Given the long winded nature of this report I shall deal with what is important first.

The many people that need to be thanked

At last year's AGM I likened the committee to a football team. It really was a huge team effort that was needed to navigate through the obstacle course of this year.

Our manager Sandra Dawson retired after 25 years at the helm in the summer, but unlike most managers she remained closely involved to ensure a smooth transition to her successor Sara Boxer, who we welcomed as administrator. I had the honour of working closely with Sandra throughout my 7 years on the committee in particularly as training officer, Vice President and President. She and Steven are sorely missed and thanks again for making the association the organisation thatit is.

Jenny Wiltshire, for stepping in and ensuring that our successful European conference in Madrid happened , for patiently taking minutes as secretary , recruiting Sandra's successor and for enormous help in ensuring the summer party was the success that it was .

Julian Hayes, for working with me as Vice president and joining me on this journey of hope and disappointment, I think we met more at the café opposite MOJ then anywhere else. No one can blame Julian for needing to prioritise his practice in these trying times.

Paul Harris for being Paul Harris and doing what Paul Harris does best.

Jim Meyer, who sits in Belfast and controls us all, most particularly the response Hubs would never have seen light of day without him. Jim again supported the Association to ensure the seamless transition from Sandra to Sara.

Tim Walker , our treasurer , who stands down after two years has kept an eye on the figures and absorbed the stress of our huge JR liabilities whilst others focussed on the matter in hand .

Diana Payne, for ensuring that we continued to provide a quality training programme to enable our members to enjoy their complement of relevant CPD points.

Greg Foxsmith , from whom you will hear much, much, much, more of in next year , for running the vote for justice campaign and taking control over the issue of our legal costs, as well as recruiting Sandra's successor.

Tony Meisels, Law Reform officer, ensuring the association has a response to every consultation out there (and giving me a lift home after meetings).

Mel Stooks, for editing the advocate and ensuring that the LCCSA institution continues after the departure of Gwyn Morgan.

Steve Bird, running the association football team and as our own Statto, producing that excellent widely read document, on the real level of the January cuts.

Rhona Freidman, for being just very clever, working with Paul on the Tuesday Truth and taking forward various initiatives such as the bid withdrawal campaign.

Rakesh Bhasin, working on various projects including attendance at meetings with MOJ and contributing to our response to the latest publication of CBAM.

Superhuman Nicola Hill, for nudging me to do the right thing now and again. ​

Jon White, who has drafted an excellent response arguing that solicitors can enhance advocacy without others dictating rules. Sorry that you are leaving us.

Mark Troman, tirelessly campaigning and organising round the direct action in July.

Ali Parker, for his passionate advocacy of politicising the issues we have been facing.

Lucinda Nichols, for her enthusiasm, forensic examination of our legal costs and initiatives in regards to younger members.

Joy Merriam, Malcolm Duxbury, Zaki Hashmi and Raymond Shaw for all providing support when it was crucially needed.

I have spent a long time with CLSA colleagues and friends, Bill Waddington and Robin Murray and over the last few months new Chair Zoe Gascoyne. We have really been into this together, emailing and conference calls, often daily throughout this camp. I would again to thank Bill and Robin for three excellent years in their position and congratulate Zoe, who I have every confidence of working well with Greg.

To those colleagues at the Bar who "got it" and understood the realities facing solicitors forks as a result of the cuts and tendering and the need for sustained unified approach from start to finish.

My Partner, Jim Skelsey, who has never moaned at my non availability for court /fee earning due to having to attend “meetings" and been 100% supportive of time spend out of the office this past year.

And of course to Sara, who clearly feared an LCCSA withdrawal at the end of my term and will have to find something else to keep me out of the house.

November 2014

I started my term awaiting for the response of the post JR 1 consultation. Two and half weeks later the MOJ announced that they would increase the number of contracts by 2 to 527 with the tendering process opening immediately for a period of 8 weeks until 29th January . The new contracts were to commence on 1st October 2015. Had all had gone according to plan for MoJ we would be 5 weeks into TT as we stand today. That consultation also confirmed that a further cut in July 2015 would be made "subject to further consideration "

The tender process was soon halted on that dramatic 23rd December morning when many lawyers realised that instead of spending Christmas fretting over bids they would be able to dream of a life where they just might be left alone. Over that period there was a concerted attempt to raise funds for the cost of litigation through the auction. The generosity of those who donated and those who bid was overwhelming.

The judicial review was heard on February 8th and 9th followed by judgment against us on 18th February. The tender process remained suspended until leave to appeal was considered. Such leave was granted on a sunny February 27th as the suspension was extended until the hearing of the appeal on 19th February.

