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CBA Chairman-Elect Message – 21.08.15

CBA Message – Chairman-Elect: 
Mark Fenhalls QC 

E: [email protected]

Over the last few weeks solicitors across the country have been engaged in unprecedented action in their dispute over the 8.75% cut.  Barristers across the country have lent support in a variety of ways to solicitor colleagues.  Those (largely) young barristers who have made such significant personal sacrifices through not accepting returns, in support of their beliefs and their friends, deserve the thanks and respect of all.
As you would expect we have remained in close contact with the leadership of solicitors organisations during this period and consulted widely.
We are pleased to note that those organisations have engaged in productive dialogue with the MoJ and that they have felt able this morning to announce the suspension of their action pending further discussions with the Secretary of State and his officials.
Accordingly I am suspending “no returns” with immediate effect.   There is no reason why barristers should not accept any fresh instructions.
But this of course is only part of the story.  There have been two different surveys circulating amongst the solicitors’ profession.  The second of these surveys relates to “two tier” contracts.  The CLSA and LCCSA are surveying their members to determine whether they will withdraw their bids for the new legal aid contracts; this second consultation remains open until 28th August.  The publicly stated position of the LCCSA and CLSA is that neither organisation thinks that “two tier” is viable and that the scheme will significantly damage the justice system.  
The Bar awaits the outcome of this process with keen interest as we have always taken the view that the “two tier” scheme represents an existential threat to the quality of the justice system in this country.  But this threat is not one that the Bar can take on alone.  Solicitors and barristers must continue, even at this late stage, to try to persuade officials and politicians that there are viable alternatives.

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