Michael Napier sets out his stall for election as Law Society president on a joint ticket with David McIntosh, promising to fight for the profession and deliver on their mandate of reform. Michael Napier is senior partner of Irwin Mitchell.
Solicitors are facing a new agenda that raises anxiety levels to a once unthinkable level.
The Government calls us complacent; at almost every turn the ground is being cut from under our feet. No solicitor is immune. This is why I am standing for election as president of the Law Society.
Together with David McIntosh, who is standing with me for election as vice-president, I will ensure that the reforms threatening the business future of every firm do not slip through by default. The credentials of the balanced Napier/McIntosh combination are based on:
real knowledge of real issues;
the communication skills and know-how to win debates;
the tenacity to make tough decisions;
the strength to lead large organisations;
knowledge of how the Law Society works;
a record of individual achievement; and
a commitment to equal opportunities for all.
The prime threat is the arbitrary rationing of legal aid by cash-limited regional funding and exclusive contracts which will damage firms and clients irretrievably. National coverage of the legal aid scheme is in jeopardy. I will defend legal aid firms against the continuing strangulation of this service.
Conditional Fee Agreements (CFAs) are no replacement for legal aid and never will be. I wrote the Law Society guidebook on them and know the problems. I will carefully negotiate any extension of CFAs.
Access to justice should not be a political football and the "name-and-shame" attacks on legal aid firms must be stopped.
We face new legal aid regulations later this year and the Modernisation of Justice Bill next year. I will lead the Law Society's Justice Task Force that has already been successful in diluting government proposals to scrap legal aid in favour of CFAs.
I will lead the negotiations on civil justice reform. The acid test for the bulk of civil cases will be the level of fees on the fast track, without which CFAs will not work. I will help litigation firms prepare for the "big bang" of the new Civil Rules.
In the interests of the profession's reputation, I will introduce a rapid response system to ensure no anti-solicitor story goes unanswered. We must promote our image and turn the tide of "solicitor bashing".
The boundaries of solicitors' businesses are being eroded by accident claims assessors, will writers, employment advisers and others. The Government should regulate the competition or we should relax our rules to level the playing field.
With regard to conveyancing, simply telling solicitors to charge higher fees will not do. The more pragmatic approach will be to settle the relationship with the lending institutions, and show firms how to charge the rate for the job in an improved market.
Equal rights of audience are important for employed solicitors and new entrants to the profession. Fifty per cent of our members are under 40. I will promote a Law Society culture to "think young" for this core membership which has the ideas and energy for our future.
As president of the Association of Personal Injury Lawyers for two years I learned how to lead a large organisation. I will boost the reform process of the Law Society with a broad modernisation programme, reviewing the pros and cons of sections and holding expenditure tightly under control to keep funds available for our manifesto priorities.
The consultation response of two thirds in favour of Solicitor Indemnity Fund (SIF) risk banding has now been acted upon by the council. I will use the new and fairer system to band solicitors together in the common aim of preventing unfair cross-subsidisation.
The next step will be the future of SIF itself. When this next consultation is over, assisted by the expert insurance background of David McIntosh, I will ensure that either under "new SIF" or on the open market, future indemnity insurance arrangements strike the right balance for solicitors and clients.
As for the Office for the Supervision of Solicitors, I will oppose the notion that the independence of solicitors is inconsistent with self-regulation and keep under review the idea of a visitor.
I believe the restrictions on multidisciplinary partnerships (MDPs) limit the recruitment and motivation of non-solicitor professionals and stifle opportunities in other jurisdictions. The decision on MDPs cannot be delayed. I will push it ahead.
With the Napier/McIntosh team I can promise there will be no petulance, no undeliverable mandates, no hollow promises.