It’s our priority to defend the profession against attacks from those in power
We work to champion and protect the interests of more than 200,000 solicitors across England and Wales. We amplify the voice and diverse experiences of the profession, advocating on the issues you’ve told us matter the most, including the rule of law and access to justice.
Over the last three years, we have regularly challenged the rhetoric from politicians about the legal profession, particularly related to immigration issues.
This has continued with attacks from political leaders over the summer, including the targeting of an individual solicitor.
In the background of this, the government continue to struggle with the issue of small boats crossing the English Channel, and a growing backlog of asylum claims.
Professional Enablers Taskforce announcement
On 8 August, the government announced the launch of the Professional Enablers Taskforce, an initiative that brings together law enforcement and regulators to “crackdown” on lawyers who make "false" asylum claims for their clients.
Deputy vice president of the Law Society, Richard Atkinson, responded by saying: "This 'taskforce' has been around for months now, so it is not clear what, if anything, the government is announcing today."
He supported immediate action being taken against individuals where there is evidence of wrongdoing.
Richard also highlighted that the necessary powers to discipline solicitors already exist, and that "the overwhelming majority of immigration lawyers continue to support the rule of law through their adherence to the law and professional standards".
The targeting of Jacqueline McKenzie
On 9 August, head of immigration law at Leigh Day, Jacqueline McKenzie, wrote in the Guardian about her experience when Conservative Central Headquarters shared misinformation about her with the national media.
In a joint statement with the Bar Council, our president Lubna Shuja and the chair of the Bar Council Nick Vineall KC, expressed deep concern:
"The legal community is gravely concerned by the experience of immigration solicitor Jacqueline McKenzie.
"No lawyer should be criticised, or made the subject of a targeted campaign, for doing their job.
"Everyone is entitled to legal representation, and it is a United Nations basic principle that lawyers should not be identified with the causes of their clients as a result of representing them.
"That is why – as we have said repeatedly – it is wrong to describe lawyers as ‘lefty’ or ‘activist’ simply on the basis of the causes they advocate on behalf of their clients.
"Lawyers who represent their clients are not only doing nothing wrong, they are doing exactly what they are supposed to do in playing their part in ensuring that the rule of law is upheld.
"Ms McKenzie has been doing exactly what she is supposed to do as an immigration solicitor, acting in the best interests of her clients within the constraints of the law.
"Political leaders know that lawyers represent their clients within the legal framework that parliament creates and CCHQ should seriously reflect on what has happened in this case.
"Language and actions that unfairly undermine confidence in the independence of the legal professions, and potentially risk the safety of lawyers, will ultimately undermine confidence in our entire justice system and the rule of law."
Defending the profession
We have advocated for the legal profession and the rule of law to ensure your concerns are heard by decision makers at the highest levels.
Solicitors have regularly been branded "lefty" or "activist" lawyers by politicians, simply for representing their clients, particularly in immigration cases.
We are unequivocal: words matter, especially from those in power.
This ongoing narrative is deeply concerning to us, and we are focused on the safety and welfare of our members.
We have worked to robustly challenge the rhetoric and counter the perceptions that have been created in the media.
Our president, Lubna Shuja, spoke live on Channel 4 News and our director of public affairs, David McNeill, spoke with ITV and BBC Radio 4.
Richard Young, a member of our Immigration Law Committee, spoke with Sky News and LBC.
In a letter to the Guardian, Lubna publicly advocated for Jacqueline, calling the situation "alarming" and urged politicians and the media to "reflect carefully on the role they play in maintaining the rule of law".
In total, our defence of the legal profession has featured in more than a dozen national news organisations, and across hundreds of regional and trade publications.
Our position has also gained significant traction on social media and has been seen more than 1.2 million times.
Many members have shared our sentiment that legal professionals need to be able to practise law without fear of reprisal from those in power.
We will continue to monitor statements from politicians about the legal profession and robustly defend the profession.
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