Influencing for impact: getting through the door of government to support solicitors
Whether influencing legislation in parliament, working with the Treasury ahead of the budget, or building relationships with key stakeholders at party conferences, the Law Society is hard at work to lobby and influence on our members’ behalf. Joe Ferreira recaps our recent work.
As a representative body, our members want to see the Law Society influencing policy decisions on their behalf.
The Law Society’s public affairs team is at the heart of our work influencing government, parliament and key stakeholders in the UK.
Professional Qualifications Bill
The Professional Qualifications Bill is currently being debated by parliament.
It seeks to revoke the EU system of qualification recognition and replace it with a new framework.
While we understand the aims of the bill, we held concerns that the legislation as drafted could allow foreign bars to challenge the independence of UK solicitors and barristers.
Following our close discussions, the government has now brought forward amendments that soften centralised control and better protect regulator autonomy, which we have welcomed.
The bill is continuing its passage through parliament and we continue to identify opportunities to represent members’ concerns.
In October 2021, the chancellor of the exchequer announced his budget and the outcome of the spending review, which we welcomed as a step in the right direction with the government committing to reinvesting in our justice system.
Following our successful efforts to persuade the government of the case for change, the budget included several commitments on the key asks we made in our submission to the Treasury as part of the spending review.
One of the key opportunities to influence and build relationships with decision makers is at the political party conferences.
Earlier this year, we had the opportunity to attend the party conferences.
When you think of political party conferences you probably think of the big speeches given by party leaders, setting out their stall on why they should lead the country.
But the party conferences bring together key members of a political party in one place, as well as think tanks, business and industry.
They offer a valuable opportunity to engage with a wide range of key stakeholders and draw attention to key issues through a variety of channels such as fringe events, one-to-one meetings, and social or networking events.
The coronavirus outbreak saw last year’s conferences go ahead in a virtual-only format – but this year both Labour and Conservative party conferences took place in person again.
The Law Society’s programme at the Conservative party conference was led by our president, I. Stephanie Boyce.
This year saw our events spoken at and attended by:
- the new lord chancellor Dominic Raab
- solicitor general Alex Chalk
- justice minister Lord Wolfson
- chair of the Justice Select Committee Bob Neill
- vice-chair of the All-Party Parliamentary Group on Legal Aid, James Daly
Our flagship reception, held alongside the Bar Council and Society of Conservative Lawyers, concerned international issues facing the profession and how best to promote our jurisdiction as a global legal centre – and was well attended by party members, MPs and ministers.
Our president had a number of meetings with government ministers and Conservative MPs, leading to productive discussions on legal aid, the courts backlog and economic crime.
At the Labour party conference in Brighton, we hosted a fringe event alongside the Bar Council with shadow lord chancellor David Lammy, the shadow attorney general Lord Falconer and shadow solicitor general Ellie Reeves – with our vice president, Lubna Shuja, speaking on behalf of the Law Society.
We also held meetings with senior shadow ministers.
Lubna also took part in an online fringe event that also featured Wera Hobhouse and Lord Marks, the Lib Dem justice spokespeople in the Commons and the Lords respectively.
It was a useful party conference season, where we built on our relationships with key stakeholders.
Our presence also provides value to members, demonstrating that the Law Society is engaging with political stakeholders at every opportunity.