Solicitors are being encouraged to take their local MPs out to lunch as part of an initiative to turn lawyers into successful parliamentary lobbyists.
Addressing a mini conference “Getting the best out of Government”, organised by the South West regional office of the Law Society, Chris Philipsborn, the Law Society's parliamentary officer, said effective local lobbying was crucial to the society's efforts to raise its profile in Parliament.
But he said lobbying was a waste of time without a good relationship with the MP, and lawyers should offer something in return, such as pro bono advice, if MPs were to listen to their concerns.
Philipsborn added that the society's dual role as a regulatory and representative body was to be welcomed.
“As a professional body with a regulatory function we have doors open to us in Parliament which would be closed if we were seen to be a trade union”
His remarks, which were echoed in a speech by Michael Stern, conservative MP for North West Bristol, left some delegates “shocked and disappointed”. One said: “He is saying we should buy favours – what about integrity? It's appalling”.
Philipsborn confirmed reports that a bill on legal aid this autumn was highly unlikely and congratulated the Law Society's behind-the-scenes work on the matter. “Our policy of letting others speak for us has worked very well. We believe we've been successful in heading this one off.”
The conference coincides with the release of the Law Society Activists pack, giving members details on how to lobby and for which the society received over 4,500 requests.