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Wednesday, 29 May 2013

In praise of lawyers - just for a change!

It is a truth universally acknowledged that lawyers get a bad press. It goes with the territory – rather like being an Estate Agent or a Politician. At one level we learn to live with it and to put up with the endless lawyer jokes. Why are all lawyers like bananas? Because they’re yellow, bent and hang round in bunches!

But there can also be certain nastiness when the words ‘fat cat’, ‘ambulance chaser’ and most misleadingly of all ‘No Win. No Fee’ are used. This does make it difficult for us to campaign against attacks on Access to Justice because the spin will always be that the lawyers are just protecting their own interests. The fact that many legal aid lawyers earn no more than teachers or social workers is largely ignored.

So it’s about time the world got to hear about what lawyers really do. For example my own firm has just acted pro bono for the trustees of a food bank charity in relation to a lease of some premises. I have blogged before about the scandal that food banks are needed in this century!

This was just small job to support a worthy cause. Across the country hundreds of lawyers will have done something similar. It is something we all do regularly and which gets virtually no attention.

Last week there were two major events in London. On Thursday 23rd May hundreds of lawyers took to the streets of London to protest against proposed ‘reforms to criminal legal aid that will leave defendants with little or no choice over who will represent them. This was not just a case of lawyers’ protecting themselves. Well known victim of injustice Gerry Conlon said - ‘Without legal aid me, the Birmingham Six and the Maguires would still be in prison.’ The second event was the London Legal Walk which saw over 7,000 lawyers and judges take part in a Charity Walk to raise money for free legal advice and assistance in the London area. The march raised over £500k.

There is a series of similar walks planned over coming months.

We will be walking in Liverpool on 19th September. There is a dilemma here which is similar to that facing food banks. This should not be necessary. The state should ensure that all have equal access to justice regardless of wealth. But the reality is that in the face of a government that does not listen we cannot allow the unmet need to continue. These are not ‘fat cats’. They are professionals who are genuinely worried that our justice system is being allowed to fall into decline.

These events do not get great media coverage. Maybe we should shout out more about what we do!


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  2. Six international law firms awarded licences in Singapore's first Qualifying Foreign Law Practice (QFLP) round will need to secure a renewal next year if they wish to continue practising local law.

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  4. It is important that these events take place and that we work to protect our legal system.