This is My Decision

So the CBA have announced their ballot. If you are eligible to vote I urge you to do so as soon as possible. The vote is available here. It is absolutely vital that you vote and have your say, either way. 

There has been some consternation about the fact that the ballot has a closing date two weeks away. I can understand some frustration with this. Of course if lots and lots of people vote very quickly the period may be foreshortened. 

I pause for a moment to observe you should be careful what you wish for. Many of us wanted a ballot. We have got a ballot. Impatience expressed with intemperance may not be the best way to persuade. Herding cats is a difficult task to manage. The CLSA  and the LCCSA know that only too well. They have been corralling felines for months and months. I know that time is of the essence, however sometimes patience is rewarded. 

The question in the ballot does start off with one tiny mistake. The opening line is “solicitors face an 8.75% cut to litigators fees.” The mistake is not in the missing apostrophe or an extra “s”. Only an arse would point that out. Actually it is two mistakes. The first is that the cut is not only in respect of litigator fees. Or litigator’s fees. It is in respect of lots of fees. Like the ridiculously low fee for police station visits. The second error is that it is an additional 8.75% on top of the cut already suffered. And is in advance of a further cut due in January. Oh and is also being introduced before the consolidation has taken place that the Government recognises has to take place to avoid total market failure. 

But the important thing is the vote is asking you to support the action taken by solicitors up and down the country as of today. The same battle we fought recently. 

For many days now I have been giving the whole thing lots and lots of thought. Contrary to public opinion, I do think about these sort of things. And I am increasingly coming round to the view that I truly have an individual decision to make. The decision I make right now is irrespective of the view taken by my chambers, my Circuit or the CBA. It is not a protest.

When I did not attend court on the days of action I was not reported to the BSB by my instructing solicitor. When I participated in no returns, my instructing solicitors understood and were supportive. Furthermore I was really, really, really, REALLY (I think I may have enough emphasis now to get across the fact that I mean this) but I was REALLY pissed off when I thought that action was being undermined by people who took returns. 

And if I took a case that had a Representation Order after 1st July I would be exactly the person that I felt let me down so badly last time round. And, in all conscience, I cannot do that. 

So from now until the result of the CBA ballot is known, I am not available for new defence work with a Representation Order dated 1st July onwards. Until such time as we join with the protest I will not undermine the protest of my friends, colleagues and allies. If I miss out on a fortnight of new briefs, so be it. If others profit from my stance so be it. 

Once I started to think about it, the answer was obvious. I wonder how many agree with me? Perhaps you could comment below if you do. It’s not a ballot. More of an informal survey. But a survey that may reassure those who today took the first step in standing together in the same way the Bar did. 

Good luck. 

5 thoughts on “This is My Decision

  1. Russell Fraser

    When momentum built towards the days of action and eventually no returns, I don’t recall anyone asking ‘what have solicitors ever done for us?’

    We all knew back in those days that there would be certain firms, even certain chambers for whom solidarity was an embarrassing and trite idea. And then came the deal.

    In the face of criticism, some of our number started to decry solicitors for not being united. We are the Bar were always glib about our sense of unity. Much easier for us to reach a critical mass. Theirs is a far larger constituency. No one had previously asked what solicitors were doing to ‘fight their own battles’. Suddenly our action was presented as always having been dedicated to looking after our own interests. The CBA could only represent barristers. And in one moment what had always struggled to resist being cast as a pay dispute was exposed as just that.

    I’ve never understood why any CBA officers went to meet MoJ officials without representatives of the solicitors profession. I said at the meeting in Lincoln’s Inn Fields in November 2013 that we ought to take action against TLA as a whole. We are the only branch of the profession who can take effective industrial action (or mass non-attendance of court, or collective-individual-decisions-to-not-cover-the-work-of-colleagues-but-definitely-not-the-S-word). The ends ought to have been to defeat as much of the proposals as possible; no matter what area of law they concerned. The means ought to have been the most effective way of achieving that. We had a short test run and discovered exactly what the most effective way was.

    So I feel our work is unfinished. My chambers has committed to refusing work where rep orders are granted from 1 July. I hope others do the same.


  2. Linda Stephens

    Although not a solicitor but an accredited legal representative, I know I give 100% to my instructing solicitor’s clients at police stations. On a duty matter yesterday I earned the princely sum of £80 for 6 hours work representing a vulnerable female in custody, then back to the office to complete paperwork, scanned report to solicitor and finally posted first class. All very mundane, but like the solicitors, the fee also has to cover my overheads. I have been accredited since 1999 and like all of you, have only ever seen my income decreased and my standard of living slashed. Sick and tired of hearing others complain of only receiving a 1.5% annual increase, try 17.5% cut over 16 months with another cut on the horizon in January 2016 and that doesn’t even cover the decimation carried out by Lord Carter followed by the Coalition. Is it any wonder I am now reticent to take on murder cases or other complicated matters requiring rebail, ID procedures and reinterview, but I will because I have worked hard to gain a reputation for being reliable, thorough and caring and I’ll get poorer by the months. Is it too late to have a Union???


  3. Robert Askey

    Jaime, well said! I agree with you entirely. The two halves of the legal profession are interdependent on one another. Harming one harms the other and together this harms the system as a whole. Maybe harming the criminal justice system is an offence in itself? It is certainly a moral crime if not a legal one. All the boasting in the world to the world about Magna Carta cannot hide the deteriorating quality of the system as a whole, and without the £700M investment that is needed matters will definitely get worse before they get better. IF they ever get better. How embarrassing this is for UK plc.



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