Pulling power

first_imgLawyers and law students from across north-east England donned their gym kit to take part in the York College of Law’s fourth annual sports day. More than 30 teams, including Eversheds, Olswang, Forsters and Gordons competed in football, netball and rugby tournaments, but the highlight was the ‘tug of law’ contest, won by a joint team from Addleshaw Goddard and DLA Piper. The University of York student law society won the rugby tournament, while law firm Walker Morris picked up the rugby plate. The University of Leeds student law society claimed the netball cup and the College of Law’s old girls the netball plate. In football, The College of Law Chester walked away with the cup, and law firm Hammonds scooped the plate.last_img

Justice committee warns of family lawyer ‘exodus’

first_imgThe Legal Services Commission’s reform of family legal aid is causing ‘an exodus of senior practitioners from publicly-funded family law’, the House of Commons’ Justice Committee concluded today. A report on family legal aid said the LSC’s proposals for reform were based on a ‘flawed consultation’ and ‘weak evidence base’. It described the proposals as ‘conclusions first, evidence after’, designed for a legal services supply model envisaged by Lord Carter, which does not yet exist. The committee’s report criticised the fixed-fees system in place for family legal aid. It said: ‘Senior experienced advocates, whether solicitors or barristers, will not be effectively deployed if required to conduct a number of relatively lucrative simple hearings to make up for lower remuneration of cases of higher complexity. This would be a serious waste of resources.’ The report continued: ‘The committee’s evidence showed that what is more likely to happen – indeed was already happening – was an exodus of senior practitioners from publicly-funded family law. ‘In addition, the LSC accepts that its proposals disproportionately affect women and black and minority ethnic lawyers – who tend to specialise in this field of law – threatening significant progress in courtroom diversity.’ The committee did not accept the LSC’s arguments that children’s guardians and independent social work should not be funded via legal aid because of budgetary boundaries between the Ministry of Justice and the Department for Children, Schools and Families. It said there were ‘valid reasons for the flexibility of existing arrangements’, noting that the current system was in the best interests of children. Mark Stobbs, director of legal policy at the Law Society, said: ‘While it is essential that complex cases are dealt with by the most expert practitioners, it is also important that the every day work that is essential for family disputes is done also, and that solicitors are properly remunerated.’ He added: ‘We note the recommendation that guardians and social work should continue to be funded from legal aid. If this is to continue, it will be essential for money to be made available from those departments responsible for this work to ensure that [it] is not diverted from the legal advice and expertise that is essential for the family justice system.’ Christina Blacklaws, Law Society council member for legal aid, added that the report was a ‘condemnation’ of the LSC’s approach to the professionals involved in family legal aid. She added: ‘I hope the LSC will take heed of the dire warnings from the Justice Committee and not effect irreparable damage to our family justice system.’ An LSC spokesman said the Commission was ‘grateful’ for the report and ‘noted its conclusions. He added: ‘As the committee is aware, the LSC received a large number of helpful responses to the consultation and as we have already indicated, our final proposals will reflect many of the concerns raised by respondents. Since the consultation closed, the LSC has been working closely with stakeholders including the Bar, Family Law Bar Association, Association of Lawyers for Children and The Law Society on proposals for the shape of the final scheme. We intend to announce the way ahead before recess, and will respond substantively to the committee in due course.’last_img read more

