+ equality and experiences in the legal profession from LGBT+ lawyers and their allies.
The data, both quantitative and qualitative, paints a clear picture of the positive action taking place for better inclusion within workplaces and across the sector and, equally, what is needed for more effective and personalized support.
Reasonable adjustments guidance for better disability inclusion
Securing reasonable adjustments consistently emerged as the most significant barrier for disabled people in the profession in the Legally Disabled research launched in 2020.
For that we worked with the Legally Disabled? research team and our Lawyers with Disabilities Division Committee, we’ve created guidance to help organisations better understand reasonable adjustments and how to implement them.
The guidance includes real examples from many firms and organisations showing what is possible and practical.
> Find out more information and read the full report: Reasonable adjustments in organisations – guidance for best practice
How we marked Black History Month
As you know, October marks Black History Month in the UK. It’s a month-long observation and celebration of Black heritage, diversity and achievements.
To mark the occasion, the Law Society released various podcasts, articles and information – all of which you can view on our website.
• Podcast: To lift as we climb
Law Society President, I.Stephanie Boyce, and Inez Brown join us for a candid and inspirational discussion on diversity, discrimination, aspirations and identities.
• Blaze your own trail
In this article Julie Condliffe explores representation and belonging in larger organisations.
• Ethnicity pay gap: What you need to know
We provide an overview of the ethnicity pay gap – what it is, why it exists and how to start reporting on it.
• Black History Month: life in the law
Law Care discuss the response from ethnic minority legal professionals to their recent Life in the Law research study.
D&I has always been a priority for the Society and we recognise our role in driving change for better and more equal experiences for all solicitors. Our head of D&I, Sally Brett, has outlined the Society’s plans to help build a more modern, diverse and inclusive profession over the next 12 months – with the topic being one of our core strategic themes. Sally has written an article outlining:
– Our D&I framework that will guide our approach to D&I going forward
– Our emphasis on mental health and wellbeing post-pandemic
– Our focus on socio-economic inclusivity
Paul Tennant leaving as CEO
As you know, Paul Tennant is currently working his notice period as chief executive after receiving an opportunity to work back in the housing sector. We have established a panel, working with HR to manage the recruitment of a successor. We are to receive in person bids from potential agents and are developing thoughts on the nature of the job and person specification. I can keep you informed of progress and the process as it develops.
Tax Chamber – judicial recruitment support scheme
The Tax Chamber (first tier tribunal) has recently launched a judicial recruitment support scheme to offer targeted support for those considering an application for judicial appointment as a judge within the chamber, on either a salaried or fee-paid basis. The scheme involves judicial shadowing and work experience opportunities as well as guidance on the judicial application process. You will need to have a tax background and meet the eligibility criteria (e.g. have 5 years PQE).
For more information on the scheme and to register email: firstname.lastname@example.org
o Our Solicitor Judges Division is our community for aspiring and sitting solicitor judges. Membership is free and more information can be viewed here.
o Case studies by judges in courts, tribunals – judges and fee-paid members, High Court judge or deputy High Court judge
o We also run a joint initiative, the Pre-Application Judicial Education Programme (PAJE), which helps lawyers from under-represented groups who are interested in becoming a judge to feel more confident about applying and to prepare for the process.
o Applications for autumn/winter 2021 are now closed but there are various online resources available (videos on becoming a judge, Q&A with judges who have led PAJE workshops, podcasts: appointments, judicial conduct, roles and structure; rule of law and separation of power)
o Our internal lead on the judiciary (inc. judicial diversity) is our Policy Advisor Yael Levy Ariel – as mentioned she’s very happy to be put in touch with interested members so do let me know if this is something to take forward.
Supporting defence infrastructure and the future of time-limited permitted development rights (closing date 14 November 2021) – Ministry of Housing and Local Government and Ministry of Defence
This consultation seeks views on the future of two time-limited permitted development rights, and on the introduction of two new permitted development rights to support the delivery of defence infrastructure on defence sites.
Planning for new energy infrastructure: review of energy National Policy Statements (closing date 29 November 2021) – Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy
This consultation seeks views on the revised energy National Policy Statements that support decisions on major energy infrastructure.