Crime lawyers expect to slap Law Society over legal aid lobbying efforts

Criminal law specialists predict the profession will back a vote of no confidence in the Law Society’s leadership over lobbying efforts around government plans to slash legal aid rates.

The chairman of the Criminal Law Solicitors Association (CLSA) anticipated specialist practitioners “will be in favour” of the motion, although he declined at this stage to comment on whether his group would formally support the move. 

Law Society officials confirmed that the petition for a special general meeting had been lodged with Chancery Lane yesterday (4 November). “Practical arrangements will now be put in place for an SGM, according to the rules set out in the Law Society constitution,” said a spokesman, who declined to comment further. 

The petition was raised by Liverpool-based criminal law solicitor James Parry of the firm Parry Welch Lacey (4 November 2013). In an open letter to the society’s chief executive, Des Hudson, Parry accused the Chancery Lane leadership, including president Nick Fluck, of “appeasement and abject surrender” over government proposals to slash legal aid rates. 

Speaking to The Lawyer yesterday, Parry forecast he would have wide support for the motion. He said his main aim was to convince the Chancery Lane hierarchy to adopt more robust opposition to the government’s proposed cuts in criminal legal aid rates. 

Parry also said that Hudson had told him at a meeting several days ago that the society expected the motion would carry at an SGM. 

CLSA chairman Bill Waddington commented: “Throughout the government’s consultation process, our message to members has been that the enemy is the Ministry of Justice and that we should not get into a fight with our professional body during that process. However, the consultation process is now finished.” 

Chancery Lane confirmed that if the no confidence motion carried at the SGM – which must be held within three months – a postal ballot of all solicitors would follow. The spokesman would not comment on the predicted cost of that exercise. 

Even if the no confidence vote is passed by the entire profession, it is not thought that the society’s constitution would force the two senior figures to resign.