CFS panel cull deferred pending talks

first_imgThe Law Society has secured a two-week stay of execution for sole practitioners in a ‘first round’ of negotiations over the decision to axe 3,600 practitioners from the conveyancing panel of the newly merged Britannia and Co-operative Financial Services (CFS). Sole practitioners will remain on the new CFS panel until 4 October following discussions between Chancery Lane and CFS. They were given one month’s notice of their removal from the panel in August. The CFS said it had been forced into the move following the merger because otherwise its insurers would have withdrawn cover for the entire business. Law Society chief executive Des Hudson said that following ‘useful talks’ with CFS a further meeting had been agreed ‘to explore the drivers of the Britannia/Co-op decision’. He said the Society was eager for the discussions to continue at a ‘rapid pace’. CFS director of risk Mike Fairbairn said the meeting had been ‘constructive’, but said it had a ‘clear duty’ to obtain the best cover at the best price. Meanwhile, Chelsea Building Society has said it is prepared to take direct action against individual solicitors and firms, and to target the Solicitors Compensation Fund to recoup money it may have lost due to solicitors’ alleged participation in a swathe of mortgage frauds. Chelsea recently said that it suffered £41m worth of mortgage fraud perpetrated between 2006 and 2008, concerning ‘the artificial inflation of property values by third-party professionals’ involved in buy-to-let mortgage transactions. A Chelsea spokesman said its solicitor panel contains a ‘fair spread’ of sole practitioners and other multi-partner firms, as it did at the time of the frauds, and it is not planning any ‘knee jerk’ panel cuts. In a further development, a letter from Bristol & West Mortgages seen by the Gazette has confirmed that it no longer appoints sole practitioners. The bank said the decision was the result of an increase in the number of mortgage fraud cases encountered by them where sole practitioners had allegedly been directly or indirectly involved. The letter mentions the ‘significantly inferior cover offered by the relevant governing bodies for sole ­practitioners’ as a reason for the decision. Bristol & West said the data to support the comments, was ‘private’. Neither Chelsea nor Bristol & West disclosed which solicitors or firms they believe may have participated in the frauds and whether or not they believe panel firms were involved. In a separate statement issued on Wednesday, CFS’s Fairbairn,said: ‘CFS wants to make it absolutely clear that our decision was a direct consequence of our insurers refusing to offer cover on our entire £20 billion mortgage business, unless we removed sole practitioners from our panel. We have a clear duty to our members and customers to ensure best cover at the best price; we can’t simply choose cover at any cost. We also reject strongly any claims that our actions are in anyway discriminatory on sole practitioners, for this same reason. ‘We have committed to maintaining dialogue with the respective law societies [of England and Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland] but we need to achieve a position where we have appropriate indemnity protection across our entire mortgage book, without any adverse commercial impact or material change to the terms and conditions offered.’last_img read more

It’s time to stop taking liberties with human rights

first_imgAdolf Hitler wouldn’t have known a human right if he had found one nibbling on his breakfast pumpernickel. We’re all agreed on that. The British people, on the other hand, are upstanding citizens who champion the weak and whose love of cricket embodies our profound devotion to fair play.Except a lot of us wouldn’t recognise a human right if we found it drowning in HP Sauce on a plate of bacon and eggs, either. How else to explain the widespread ignorance of what human rights mean to us? There’s a whole urban mythology around the subject. There’s the jailed sex offender who was allowed hardcore pornography because of his human rights. (He was refused.) How about the criminal lurking on the roof who was fed chicken and chips by the police because of his human rights? (They fed the guy to get him on their side, then talked him down.) Or you can pick ‘n’ choose from the terrorists or benefit cheats or bogus asylum seekers or single mothers with children from five different men who jumped the social housing queue because of their human rights. (Some losers believe anything.) So let’s get back to basics and remind ourselves of what human rights should really mean to us. Now is a good time to be doing this, because last week was wall-to-wall human rights. Thursday 10 December was not only International Human Rights Day, it was also the 61st anniversary of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. And not to be left out, the European Court of Human Rights in Strasbourg that day marked 50 years of hearing claims against Council of Europe states that had contravened their citizens’ fundamental rights. The University of Westminster School of Law hosted an afternoon event: Promoting and Protecting Human Rights in the UK. The speakers were all manning the barricades on behalf of human rights. Justice minister Michael Wills fired a broadside at ‘feral backbenchers’ in the Tory party who opposed the Human Rights Act (HRA), a piece of ‘motherhood legislation’ to which surely nobody could object. Wills also referred to the leader of the Third Reich. ‘Hitler was democratically elected,’ he said. ‘He and his judges believed they were acting within the rule of law. They were wrong. There are fundamental rights to which we are all entitled simply because we are human. These include the right to life, to liberty and security, to a fair trial, and to freedom of thought and peaceful assembly. They are basic and immutable rights and they transcend all other laws.’ And that, ladies and gentlemen, is what human rights should really mean to us, except an unholy alliance of Europhobes and alarmist media commentators have skewed public perceptions. This angers Andrew Dismore MP, chairman of parliament’s joint committee on human rights, who also spoke at the event. He conceded that the British people were largely ignorant of human rights, vaguely thinking they were something to do with Europe, but lashed out at ‘Tories backed by the Daily Mail’ who aimed to scrap the HRA and take us out of the EU. ‘Changes of attitude can happen,’ Dismore said, ‘as they did to overcome resistance to the breathalyser, for instance. We must to do more positively to promote the good that human rights have done and are doing.’ He gave examples of how they had assisted the elderly, the mentally ill and other vulnerable individuals, as well as helped counter human trafficking and the abuse of power by big business. Justice director Roger Smith also slammed the Daily Mail’s campaign against human rights, but added the Sun and the Express newspapers for good measure. He warned delegates not to see the HRA too much in terms of being a direct descendant of the Magna Carta, which ‘protected the rights of noblemen only, and discriminated against Jews and women’, or of the Bill of Rights 1689, which was ‘anti-Catholic’. The HRA genuinely protects the fundamental and inalienable rights of all human beings, Smith said, simply on the grounds that they are human beings. It’s as simple as that.last_img read more

