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Monday Message 10.11.14

CBA Chairman’s Message:
Tony Cross QC 

Monday 10 November 2014

E: [email protected]
T: 07860 692693 

A tale of two conferences
On Friday 31 October the Criminal Law Solicitors Association held their annual conference at London’s Friend’s House.  Sadly I was not able to attend but I am pleased to say that a number of CBA members were able so to do.
I have had a full report from one of our members. His report has helped us to take on board a number of issues that our sister profession have to contend with in their struggle with the MoJ that are distinct from our own, but quite clearly deserving of our support.
Our members should know [and you do not need me to tell you] that Solicitors are working under incredible financial pressures which threaten their very existence.
Recently a highly respected solicitor whose firm works nationally wrote to me, setting out in clear terms his views. He like all of us abhors those that fail to prepare their cases for trial, citing the advent of the Litigators Graduated Fee as an excuse for lack of preparation.
Uppermost in his criticisms though was his sadness and marked anger as to the practice of “stealing cases’ from reputable firms sometimes using ‘Consultants’ who have no attachment to the firm seeking the work and often with a Form of Authority drafted by an entirely unconnected firm. Similarly he calls for action to stop the practice of firms with contracts letting others without contracts put cases through their office.
His plea to me was to work with Solicitors to drive out these practices and to work to return the system to one where hard work is rewarded properly; to a system above reproach.
I hope that our response to the recent “Crime Duty Contracts” consultation at least went some way to attempting to rebuild our understanding. I am in no doubt that a healthy vibrant solicitors’ profession is vital for the success of the self-employed Bar. We are two essential halves of a profession that provides a vital public service. I am becoming increasingly aware of the real need for building bridges and establishing dialogue. We need to understand each other’s point of view.
The Bar Conference- Celebrating Excellence
I was dreading Bar Conference, the choice of topic for the CBA event was entirely my responsibility. Our event entitled “The great advocates of the past and what we can learn from them’ gave me countless sleepless nights – the title was reminiscent of something that Ernie Wise might have dreamt up – but happily the event was huge success thanks to John Bromley Davenport QC, Elwen Evans QC, Peter Joyce QC and Nigel Pascoe QC. 4 great Circuiteers telling tales of the past and offering their thoughts on the future.
Inn-Chambers-Circuit-Mess and the Jeffrey Review
Preparing for and then listening to our speakers made me think about the marked contrast that defines the two halves of the profession. We are advocates. We are defined, to a greater and lesser extent by the combination of Inns, Chambers, Circuit, Mess and Tradition. For centuries our skills have been fashioned by our immersion in traditions that have delivered advocacy of which the country can be proud. Now though that service is under a threat just as great as that faced by our solicitor colleagues. We need a clear understanding of each others perspective.
While it was good to look back, both sides have to look forward. We recognise that a number of solicitor HCAs have achieved a high standard of advocacy through ability and experience. We also fear, as do they, that through other means some advocates are doing work beyond their competence.  ‘Straw Juniors’, referral fees and fee sharing are all practices which are denying the client the best quality representation, for no other reason than economic necessity The joint battle we both have to fight is to secure proper funding for all, to ensure that quality of service will always trump “economic necessity.”
Referral fees have been outlawed in some civil cases. There is no good reason why it should not be unlawful in crime. Similarly fee sharing is abhorrent and should be outlawed. It is time for the Regulators to deal with these pressing issues.
This week then, we launch our campaign to “level the playing field” – to ensure that all advocates are competing on the same level surface – that all can compete for work regardless of economic interest – in this way justice will be done.
Over the course of the next few weeks, Mark Fenhalls, Aaron Dolan and I will be visiting all the circuits. We shall be visiting chambers and meeting with CBA representatives. We look forward to meeting you and gathering evidence of the injustices that you face. On Thursday we are in Sheffield, Leeds and Newcastle and then onto Middlesborough and Manchester for Friday. 
I also hope to begin to meet with the CLSA to begin a dialogue on a joint approach to these issues.
Finally congratulations to our Secretary Emma Nash who in the early hours of Sunday gave birth to Tom Samuel Wood. Despite a long labour she was able to deal with a flustered Chairman of the CBA very early on Sunday morning from her hospital bed.
PS I had not realised quite how popular the MM was until last week. Its absence generated more than one complaint. I did warn in the first MM that it would not always appear especially on the Monday after a heavy defeat for the Clarets. Happily the boys are now on an upward curve and the MM has returned.

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