Feeling rather replete from my lunch at the CILEx annual presidential lunch and preparing for my post-prandial repose [passing out under my desk] I was struck by the dangerous nature of attending such proceedings.
President Susan Silver gave the opening address, giving a brief overview of the year’s proceedings. Apparently there was something involving a Charter earlier in the year and now there are plans afoot for extending practice rights for CILEx members. “Our regulator IPS [Ilex Professional Standards] has taken forward work to develop schemes that will enable suitably qualified members to obtain reserved activity rights in the areas of litigation, conveyancing and probate … the public interest will be served in two ways, first by providing further career opportunites for those contemplating a career in law and second by meeting regulatory objectives of the Legal Services Act particularly by promoting competiton in the provision of legal services and thereby encouraging an independent, strong, diverse and effective legal profession.
She went on “Our work with Skills for Justice and others in the legal sector … on the development of apprenticeship frameworks is another example of our preference for achievement through working in partnership as well as an absolute demonstration of our commitment to widening career opportunities wihin the law and increasing diversity in the profession.”
So far so straightforward, and special guest Attorney General Dominic Grieve QC MP may have been lulled into gentle thoughts of an afternoon ahead doing whatever it is that Attorney Generals do on a warm Thursday afternoon in May [perhaps morris dancing].
But this was not to be, turning her stare dramatically on Grieve Silver issued him with a sharp rap across the knuckles over the government cuts to legal aid saying “I am sorry Attorney but I must be honest and say that CILEx shares the disappointment of so many over the passing of the Legal Aid, Sentencing and Punishment of Offenders Act. The best legal aid system in the world is being dismantled and it is difficult at this point to see how all the gaps can be filled.
“Colleagues here today from the advice sector have a right to feel despondent and although CILEx rightly adheres to the belief that pro bono work cannot be a substitute for legal aid where there is nothing and a complete lack of access to justice will we not step forward?”
Grieve left soon after.
And on the subject of the dangers of posh lunches, be careful of where you stand at these dos and watch the Master of Ceremonies. He snuck up behind me at one point and bellowed an earsplitting announcement that the Sir Igor Judge, the Attorney General and Baroness Neuberger were entering the room. I had to have another glass of champers to calm my nerves.