ABI launches third-party code for insurers

first_imgThe Association of British Insurers (ABI) has launched a voluntary code of practice for insurers taking part in so-called third-party capture. The practice, referred to by the ABI as ‘third-party assistance’, involves an insurance company settling a claim directly with a personal injury victim of a policyholder, without the victim receiving independent legal advice. Personal injury lawyers have condemned the practice. The ABI code states that claimants should be informed of their right to seek independent legal advice. Initial contact with victims should be by telephone, text message, email or letter, and should not involve unsolicited visits to claimants’ homes or hospital beds. All compensation offers should be ‘fair and reasonable’. The code also states that insurers should ‘strongly recommend’ that a claimant seek independent legal advice when: dealing with minors; where there are issues over fault; where the claimant has a limited understanding of English; where the injury requires more than one medical report or is complex; where there are possible fraud issues; and where there are ‘causation issues’. The association also published a guide for claimants. However, the Association of Personal Injury Lawyers (APIL) said that the claimant guide fails to point out that the victim incurs no costs if they instruct an independent solicitor. APIL’s president, Muiris Lyons, said: ‘An injured person needs access to independent advice about such key aspects of the case as medical reports, rehabilitation and the level of compensation to be expected. The guide may well consider this an “unnecessary” legal cost, but putting peoples’ lives back on track after a needless injury is a serious matter and injured people deserve proper, independent support.’ The code, the list of insurers subscribing to the code, and the claimant guide are available on the ABI website.last_img read more

