Legal Aid


PUBLISHED October 20, 2006

Appearing before the trade union relevant to your department is the gauntlet every government minister has to run, and Lord Falconer took it admirably on the chin when he faced questions from the floor at the Law Society annual conference last week.

The presence of Law Society President Fiona Woolf and chief executive Desmond Hudson on the panel alongside him was largely superfluous as, in the main, angry legal aid practitioners were not going to miss the chance to pin the Lord Chancellor down. And when he admitted to Caroline Little, co-chairwoman of the Association of Lawyers for Children, that he would look again at fixed fees for family and civil work, Ms Little and everyone else seemed briefly dumbstruck (although she then gathered herself to focus pointedly on the fact that Lord Falconer had repeatedly told the conference there was no new money).

There were no friends to be found anywhere for the minister, and when broadcaster John Stapleton ? who chaired the boisterous session with aplomb ? said he would never go to a will writer, only a solicitor, to draw up his will, Lord Falconer wailed: ?Well done for ingratiating yourself with the audience.? But these things have to be put in perspective. We imagine that many of the Lord Chancellor?s cabinet colleagues, who have to face heckling from massive gatherings of teachers, nurses and the like, would give their right arms to face the displeasure of 300 polite lawyers in the refined surrounds of Chancery Lane. The only bad behaviour was a growl of ?rubbish? from one delegate while Lord Falconer was explaining how firms will profit from efficiencies under the legal aid reforms. But we suspect he was speaking for the other 299.