Prejudice against solicitor-advocates is a ‘fact of life’, says solicitor QC

first_imgPrejudice from the bar and bench against solicitor higher court advocates (HCAs) is ‘a fact of life’, the first female solicitor QC has alleged. June Venters, who was made a QC in 2007, told the Gazette that as a solicitor HCA she has experienced hostility and rudeness from barristers and judges before and since becoming a silk. ‘I’ve come across some charming judges and barristers, but there are others who are clearly prejudiced and have made that known to me – it’s just a fact of life.’ Her comments follow the escalation in tension between the bar and solicitors in light of criticism made of three HCAs by Judge Gledhill and a letter from Desmond Browne QC, bar chairman, about the ‘threat’ posed to the referral bar by the increase in HCAs. Venters said HCAs, who now number almost 5,000, present an unwelcome threat to the bar. The full interview with Venters will be published in the August issue of Solutions, the magazine of the Law Society’s dispute resolution section.last_img read more

Read More

Law Society launches election manifesto

first_img Download the manifesto, Delivering Justice The Law Society today published a policy manifesto ahead of the forthcoming general election, urging all political parties to respect the rule of law and safeguard access to justice. The 24-page document, contains a detailed and wide-ranging ‘wishlist’ of recommendations, ranging from support for the retention of an open coroners system to creating a permanent body to simplify tax law. Chancery Lane also urges the next government to restore the status of the legal aid system to that of a frontline service such as health and education. As well as maintaining legal aid eligibility at current levels, the next administration should work with legal aid practitioners on a ‘new covenant’ to enable practitioners to plan with confidence, it recommends. Another major theme is the defence of citizens’ rights at a time of greater state intrusion into people’s lives. Law Society president Robert Heslett said: ‘The Law Society has always worked to secure a fair and just society where the rights and liberties of citizens are properly protected. In our view, all political parties need to commit publicly to ensuring that their policies support – rather than endanger – the rule of law. We risk destroying our freedoms under the law while we seek security. In recent years, the policies of the major parties have not focused heavily enough on ensuring access to justice – and the increasing lack of availability of legal aid is a very worrying trend – the rule of law means nothing if there is no access to justice.’ He continued: ‘We also need to ensure that civil rights and liberties are protected – not eroded – and that the process of governing itself is improved. All too often political parties react in a knee-jerk way to short-term pressures, with legislation sometimes being rushed through with inadequate scrutiny from all sides.’ Heslett added: ‘In our manifesto, published today, we focus on a return to the rule of law as our society’s principle in a time of economic, social and political change. The solicitors’ profession has been crucial, over the years, in supporting and maintaining the “rule of law” and it remains committed to this. However, it is important that politicians of all parties themselves commit to supporting the rule of law both in their campaigning and governing.’last_img read more

Read More

CQS needs teeth

first_imgPaul Marsh is quite right, in talking about the Conveyancing Quality Scheme (CQS), when he says ‘it is crucial that good firms of whatever size are able to compete on quality and not just on price with substandard firms’. We are a Lexcel-accredited firm with 25 partners and we support the CQS. We pride ourselves in using experienced conveyancers and offering clients a one-to-one relationship; this is what clients value. However, we are being squeezed on price, both by some of the so-called ‘factory’ conveyancers and also by some high street firms. We are in neither camp. We are in what Ed Miliband might call ‘the squeezed middle’. We are happy to deal with anyone. However, we sometimes find it difficult dealing with those who attempt to cut costs by using inexperienced ‘case handlers’ who adopt a tick-box mentality and whose knee-jerk reaction to a hint of a problem is to reach for an indemnity policy. Equally, we have trouble dealing with those who do not resource their conveyancing properly, who never seem to return phone calls and who fail to respond in a timely fashion to correspondence. As always, it is the actions of the few that spoil it for the majority of firms who are doing a great job for their clients. An important element of CQS is how you deal with the other side in a conveyancing transaction. If it is to succeed, CQS needs teeth, and action must be taken against those who pay lip service to its underlying principles. Richard Atkins , property partner, Taylor Walton, St Albanslast_img read more