The campaign against proposed legal aid cuts gains public support

first_img ‘Like many others who will reply who regularly deal with vulnerable members of the community, we have real concerns about the increase in litigants in person which will result from these reforms – both in terms of their ability to navigate areas of law on their own, which we believe the Ministry of Justice is over-estimating, and in terms of the impact on the courts and tribunals system.’Rebecca Hilsenrath, chief executive, LawWorks ‘A father who is denied contact with his children will no longer be eligible for legal aid. I submit that that cannot be right, not only because of the father’s rights to see his children but because of the rights of the children, who have no access to justice.’ Anna Soubry MP (Conservative), House of Commons, 3 February Last week’s adjournment debate on legal aid cuts in the House of Commons marked a change in tone among MPs who, before Christmas, had not made much of the Ministry of Justice’s proposed £350m annual cut to the legal aid budget. What became evident in the debate, secured by Labour MP Yvonne Fovargue, is that MPs are starting to feel the pressure on this issue at a constituency level – from solicitors, citizens advice bureaux, barristers and groups who work with, and represent, vulnerable people. It is striking that even where coalition MPs from the Conservatives and Liberal Democrats felt obliged to preface their contributions to the debate with the party line, blaming the last Labour government for the UK’s deficit, they moved quickly on to points criticising the proposals to reduce legal aid – especially civil legal aid, which will bear the brunt of the budget cuts. It seems that what Law Society head of legal aid, Richard Miller, refers to as the ‘solid hostility’ to the cuts he has encountered at the 13 ‘roadshow’ meetings held by the Society since the cuts were announced, has been mobilised. Spend to saveOn Hilsenrath’s last point, supporters of legal aid will be pleased that the money legal aid saves the taxpayer has been referenced in debates. Justice for All insists: ‘The right advice early on can save £10 for every £1 invested and keep families together in their homes, and in work and education.’ It is a point now being made in debates by members of all of the main political parties. Bradshaw said the figure saved for the public purse was £12.20 for every pound of public money it receives. Value for money was also mentioned by Conservative Amber Rudd, who noted in the debate how much free time legal aid practitioners often dedicated to a case. But if that financial issue is more widely understood than previously, it may not necessarily lead to a fundamental change in policy. The problem is that the budget is preset, as agreed in the comprehensive spending review, with only the small print of how the saving should be achieved to be decided. The Law Society expects to see legislation that backs up the legal aid cuts by, or in, May this year for the MoJ to meet the timetable set with the Treasury. Here, challenges in the courts may have a role to play in delaying or frustrating the simple, but arbitrary, changes proposed to legal aid provision. It is early days, but the courts have a chequered history on cases related to the spending review. Last December, the Fawcett Society was unsuccessful in its attempt to bring a judicial review when it argued the government had acted unlawfully in formulating the budget last June ‘without paying due regard to gender equality laws’. The government conceded though that gender impact assessments did apply to the budget and should have been carried out in two key areas – the public sector pay freeze and certain benefit changes. A case against local government body London Councils had more success, perhaps because it was able to link arguments to more specific instances of services provision. Judicial review proceedings were brought by service users of two of the organisations affected by London Councils’ proposed cuts. On 28 January, Mr Justice Calvert-Smith quashed a decision by London Councils to cut £10m from its £26.4m grants scheme to voluntary organisations in the capital. Louise Whitfield, a solicitor at Pierce Glynn who acted for the claimants, explained at the time: ‘This case establishes that even in the current economic climate, it remains of paramount importance that public sector funding cut decisions are properly assessed for their gender, disability and race equality impacts. If they are not, public sector funding cut decisions will be unlawful.’ As well as supporting the campaign against legal aid cuts, human rights group Liberty has suspicions about the legality of proposed cuts. As Liberty notes in its own submission to the legal aid consultation: ‘The provision of legal aid is in some cases demanded by the UK’s obligations to provide a fair trial under the European Convention on Human Rights.’ Liberty’s publicity officer Rachel Robinson says Liberty will examine any legislation closely for its human rights impact: ‘Human rights protections become academic if representation is cut. At a time of collective belt-tightening, access to justice for the vulnerable is more important than ever.’ Supporters of legal aid will feel reassured that some of their key points are being recognised and repeated in parliament, and those organising the campaigns reveal that they are finding support for legal aid on all sides of the House, and not just from the ‘usual suspects’. Before the new year, parliamentarians as a group had made comparatively little fuss about the proposed £350m cut to legal aid. Here a grassroots campaign in MPs’ surgeries, local meetings and correspondence is having an effect, providing granular detail for MPs about the impact of cuts on groups of vulnerable people for whom they do casework. But given the tight timescale, supporters of legal aid still face a huge uphill struggle – they need nothing less than a U-turn. The opposition front bench makes a good point in saying that recommendations from the Carter Review, which would have made savings in the legal aid budget, are not being taken forward. But that still leaves quite a shortfall. Aside from the prospect of harrying ministries and councils in the courts, perhaps the best chance for wringing a change of policy from the MoJ, is to get the case accepted in other government departments that early, free legal advice really does save them money. Making friendsThe recent political visibility of legal aid reflects both the amount of campaigning work concerned groups have done, but also a change in their strategy to broaden the appeal of legal aid. As Jane Backhurst, head of communications, campaigns and policy at the Law Centres Federation, explains: ‘The challenge has been to change the way we campaign, building a broad coalition that goes beyond a core of legal aid providers. We have also been learning to be better at leveraging the incredible contacts that legal aid practitioners have built over time – and making those relationships work for us.’ Points made by MPs in the adjournment debate incorporated recognisable parts of briefings sent out in the preceding week by the Law Society, umbrella campaign group Justice for All, Resolution and others. But MPs seemed persuaded to speak by approaches from members of that ‘broad coalition’ in their constituencies. Lib Dem Stephen Lloyd cited his contact with the Brighton Housing Trust’s Eastbourne advice centre. Fovargue quoted the experience of her local citizens advice bureau. Conservative Anna Soubry also referred to her local CAB, as did Labour MP and former minister Ben Bradshaw. Liberal Democrat Tom Brake has already persuaded justice minister Jonathan Djanogly to meet representatives from his local CAB. Conservative Paul Uppal raised concerns about the impact of withdrawing legal aid from medical negligence cases after listening to cases brought to his constituency surgery; he also questioned the impact on other areas of public spending. Proposed changes to conditional fee agreements, Uppal observed, when combined with the withdrawal of aid, would lead to scenarios where, ‘in essence we will have public money chasing public money, in a circle that will not deliver legal justice on a value-for-money basis’. MPs’ own constituency casework gives many of them a strong empathetic link with the work of law centres and CABs. As Conservative Guto Bebb put it in the adjournment debate: ‘Since I was elected in May, I have been astounded by the amount of quasi-legal casework. I find myself dealing with cases on which I am not qualified to offer advice or guidance.’ Change in the weatherLabour MP Diane Abbott’s speech reminded the House of the way discourse on legal aid had traditionally been handled: ‘Sadly, when governments of all colours consider legal aid, they seem to zero in on the lawyers and the money that they make, rather than the millions of people whom they help.’ This debate did not reflect that usual discourse – even in the response of justice minister Jonathan Djanogly. Twenty MPs had applied to the Speaker to speak in the debate, and most were appalled by the prospect of legal aid cuts as proposed in the consultation paper. What has brought about that change in the tone of the legal aid debate? The CAB provides the central contact point for the Justice for All campaign. The organisation’s Gail Emerson confirms that the aim of the campaign from the start was to bring in support from charities and campaigning groups as well as advice providers. Scope, RNIB, Liberty and the Fawcett Society were among the organisations that added their weight to the efforts of the Law Society, CAB, the Law Centres Federation, and the Criminal bar. This is a campaigning model, Backhurst says, that borrows heavily from the ‘Make Poverty History’ campaign, with which she was also involved. The first, small step was a Christmas e-card sent to all MPs, showing Father Christmas bearing an enormous sack of ‘constituents’ problems’, and the slogan below: ‘Thousands of your constituents came to legal and advice agencies for help this year. Where will you refer them to next year?’ More important, as alliances started to develop and the campaign broadened, was the formal launch and mass lobby in parliament of Justice for All on 12 January. The event put clients helped by free legal advice centre stage in a series of presentations. It was an approach that the Law Society has been urging on solicitors in its own legal aid roadshows, and will build on with the launch of its ‘Sound off for Justice’ campaign – aimed, again, at drawing in wider public support. What has also been better conveyed to political representatives is the degree to which pro bono legal advice is dependent on a functioning legal aid system. LawWorks chief executive Rebecca Hilsenrath is vocal on this issue: ‘From the point of view of a national pro bono brokerage and clearing house, our major concern is around the misunderstanding of the relationship between pro bono and the voluntary sector.’ The legal aid consultation paper, she notes, suggests that pro bono may increase to fill the gaps left by civil legal aid. ‘But,’ she adds, ‘the reality is that pro bono programmes will shrink without the partnership and support of the voluntary sector.’ In addition, Hilsenrath argues that the paper overlooks the benefits and cost effectiveness of early intervention: ‘This is, of course, the great value added of free legal advice clinics, which depend on the advice agencies for infrastructure and support.’ ‘Human rights protection becomes academic if representation is cut. As soon as we see a bill before parliament, we will be examining it closely for its human rights impact.’ Rachel Robinson, publicity officer, Libertycenter_img ‘Nobody who has seen people queuing outside their law centre for help could support any action by any government with undermined that movement… the legal aid reforms will also undermine the practice of many high-street solicitors, who are often close to and help their community.’Diane Abbott MP (Labour), House of Commons, 3 February ‘The Society is concerned that the civil legal aid scope cuts in social welfare law such as debt, welfare benefits, housing and education together with clinical negligence, immigration, employment and family law appear to be targeted against areas of law which are most relevant to the poorest and most vulnerable members of society including people with disabilities, ethnic minorities and women.’ Parliamentary brief, The Law Society What they said ‘The narrow definition of domestic violence cases will leave women and children vulnerable and less able to seek help; the failure to address the very high-cost criminal cases is a mistake and a missed opportunity.’Andy Slaughter MP (Labour), House of Commons, 3 February ‘The challenge has been to change the way we campaign, building a broad coalition that goes beyond a core of legal aid providers. We have also been learning to be better at leveraging the incredible contacts that legal aid practitioners have built over time – and making those relationships work for us.’Jane Backhurst, head of communications, campaigns and policy at the Law Centres Federationlast_img read more

