Falconer defends Bill against international attack

The Lord Chancellor, Lord Falconer, has spoken out in defence of the Legal Services Bill despite a recent international backlash against some of its more controversial aspects.

Speaking to the annual Bar Conference on Saturday (4 November), Falconer said: “For the Civil and Commercial Bar, reform to the legal services market contained within the Legal Services Bill will strengthen the UK’s international standing as a centre of excellence. They will be beneficial to the Bar; beneficial to UK Plc.”

Falconer’s speech came shortly after the German legal regulator warned firms that alternative business structures to be approved under the bill will not be regarded as legal in Germany. As revealed by The Lawyer (30 October) the Law Society is preparing to hold crisis talks with the regulator over the issue.

Falconer told the conference that 10 per cent of the legal services market comes from the bar doing international work.

He also said that the bar has to “contribute actively” to improving the court system, and told his audience that the refusal last year of some barristers to accept new publicly funded cases has “led the state to feel uneasy about sole reliance on the Bar”.

However Falconer added that he did not favour a public defender system, and supported an independent bar. In response to the Bar Council’s concerns about the effects of the Legal Services Bill, Falconer said that the creation of the Legal Services Board would increase consumer confidence and the independence of the profession.

Falconer concluded his speech by saying that he sometimes misses “dearly” being at the bar.