Wednesday 10th December was always going to be an important day in the history of our battle with the Government over the introduction of the Two Tier System.
We had indicated on this group immediately after issue of the tender documentation first of all an appeal for calm and secondly a reassurance that we would be taking advice on the prospects of a possible Judicial Review against the process. We had also given an indication that preliminary advice from solicitors Kingsley Napley was positive.
On the 10th December we had the opportunity of a long and informative conference with Counsel, Mr Jason Coppel QC. As many of you will know by now, the advice is that there are grounds to issue Judicial Review proceedings against the tender and also grounds to apply to the Court for interim relief to stop the tender process pending the hearing of the substantive arguments.
Also on Wednesday 10th December the Council of The Law Society met to discuss whether The Law Society should launch Judicial Review proceedings.
Prior to the Council meeting there had been meetings between the CLSA/LCCSA and the very supportive President of The Law Society, Mr Andrew Caplen.
Those discussions had covered the possibility of both sets of organisations issuing separate proceedings.
Some may wonder why it is necessary for two sets of proceedings to be issued. We hope everyone will appreciate from the last time Judicial Review proceedings were conducted that we are limited in what can be said over the airwaves as to the content of the JR. These arguments must be fully aired in Court and not over social media so please bear with me over the next few weeks if you find it difficult to discover the precise nature of the Judicial Review proceedings.
However, insofar as two sets of proceedings being issued We think it is important to confirm that whilst there will be similarity in the nature of the arguments, there will also be slightly different arguments from The Law Society on the one hand and the two Associations on the other. This however will be a two pronged attack. The Law Society has engaged the services of Bindmans and Dinah Rose QC.
On any view, the overall Judicial Review team is quite formidable.
Insofar as funding is concerned, we are very grateful to the Council of The Law Society which agreed simply to rollover the financial support offered but unused on the last occasion – that being £45,000.00.
The Two associations have in place a substantial sum arising from the previous appeal and the generous donations made by firms, individual solicitors, barristers chambers and individual members of the Bar. With the pledge from The Law Society, this gives us sufficient to lodge proceedings. However, we will need to raise more funds and we appeal to your generosity once more.
There are two reasons for this.
· In the first proceedings, Counsel’s fees were underestimated. The two associations have agreed that the work carried out by Counsel on the last occasion was exceptional. It could never have been envisaged at the start of the proceedings that there was going to be so much additional work with far more documentation than had been anticipated and much of it produced rather late in the day (does that sound familiar?!)
This payment has still to be made and so would reduce the funds available.
· We think that the cost of these proceedings, which will include an application for interim relief, will be a little more expensive than the last time and we therefore believe we will need to raise at least another £50k. (We have not as yet received a costs estimate but will of course keep everyone posted).
Members may say why they should be asked to make further donations when The Law Society is also bringing proceedings.
I answer that in the following way:-
o As mentioned above, the grounds, although similar in part will differ in others and a two pronged attack is better than one.
o It may well be that during the course of the proceedings, there are without prejudice negotiations. If that were to be the case,we believe our membership would want the two associations to also be included in any discussions. By being parties to the action, we will be thus ensuring there could be no settlement without our involvement .
We need all solicitors affected by this to join the associations, without the associations and their committees we wouldn’t be able to go this far. If any new prospective member donates over £250 to the fund we will throw in one year’s membership of LCCSA or CLSA if you are outside greater London.
Details as to how to contribute, together with a direct link for online contributions will be with you shortly.