Bar Professional Training Course students ‘not up to it’

first_imgToo many people on the Bar Professional Training Course are ‘wasting their money’ because they are ‘not up to it’, the chair of the bar’s regulator declared last week.Lady Deech, chair of the Bar Standards Board, said the BSB would press ahead with its plans to introduce aptitude and English language tests for students before they can undertake the BPTC.Deech said: ‘There are too many people on the course who shouldn’t be there. We need to give a signal to those who aren’t up to it that they’re wasting their money.’Deech said language is a tool of the trade at the bar, and it is wrong to ‘let people loose on the public’ if they do not have sufficient English language skills.She said: ‘If you’re tone deaf, don’t go to music school; if y­ou have two left feet don’t go to ballet school.’The BSB chair said her comments were aimed not only at ensuring the quality of the profession, but also reflected the need to tackle the mismatch between the number of graduates and the pupillages available.BSB figures showed that last year around 1,400 students undertook the bar course, while only 478 pupillages were on offer.Deech said she was concerned about the high number of students who had spent a lot of money on training and accrued large debts, yet failed to get a job in the profession.‘If they don’t find a satisfactory career, we’ll be gaining an army of enemies,’ she said.Following a review of the bar’s vocational training in 2008, Derek Wood QC recommended the introduction of a compulsory aptitude test and an English language test for all students whose first language was not English or Welsh.BPTC providers are currently piloting the aptitude test, and an application has been made to the Legal Services Board to introduce the English test.The Law Society is considering introducing an aptitude test for students seeking to study the Legal Practice Course.last_img read more

