30 Sep

Criminal solicitors and barristers unite against the MoJ

first_imgThe rise of solicitor higher court advocates and the perception that barristers have come off better than solicitors in legal aid fee cuts has, over the past couple of years, led to frostiness between the two branches of the profession. And the government has doubtless used a divide and rule strategy to its advantage as it has sought to implement its unrelenting programme of reform. But over recent months, as the relationship between the Ministry of Justice and the Legal Services Commisson has chilled (culminating in the former commissioning a report on whether the latter is actually fit for purpose), the relationship between criminal solicitors and the bar has warmed slightly. The cause of this thaw is the MoJ proposal to cut the fees of defence advocates by 23%. For criminal barristers and solicitors already feeling hard hit, this plan has proven one step too far. Following the principle my enemy’s enemy is my friend, the professions have united to fight the MoJ. Last week saw the first ever joint meeting of the Criminal Law Solicitors Association and the Criminal Bar Association (CBA). The meeting heard that the Bar Council and the Law Society are working together to see how best to challenge the proposal. CBA chairman Paul Mendelle QC said: ‘Let’s stick together – we’re all in this together. This is not a time to fight among ourselves.’ And Law Society chief executive Des Hudson told delegates that Chancery Lane stands ‘shoulder to shoulder’ with the Bar Council. Delivering the Kalisher lecture earlier this month, the Lord Chief Justice Lord Judge also advocated unity. There is, he said, no point in the legal professions ‘arguing with each other or indeed self-destructing’. This new-found desire for unity is a testament to the anger felt by both sides of the profession over the fee cuts proposed by the MoJ and the manner in which it has sought to implement them. It remains to be seen how long this cordiality lasts – presumably until one side cosies up to government and stuffs the other.last_img

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