How sweet it would have been to have gathered in Old Palace Yard for the Not the Global Law summit event with a high court victory against Grayling and in favour of access to justice under our belt, particularly as Chris Grayling and friends pretended to the international delegates that there was no crisis in legal aid. Sadly it wasn’t to be but we knew how to make a noise that weekend as marchers walked from Runnymede to the Queen Elizabeth conference centre where our protests might have embarrassed some inside the building.

The Master of the Rolls gave us a glimmer hope in March as the final saga of litigation was heard in the Court of Appeal. Sadly by 20th March it was all over. The tendering process re-opened for five weeks.

Receiving Judgment under embargo was very difficult for Julian, myself,Paul, Robin and Bill who between us were bound to hold back the news of decisions that affected thousands of livelihoods.

Many firms pinning hopes on the success of litigation had not contemplated preparing their bids as of yet. Firms had to make a decision quickly, knowing that unified action with the bar (who were working with the government to restrict solicitor advocacy) had not worked, knowing that litigation had not worked, firms had a short window to decide.

Voting for Justice

Sadiq Khan, shadow justice Secretary, with encouragement from our friend Karl Turner had already indicated that he would abandon dual contracts if labour was elected. This looked a distinct possibility and so we focused our energies during the final tendering period into rallying for such an outcome.

There was much talk during this period of the pausing of the process under the purdah convention. Unfortunately Mr Grayling behaved like a man with unfinished business to do not only rushing thorough the court charged but also refusing to pause this scheme until after the election. He knew that once the bids were in, it would be very difficult for any successors whatever their views to undo it.

The LCCSA did what we could setting up a Vote for justice campaign marshalled by Greg Foxsmith and Rhona Friedman. It was all we could do and wasn't enough. When we gathered in Westminster Central Hall for the vote for justice to rally bids were already going in and we were desperate for a change of government.

Grayling Days Are Over

May 8th was as depressing as when we had received judgment on both the JR and appeal. Mr Gove replaced the much ridiculed and maligned Grayling. What would he be like? We were hearing noises (mainly from the bar) that he was intelligent and would listen. However by the time the five of us met him at the end of May he was insistent that the TT train had left the station and there was too little for him to do about it.

We heard his speech to the Legatum institute in which he talked of repairing our creaking justice system yet on 8th June he announced an intention to proceed with dual contracts along with the second cut in our rates. He maintained the status quo for advocacy fees. For months I had been asking the MoJ to confirm whether there would be parity in terms of treatment of the AGFs and litigators fees. The MOJ sought clarification from the law society as to the impact of the earlier cuts. Over a 48 hour period we facilitated the provision of the evidence from over 150 firms setting out the dire impact of these cuts on their firms and staff. This was ignored and despite the fact that we were told the cut would be "subject to further consideration” the MOJ confirmed that they were proceeding with the cut as of 1st July.

I am still mystified and yet to receive a straight and logical answer as to why the AGFs were protected from fee cuts yet the litigators are slashed to death. No one will give us a straight answer and it is issues like that has the potential to drive a wedge between the professions and the MoJ.

This second cut united the profession, firms large and small like never before. Whether pro dual contracts or not no one felt that the July cut was sustainable and there was a sense of injustice as to why the Litigators were not spared in the same way as advocates fees. Doubters outside our profession had goaded that we were not united enough for direct action. For every doubter there were several supporters, and thanks particularly goes to those chambers around the county that shared our belief we could take direct action, facilitated joint meetings and indeed unilaterally decided to commence no reins alongside us at end beginning of July . Many of you felt let down by the move to protocol two which coincided with the CBA formally joining the fray and both relived and disappointed in equal measure when the unprecedented five weeks of Acton was halted pending negotiations.

The action of course was made all the more difficult during protocol 1 by the deployment of firms by the MOJ into outside areas and then the referral list of firms willing to take in cases in the crown courts.

There were many calls for bid withdrawals and although a campaign was launched I think it's fair to say that if many of the bidders knew then what they know now they would have withdrawn.

I was personally disappointed by the outcome of the action. We didn't take such drastic steps in order to obtain a mere suspension of the 8.75 cut under the new fee structure. The MOJ refused to accept that the January cut was a cut as such, describing it as "cost neutral”. Continued meetings with Mr Gove's advisers we were told that they were in course for duty contracts to go ahead in January.

All that was left was to await the outcome of the bids "expected in September" it was always expected that there was potential for litigation by unsuccessful bidders. We were assured that there would be an announcement in last week of September but then that it was to be delayed as these awards are life changing for so many providers.

The only announcement we had in that week was that the MOJ had listened to squeals about referral fees and in house instruction, accordingly they had decided to kill two birds with one stone and sweep away solicitor advocates while reducing the numbers of practicing solicitors.

The association has prepared a robust response to this consultation, drafted by departing Committee member Jon White. It will probably go someday to silence those clamouring for these hurdles to be placed.