The lessons from cases about Italian lawyers’ fees

first_imgSilvio Berlusconi thinks he is the most sued man in history. There is another Italian institution which has had its fair share of litigation recently in the EU’s Court of Justice, and that is the Italian legal profession. There was a fresh case reported this week. The cases I shall mention all concern the Italian system of lawyers’ fees. In the UK, fee scales have been abolished for decades, out of the national preference for free market systems. But they exist in other countries, including Italy. The cases below show two things clearly. First, within the EU there are at least two approaches to issues to be tackled, one through competition, and the other through Single Market provisions (Member States should not have systems which block free movement). The attacks on lawyers’ fees have involved both. The second lesson is that nostrums which we hold dear, such as the free market, do not find favour everywhere. The first was the Arduino case (C-35/99), where the question was whether the competition provisions in the Treaty precluded Italy from continuing with a fee-setting procedure where the minimum and maximum to be charged by lawyers was recommended by the Bar and adopted by the government. Essentially, the Court said that there was nothing wrong with it, since the Italian government had leeway whether to agree to the Bar’s recommendations or not. The second was Cipolla (C-94/04 and C-202/04) (actually, two cases combined concerning people whose names translate into English as Mr Onion and Mr Melon, obviously from a country where food is important). There were several questions, but they boiled down to whether the Italian fee system was contrary to competition and single market provisions, since there was generally no derogation from the system, whether for services reserved to lawyers or for out-of-court services provided by others not subject to the scale. The fee scales were not struck down, and on the Single Market aspects the matter was referred back to the national court for decision. Shocking to UK ears, used to the rule of the free market, is the following sentence from the Court to which it asked the national court to pay attention: “Although it is true that a scale imposing minimum fees cannot prevent members of the profession from offering services of mediocre quality, it is conceivable that such a scale does serve to prevent lawyers, in a context such as that of the Italian market which, as indicated in the decision making the reference, is characterised by an extremely large number of lawyers who are enrolled and practising, from being encouraged to compete against each other by possibly offering services at a discount, with the risk of deterioration in the quality of the services provided.” Then there is a new case, out just this week, Commission v Italy (C-565/08). As you can see, the enemies of the Italian fee system do not give up. This time the Commission attacked the maximum fees charged under the Italian scale on the basis that they interfere with the Single Market. The Commission said that the maximum fees subject EU lawyers from outside Italy, who want to provide services in Italy, to additional costs resulting from the application of the Italian system of fees, as well as to a reduction in profit margins and therefore a loss of competitiveness. However, the Court did not think that the Commission had proved its case, and went on to praise the Italian fee system as “characterised by a flexibility which appears to allow proper remuneration for all types of services provided by lawyers. “Thus, in cases which are particularly important, complex or difficult, the fees may be increased by up to twice the maximum tariffs applicable by default, and, for cases which are exceptionally important, by up to four times those limits or even more where there is a clear lack of proportionality, in view of the circumstances of the individual case, between the services of the lawyer and the maximum tariffs. “It is also open to lawyers, in numerous situations, to conclude a special agreement with their clients to fix the amount of the fees.” My point is that we, and particularly UK regulators, should consider having many arrows in our quiver, and not only the one marked Free Market.last_img read more

Good legal service matters

first_imgWith regard to ‘Join a brand, warns Holt’ there is a fundamental difference between providing a service and selling a product. Tesco and WHSmith sell products. The legal profession provides legal services. Some may wish their ‘service’ to be from a brand and will be willing to be treated as a customer and for a price. Most, owing to the personal nature and importance to them of the matter, will wish to have a service from someone they know and trust. As a profession we are being criticised (in some instances quite rightly) from many quarters and feel the need to react. But should our development be driven by what others say we should be doing, or by the people who instruct us and who we deal with on a regular basis? Those who demand change often believe that change is the way to manage and demonstrate their competence. History suggests the opposite is true, but then when did we ever learn from history? Richard Tinn, Richard Tinn Solicitors, Boston, Lincolnshirelast_img read more

In our interests

first_img Reg Le Pla, Bradford Franklin Sinclair in the letter ‘Zero Support’ has only himself to blame. There is no purpose in having unprintable feelings or shouting about ‘outrage’ when the solution is in his own hands. The moral is: don’t do work if there is no possibility of payment. You can certainly get a good reputation by doing such work and no doubt put smiles on a lot of faces. But nobody of any influence in government or elsewhere is going to pay us to do work if, as a body, we have shown a willingness to do it free of charge. Months ago there was a suggestion that payment for representation at police stations would come to an end. What happens? At least one major ‘player’ in criminal representation went on public record saying such a step would make no difference to them and that representation would continue as before. Is there ever going to come a time when we put aside the pernicious doctrine of politically correct attitudes and spend just a small part of our time protecting and enhancing our own interests? Every passing day makes me more doubtful.last_img read more