Read More

Referral fee ‘witch hunt’ will ‘jeopardise thousands of jobs’

first_imgMinisters have been warned that banning personal injury referral fees will put thousands of jobs at risk and do nothing to reduce insurance premiums. Darren Werth, chairman of the Claims Standards Council, which represents claims management businesses, admitted he was shocked by the government’s announcement. Werth accused the insurance lobby of running a ‘propaganda campaign’ against the industry and warned that many people will be worried about their jobs following the ban. ‘I cannot understand any motivation for this other than a witch hunt and it has caught everyone totally unawares,’ he said. ‘There are roughly 3,500 claims management companies in this country with thousands of staff. You’re talking about a loss of revenue in corporation tax and VAT, not to mention potential unemployment for many. ‘Insurers are the real offenders here and as a result claims management companies and solicitors will suffer, with no benefit for the client – indeed premiums will probably rise.’ Werth stressed that just 14% of personal injury cases are filed as a result of a referral fee, with a far greater proportion of clients finding a solicitor through advertising or word of mouth. He said claims management companies usually receive around £200 for an average referral involving a name and contact details, with the charge only rising when the CMC carries out lengthy vetting work and background checks that save time for both the solicitor and insurer. ‘Referral fees are an effective way of marketing and why should the legal profession not be allowed to market their services? ‘One insurer in 2009 spent £182m on advertising but no-one is questioning that. There is no evidence that premiums will fall as a result of this and the worry is that it will push referral fees underground.’ He said the Claims Standards Council will now wait for more details on the ban, including how the government plans to define a referral fee and when the ban is likely to implemented.last_img read more

Read More

Reform could curtail Strasbourg

first_imgThe government has high hopes of reaching an agreement in Brighton next month that will lead to major reforms to the European Convention on Human Rights and the court in Strasbourg that enforces it. Britain’s proposals are set out in a draft declaration which the government hopes will be approved by the 47 member states of the Council of Europe that are bound by the convention when they meet at a high-level and, no doubt, high-security conference by the seaside. What is not on the table is withdrawing the right of 800 million Europeans to petition the court directly – the reason the court now has more than 150,000 pending applications. Although several member states might welcome such a drastic curtailment of the court’s powers, I am told that none was willing to say so publicly. Instead, the leaked draft puts a strong emphasis on implementing the convention at national level in order to reduce the number of cases brought before the court. This is backed up by some important amendments which Britain hopes will become the 15th protocol to the convention. Of the two reforms that stand out, one would impose stricter admissibility criteria, while the other would allow the court to issue advisory opinions. Paragraph 23 of the draft declaration would render an application inadmissible ‘if it is the same in substance as a matter that has been examined by a national court taking into account the rights guaranteed by the convention’. But there would be two exceptions, allowing Strasbourg to admit an application if the ‘national court clearly erred in its interpretation or application of the convention rights’, or if the application ‘raises a serious question affecting the interpretation or application of the convention’. It would be for the court to decide whether a case came within these exceptions. What is not clear is whether the national court would even have had to consider the individual applicant’s claim. On this wording, all that would need to have been considered at national level was the issue raised by the case. According to a ‘non-paper’ circulated last October, the intention is to reduce the number of cases being reconsidered in Strasbourg. Certainly, paragraph 21 of the declaration seeks to ensure that the court ‘adjudicates only those cases in which the principle or the significance of the violation warrants consideration by the court’. Where does that leave the right of individual petition, described in the draft as a ‘cornerstone of the convention system’? What’s proposed may be fine if you live in a country that respects human rights but must be deeply alarming to those in Europe’s ‘emerging democracies’. And it is not as if the reform will reduce the court’s workload. According to a leaked ‘preliminary opinion of the court’ adopted on 20 February, ‘it is probable that assessment of whether proper or due consideration had occurred or whether the national courts had manifestly erred would, in any event, require systematic and thorough examination’. The court says it already considers similar factors in deciding whether to reject an application as ‘manifestly ill-founded’. The judges were equally sniffy about the idea in paragraph 19 that they should give advisory opinions. These would, it seems, be available only very rarely. First, a state wanting to use the system would have to opt in. Second, the case would have to get as far as the state’s supreme court or its constitutional court. Even then, the court would have discretion over whether to refer a question to the human rights court. Finally, the national court would not be bound by the Strasbourg judges’ opinion. That said, if the opinion was applied by the national court then ‘the individual in whose case the opinion was sought’ would ‘ordinarily have no further right to make an application to the [human rights] court on the same matter’. In their paper last month, the judges took the view that this proposal merited ‘further reflection’, adding that ‘a reflection paper prepared by the court on this subject will be issued subsequently’. This attempt to kick the proposal into the long grass may reflect a difference of opinion among the court’s 47 judges. But it hardly makes things easier for British officials, who not only have to win over fellow diplomats, but also a disparate bench of judges. Those judges say they will accept a reduced caseload only if the right of individual petition is preserved and effective mechanisms are put in place to accommodate well-founded cases that the court cannot deal with. Above all, the judges are unwilling to cede any of their powers to the member states. There’s no question of that, British officials insist. The only formal limit on judicial powers that could not be overridden by the court is a plan to reduce the period within which an application must be lodged from six months to four, three or two. And that idea came from the judges themselves. But there are plenty of proposals designed to limit the Strasbourg judges’ discretion. They are told more than once in the draft declaration that they must apply the admissibility criteria ‘strictly’. And Britain wants the principles of subsidiarity and the ‘margin of appreciation’ enjoyed by member states to be defined in statutory language for the first time and enshrined in the convention, ensuring they are not circumscribed by overlapping judicial interpretations. This may not be a full-frontal assault on the court and its powers. But it is a reminder that the ultimate power lies not with judges but with ministers.last_img read more

