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Monday Message – 02.11.15

Chairman’s Update: 
Mark Fenhalls QC


‘All Change: What you need to know about Better Case Management and the new PTPH structure’.  Tomorrow at 5:15pm HHJ Edmunds QC will be delivering the Ann Goddard Memorial lecture in the Old Bailey Bar Mess.  This scheme is here to stay and is going national in January.  Please come along if you possibly can.  You will be able to learn what it all about from those who have had direct experience in the “early adopter” courts.

Next Monday 9th I will publish some provisional thoughts about the CBA’s response to the MoJ’s 1stOctober consultation.  I hope this will be of assistance to any of you considering your Responses.

The CBA has submitted a Response to the BSB Consultation entitled Future of Training for the Bar: Academic, Vocational and Professional Stages of Training, which has just closed.  This is a subject that I know is of keen interest to all those concerned with the future health of all parts of the Bar.  My thanks to all those who contributed their views. 

“Two Tier”.  Critical stories continue to circulate about the marking/ assessment system for offering TT contracts, which in theory are meant to start on 12thJanuary 2016.   One of the strands of complaint is that no account has been taken of the quality of service offered by current firms, some with long histories of highly reputed work.   Some of these firms have lost out to start ups with no track record at all. 
Whatever the rights and wrongs of these criticisms, many of you are deeply concerned about the fate of highly reputed firms with whom you have worked and built reputations over many years.  Perhaps more importantly many of you are deeply concerned about the personal effect on friends in our sister profession who are facing such uncertainty and stress.  
Significant changes to, or the disappearance of, these firms in the coming months presents real risks to the conduct of cases in the Magistrates and Crown Court over the coming months and represents a real concern to us all.  Judges and advocates will have to be alert to the problems for complainants, witnesses and clients as large numbers of solicitors firms wrestle with their uncertain futures.  This then is the current situation as I understand it. 

Following the offers being made, dozens of letters before claim were sent to the MoJ from aggrieved solicitor firms of all sizes across the country. The LAA responded by agreeing to delay the signing of the new duty contracts by one week, to 2nd November.  In the middle of last week the LAA responded to the letters before claim and defended the tender process as robust and thorough.
By Friday individual procurement claims had been issued against the Lord Chancellor across a large proportion of the 85 procurements areas.  These claims are private law claims under the Public Contracts Regulations 2006 alleging unequal treatment, a lack of transparency and manifest errors in the assessment process.  Once notice of the claims is given the LAA cannot enter contracts in the relevant procurement area but the Lord Chancellor can apply to lift the automatic stay.  This process is entirely separate to the possibility of any Judicial Review proceedings.
The LAA has said publicly that it intends to enter into contracts where it is able, but I suppose this approach may depend on the extent of the challenges that have been mounted.  How this difficult and confused picture will play out is anyone’s guess.      

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