During my inaugural speech at the AGM back in November, I mentioned the unique set of challenges which the profession faced in the LCCSA?s 65th year. Not only were firms struggling to cope with the sustained series of deep cuts and increased costs associated with an over regulated profession, but also alternative business structures posed a new challenge. I referred to the fact that the spectre of competitive tendering had not disappeared, not being aware that it would return sooner than had been anticipated.
The announcement that there would be an accelerated consultation and tendering timetable may have been a surprise; but the strength of the reaction of members to this threat to justice was not.
If there is one positive thing that the consultation on PCT has achieved, it is the degree of unity within the profession which currently exists in opposition to it.
Following the gloom which descended during the week the paper was published, members were quickly galvanised into action. It was inspiring to see the response: big firms, small firms and individual lawyers have commented and written powerful articles and blogs about the fundamental flaws in the proposals which attack the very essence of what is required to provide an appropriate balance against the state in an adversarial criminal justice system.
The LCCSA sub-committee, formed for this specific purpose, met two days after the publication of the consultation paper and again a week later. It is actively campaigning against the proposals on your behalf and will initially continue to meet on a weekly basis. A number of firms have offered support and several individuals have come forward to volunteer many hours of effort to further the work of this sub- committee, for which the association is very grateful.
- We believe there are strong arguments against the proposals based on fundamental principles, the practical consequences and the financial case. Work is being done to ensure those arguments are set out in a clear form to be communicated to the profession, politicians, media and general public.
- We have had meetings with senior politicians from government and opposition. Further meetings with politicians are being arranged. We encourage members to make appointments to see their local MPs ? and to liaise with us so that we know who has been contacted. We also need to be told when those meetings will take place so that we can assist you to prepare for them.
- We are jointly hosting a national meeting on the afternoon of 22 May 2013 at Friends House Euston to debate the proposals alongside the CLSA, LAPG and the Criminal Bar Association. (4) An important aspect of the campaign will be to ensure that the public understand the real consequences of these proposals and that the message is not lost in the spin against fat cat lawyer sand high-profile cases with which the public have no sympathy. Blogs, tweets and targeted press reports are being organised.
- We are also liaising with the judiciary to ensure that they understand the consequences of these proposals.
- We are working with colleagues from other organisations to co-ordinate our action.This will be key to an effective campaign. Meetings are being arranged around London to ensure all criminal solicitors ? whether LCCSA members or not ? have the opportunity to be involved in the campaign.
In order to ensure that this campaign againstthe proposals is fought as strongly as possible, we have set up a battle fund. This will cover some of the professional fees that we will have to incur to ensure that our voice is heard effectively.
While the focus of the association is understandably upon the campaign, the regular work of the committee goes on. We continue to represent members? interests at the criminal contracts consultative group meetings held once a month and at the digital working meetings.
The webinars continue to provide fantastic value for the membership fee, enabling members to accumulate 16 CPD points at a time convenient to them. We continue to work hard to encourage new members to join the association in these difficult times to ensure that our voice is heard.