Read More

Speaking volumes

first_imgTo continue enjoying Building.co.uk, sign up for free guest accessExisting subscriber? LOGIN Subscribe to Building today and you will benefit from:Unlimited access to all stories including expert analysis and comment from industry leadersOur league tables, cost models and economics dataOur online archive of over 10,000 articlesBuilding magazine digital editionsBuilding magazine print editionsPrinted/digital supplementsSubscribe now for unlimited access.View our subscription options and join our community Get your free guest access  SIGN UP TODAY Subscribe now for unlimited access Stay at the forefront of thought leadership with news and analysis from award-winning journalists. Enjoy company features, CEO interviews, architectural reviews, technical project know-how and the latest innovations.Limited access to building.co.ukBreaking industry news as it happensBreaking, daily and weekly e-newsletterslast_img read more

Read More

Stretching a point

first_imgSubscribe now for unlimited access Stay at the forefront of thought leadership with news and analysis from award-winning journalists. Enjoy company features, CEO interviews, architectural reviews, technical project know-how and the latest innovations.Limited access to building.co.ukBreaking industry news as it happensBreaking, daily and weekly e-newsletters Subscribe to Building today and you will benefit from:Unlimited access to all stories including expert analysis and comment from industry leadersOur league tables, cost models and economics dataOur online archive of over 10,000 articlesBuilding magazine digital editionsBuilding magazine print editionsPrinted/digital supplementsSubscribe now for unlimited access.View our subscription options and join our community Get your free guest access  SIGN UP TODAY To continue enjoying Building.co.uk, sign up for free guest accessExisting subscriber? LOGINlast_img read more

Read More

A hit or miss affair

first_imgGet your free guest access  SIGN UP TODAY Stay at the forefront of thought leadership with news and analysis from award-winning journalists. Enjoy company features, CEO interviews, architectural reviews, technical project know-how and the latest innovations.Limited access to building.co.ukBreaking industry news as it happensBreaking, daily and weekly e-newsletters To continue enjoying Building.co.uk, sign up for free guest accessExisting subscriber? LOGIN Subscribe now for unlimited access Subscribe to Building today and you will benefit from:Unlimited access to all stories including expert analysis and comment from industry leadersOur league tables, cost models and economics dataOur online archive of over 10,000 articlesBuilding magazine digital editionsBuilding magazine print editionsPrinted/digital supplementsSubscribe now for unlimited access.View our subscription options and join our communitylast_img read more

Read More

With bodies, less is more

first_imgStay at the forefront of thought leadership with news and analysis from award-winning journalists. Enjoy company features, CEO interviews, architectural reviews, technical project know-how and the latest innovations.Limited access to building.co.ukBreaking industry news as it happensBreaking, daily and weekly e-newsletters Subscribe now for unlimited access To continue enjoying Building.co.uk, sign up for free guest accessExisting subscriber? LOGIN Get your free guest access  SIGN UP TODAY Subscribe to Building today and you will benefit from:Unlimited access to all stories including expert analysis and comment from industry leadersOur league tables, cost models and economics dataOur online archive of over 10,000 articlesBuilding magazine digital editionsBuilding magazine print editionsPrinted/digital supplementsSubscribe now for unlimited access.View our subscription options and join our communitylast_img read more

Read More

Oi! Mr Blitz! No!

first_imgStay at the forefront of thought leadership with news and analysis from award-winning journalists. Enjoy company features, CEO interviews, architectural reviews, technical project know-how and the latest innovations.Limited access to building.co.ukBreaking industry news as it happensBreaking, daily and weekly e-newsletters Subscribe to Building today and you will benefit from:Unlimited access to all stories including expert analysis and comment from industry leadersOur league tables, cost models and economics dataOur online archive of over 10,000 articlesBuilding magazine digital editionsBuilding magazine print editionsPrinted/digital supplementsSubscribe now for unlimited access.View our subscription options and join our community To continue enjoying Building.co.uk, sign up for free guest accessExisting subscriber? LOGIN Subscribe now for unlimited access Get your free guest access  SIGN UP TODAYlast_img read more

Read More