Far too important to warrant more delay

Lord Ackner has rightly posed the question on the delay in reaching a decision over rights of audience for employed solicitors.

Almost a year has passed since the controversial advice given to Lord Mackay by the Lord Chancellor's Advisory Committee on Legal Education and Conduct (Aclec).

At that time the majority of the group rejected extended rights of audience, claiming it was "incompatible with the proper and efficient administration of justice". The minority, on the other hand, said that the majority was acting outside its legal powers.

That there should be disagreement on rights of audience is one thing. That the minority complains that it is not empowered to discuss the subject at all is another.

But the main question now is that of delay and why the Lord Chancellor is dragging his feet over the report.

The Aclec report came four years after the Law Society had filed its original application on rights of audience, a delay which the then Law Society president Charles Elly at the time called "little short of a public scandal".

There is no doubt that extended rights is a difficult issue. However, it is of major significance to the profession and one which needs to be tackled as soon as possible.

Almost a year has lapsed since the Aclec report and it is little wonder that patience is beginning to run out in some quarters. Lord Ackner's intervention has now put the spotlight back again on the subject.

The Law Society will hopefully keep the pressure up. It has already threatened to mount a legal challenge in the face of the continuing delays.

Surely a subject of such vital importance to the legal profession should not have to be resolved this way.