We continue to campaign for equal treatment and opportunities for solicitor advocates and have continued to engage this month with the EHRC. Sadly, despite their efforts to promote equality in other fields, it appears that they have missed an important opportunity here. Their recent panel was announced without being advertised outside of the Bar, meaning that no solicitor advocates were even able to apply for the panel. We are extremely disappointed in this, and have made a formal complaint and representations on this to the EHRC, as well as highlighting the issue through social media. Once we receive a proper response, we will publish this on our website.
We continue to pursue government departments and other bodies which discriminate against solicitor advocates. Please do let us know of any other instances where this is happening so that we can address it.
We have also been engaging and making representations on the issues relating to the failure of the Court Service to treat solicitor advocates equally with members of the Bar in connection with the new Professional Users group. We will continue to push for our members to have the same access to the Courts as the Bar, and to emphasise that discriminating against any professional group, let alone one as diverse and representative as solicitors are, is clearly wrong.
In a more positive example of creating opportunities for our members, I’m looking forward to seeing as many of you as can make it to the Lord Slynn lecture. If you have not already booked your place please do so now, as places are limited, and for security reasons you will not be able to get in on the night if you have not booked. This is a yearly opportunity to meet senior members of the Judiciary and Bar, and to speak with them in an informal setting within the beautiful RCJ.
We continue to deliver on our objective to provide relevant and up to date training both paid for, and for free. The next training will be the Lord Slynn, followed by criminal training in July. This is exciting, relevant and good value training delivered for the benefit of our members by leading trainers in their area.
We have been engaging with the Equality and Human Rights Commission in respect to issues of recruitment of advocates to panels. This is an issue that for too long has been ignored and must be resolved. I have replied to their letter outlining why the various panels appear to be operating in a discriminatory manner.
Please log on to the website and book your tickets for the Lord Slynn, and the Annual Conference as well as other free training events. Our website remains the central location for up to date information, and we continue to advertise opportunities that arise linked to advocacy.
We will engage with the Ministry of Justice in respect to the on going issues with legal aid. We are also engaging with the SRA in respect to future accreditation of advocates and development of these issues.
We have been engaging with the Equality and Human Rights Commission in respect to issues of recruitment of advocates to panels. This is an issue that for too long has been ignored and must be resolved.
The next Attorney General Panel competition has opened for the A to C Panel, we would encourage those with relevant experience to apply. Please review the AG website https://www.gov.uk/government/news/apply-to-the-attorney-generals-civil-panel-counsel-london-a-b-and-c-panel. If you are eligible please email firstname.lastname@example.org indicating whether you wish to apply for the A, B or C panel. The closing date is the 2 April 2019.
I’m very pleased to confirm that we have secured speakers for the Lord Slynn lecture and the keynote speaker for the Annual Conference. We are looking to book dates for the 2020 lecture and conference.
We are pleased to confirm that Probono Connect have been very proactive in accepting solicitor advocates to join their advocates branch. We would encourage solicitor advocates to volunteer as advocates and also encourage solicitors to refer their own pro bono cases to obtain support from an advocate. Please review the website before sending any cases to them.
I have had a successful meeting with the SRA, in which we freely expressed views about how best to advance excellence in advocacy. This was the start of an engagement with the SRA on numerous issues, to ensure that Solicitor Advocates are able to compete on a level playing field with other advocates.
In the near future there will be consultation on the expansion of the requirement to have rights of audience in the magistrates when dealing with either way offences and or youth matters. In principle it seems likely that our members would support such a move, but please do let me know what your views are.
We continue to look for new opportunities for our members to advance their advocacy and develop themselves. Hopefully the next C Panel will open for advocates to seek admittance to the panel and represent the government. As soon as we have details we will push out the information to our members.
AGFS remains a real issue, and will continue to do so throughout 2019. Our engagement with this continues and the views of our members are expressed through various committees. We have further raised the issue with the Law Society on safety of our members both at police stations and other places where they are meeting with clients.
I continue to educate those I meet with on the fact that over one in three of all advocates are solicitor advocates. As solicitor advocates are drawn from solicitors who are far more reflective of society generally, we as a group of advocates are far more diverse.
We wrote to congratulate the latest solicitor advocate QCs and have had some positive responses. We would encourage and support all of our members to go down this route.
I continue to work with a number of organisations to advance the cause of solicitor advocates.
We have had some key engagement from the Law Society and other organisations who are supporting the cause of ensuring parity with the Bar in all areas of practice. We continue to follow up the developments we have made.
As outlined in our December Newsletter, we intend to offer free training sessions and we continue to develop this area. Our intention is to also ensure that these sessions are available via video link and potentially captured for Webinar are our members section of the website.
I would like to take this opportunity to welcome Ellen Roberts, Neusha Mazaher and Stephen Davies who are appointed as associate members and co-opted onto committee as student and trainee members. We look forward to continuing to develop this area and ensure that we continue to attract the brightest and most talented advocates to become solicitor advocates.
I have written two articles this month, one on my path to the law, and secondly one on becoming a solicitor advocate. I would love to share the stories of our members on their paths to the law, and would encourage you to reflect on your path, and share your accounts.
Solicitor advocates must do more to ensure that we are known to the wider world, and that there is party with the Bar. Over one in three advocates is a solicitor advocate, but this is not reflected in the appearances in the Higher Courts, appointment to government roles, QC and senior judicial roles. This must and will change, solicitor advocates appointment to QC and senior judicial roles, will cease to be an exception and will become the norm.
We remain concerned about the safety of our members when attending Courts, and for those that attend police stations. Practices that are dangerous continue to exist, and we are seeking accounts to support our members position on this.
I would also encourage participation in the Law Society essay competition on ‘What remaining legal barriers exist for the LGBT+ community in terms of equality, including any issues with the application of the current law?’ https://www.lawsociety.org.uk/news/stories/lgbt-lawyers-division-launches-essay-competition/
We continue to seek views and opinions on the effect of digitalisation of the Courts, including the recent outages which seem to effect a very large number of courts.
I look forward to any comments and suggestions to the betterment and improvement of our association.
I continue to work with a number of organisations to advance the cause of solicitor advocates.
One of our early successes was in relation to the baby barrister scheme. We advocated on behalf of our members to ensure that they were also allowed to join the scheme. As a result we have had an extension to the London pool to allow our members to join, and secondly access to the regional pools.
I have personally joined the pool and represented the Home Office at Taylor House. It was not an easy set of hearings and there was considerable work. However, as ever, a challenging advocacy experience is a good learning experience. As such I would recommend especially to junior members to take on these experiences and use them as an opening to other more lucrative work.
We continue to work closely with the Law Society, and I have recently had an important meeting with them to ensure that we continue to represent the interests of solicitor advocates. We have a number of projects that we are hoping we will be supported in, advancing our members. Particularly we are keen to develop and ensure parity of access to opportunities for our members with the Bar.
I have met with Lawworks, and discuss potential opportunities to access pro bono work for advocacy in a more formal manner.
I take this time to hope that you are able to take a break at this time of year, and spend time with your family. For those of you that are celebrating Christmas, I hope it is a very merry one.