We were now told that due to quality issues there was to be a prolonged agony. Not just for bidders but for non-bidders who still hoped that this may not happen. Then came the final twist in this plot. One which none of us could have authored.....Freddy Hurleston and the “nightmares on petty France “. On the eve of the bid awards , an ex LAA employee contacted Robin Murray and myself as well as the Law Society to blow the whistle on what we always suspected to be a flawed process . The awards were announced the next day, with more upsets and surprises than the third round of the FA cup.

With litigation now lodged and injunctions in 69 of 85 areas I am hoping my successor will be the last of four Presidents starting with Akhtar, Nicola and then me to end this battle. Once the battle is ended we have started laying the groundwork for re building provision of our services with cross profession working group ( including members Of the bar genuinely interested in fair distribution ) to look at the funding starting with a blank canvas . The LAA have agreed to discuss with us restructuring of the litigator fees in line with the AGFS review.

Direct Action

This second cut united the profession, firms large and small like never before. Whether pro dual contracts or not no one felt that the July cut was sustainable and there was a sense of injustice as to why the Litigators were not spared in the same way as advocates fees. Doubters outside our profession had goaded that we were not united enough for direct action. For every doubter there were several supporters, and thanks particularly goes to those chambers around the county that shared our belief we could take direct action, facilitated joint meetings and indeed unilaterally decided to commence no reins alongside us at end beginning of July . Many of you felt let down by the move to protocol two which coincided with the CBA formally joining the fray and both relived and disappointed in equal measure when the unprecedented five weeks of Acton was halted pending negotiations.

The action of course was made all the more difficult during Protocol 1 by the deployment of firms by the MOJ into outside areas and then the referral list of firms willing to take in cases in the crown courts.

There were many calls for bid withdrawals and although a campaign was launched I think it's fair to say that if many of the bidders knew then what they know now they would have withdrawn.

I was personally disappointed by the outcome of the action. We didn't take such drastic steps in order to obtain a mere suspension of the 8.75 cut under the new fee structure. The MOJ refused to accept that the January cut was a cut as such, describing it as "cost neutral”. Continued meetings with Mr Gove's advisers we were told that they were in course for duty contracts to go ahead in January.

Waiting for the Awards

All that was left was to await the outcome of the bids "expected in September" it was always expected that there was potential for litigation by unsuccessful bidders. We were assured that there would be an announcement in last week of September but then that it was to be delayed as these awards are life changing for so many providers.

The only announcement we had in that week was that the MOJ had listened to squeals about referral fees and in house instruction, accordingly they had decided to kill two birds with one stone and sweep away solicitor advocates while reducing the numbers of practicing solicitors.

We were now told that due to quality issues there was to be a delay. Not just for bidders but for non-bidders who still hoped that this may not happen. Then came the final twist in this plot. One which none of us could have authored.....Freddy Hurleston and the nightmares on petty France. On the eve of the bid awards , an ex LAA employee contacted Robin Murray and myself as well as the Law Society to blow the whistle on what we always suspected to be a flawed process . The awards were announced the next day, with more upsets and surprises than the third round of the FA cup.

With litigation now lodged and injunctions in 69 of 85 areas I am hoping my successor will be the last of four Presidents starting with Akhtar, Nicola and then me to end this battle. Once the battle is ended we have started laying the groundwork for re building provision of our services with cross profession working group ( including members Of the bar genuinely interested in fair distribution ) to look at the funding starting with a blank canvas . The LAA have agreed to discuss with us restructuring of the litigator fees in line with the AGFS review.

And In Other News

It is unfortunate that one of the most significant developments in criminals practice has become almost a footnote during this year, the Leveson Review was published in January and the wide ranging proposals are so vital that we need a seat at the table. We explained directly to Lord Leveson that his proposals can't operate in did context of government cuts as the two were incompatible. Yet we as representatives are content to embrace reform for the greater good and have attended on behalf of the profession various consultation groups,whether it is Paul on the CPR committee, Greg on the better case management group, Ahktar and Jim on digital working group or Rakesh and I at the CCCG and there are many others as well. Hopefully if dual contracts collapses we can seize the initiative for reform.

We are sorry to have lost Gwynn the advocate editor after several years of producing quality publication , we wish Gwynn and Max a peaceful retirement

We Need YOUR Help

Briefly membership had increased slightly and thanks you all for your continued support, but we do find ourselves in a precarious financial position. If there is to be any criticism for squandering members money on the failed litigation then the buck stops with me. Where we were advised that there is a chance of defeating two tier we thought the chance was worth taking given the livelihoods that were at stake. The next few weeks will demonstrate we were right. Thank you all for your generous support if you can spare further contributions towards the associations £23,000 a shortfall towards Tsol costs it would be most welcome.

Jonathan Black
LCCSA President
November 2014-2015

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