Five ways we have championed your interests
1. Defended solicitors against political attacks
Former prime minister, Boris Johnson, attacked members of the legal profession several times for challenging government plans to send asylum-seekers to Rwanda. Our president, I. Stephanie Boyce, made strong statements warning against criticising solicitors for doing their jobs.
“Attacks like this, from the highest politician in the land, undermine the rule of law and can have real-life consequences”, said Boyce in May 2022. “Britain's standing internationally is underpinned by our reputation for democracy, fair play, and the independence of our legal system.
“We should all be proud that we live in a country where legal rights cannot be overridden without due process, and that we have legal professionals who serve the rule of law and keep the government accountable."
In addition, we released a joint statement with the Bar Council in June 2022, following similar comments that were made by the then prime minister. The statement said “it is misleading and dangerous for the prime minister to suggest lawyers who bring … legal challenges are doing anything other than their job and upholding the law”.
2. Lobbying to strengthen the Bill of Rights
The Bill of Rights was introduced to parliament in June 2022 to repeal and replace the Human Rights Act.
We believed the new bill would significantly weaken the ability to enforce human rights through the courts and hold the state accountable for human rights violations.
We raised our concerns with the UN and submitted a response to the government’s consultation on its proposals for human rights reform.
The bill is currently paused for the new government to reassess. We welcome this rethink and will continue to engage with government, and other stakeholders, to ensure our concerns are addressed if the bill is reintroduced.
3. Campaigned for the future of criminal legal aid
The criminal defence profession is at a make-or-break point.
We have raised your concerns about the future of criminal legal aid at the highest levels.
Our president provided evidence to the Justice Select Committee, and in May 2022 we met with justice minister James Cartlidge to question the government’s approach.
We’ve responded to both government consultations on legal aid, stressing why it’s vital that the sector receives proper and sustainable funding.
Whilst we welcome the government’s initial commitment to a 9% rise in solicitors' criminal legal aid rates – the first significant rise in a quarter of a century – we continue to encourage them to see this as a base for further increases, to meet the recommended 15%.
The Criminal Bar Association began indefinite strike action on 5 September, escalating its protest to the government’s proposals – read our guidance on what to do if your case is affected by the strike action.
4. Secured a two-year extension of the Solicitors Indemnity Fund
The Solicitors Regulation Authority (SRA) planned to close the Solicitors Indemnity Fund (SIF) on 30 September 2021, claiming that the costs compared to the volume and value of claims outweigh the efficiency of delivering consumer protection.
After extensive lobbying, by us and other stakeholders, the SRA initially deferred the closure of SIF until September 2023.
In September 2022, it was announced that the SRA will be introducing its own indemnity fund, which will maintain consumer protection and provide the same level of cover as SIF.
Boyce said: “While we await the details of the new scheme, we are pleased to see that the SRA Board appears to have given due consideration to the profession’s views on this important matter”.
5. Upheld the rule of law – at home and abroad
The rule of law is the bedrock of any functioning society, both at home and abroad.
The government accepted a key Law Society recommendation and agreed to remove a statutory presumption from what is now the Judicial Review and Courts Act 2022.
This means the fundamental principle of the justice system – that all remedies are discretionary – will continue, ensuring fair outcomes in judicial review cases that fit the circumstances of each.
This success is the result of almost two years of campaigning and engaging with the government’s plans to reform judicial review.
Similarly, our Lawyers at Risk programme supports lawyers and human rights defenders who are hindered in carrying out their professional duties.
We made a joint statement at the UN Human Rights Council condemning Russia's violations of international law with its invasion of Ukraine, and its crackdown on lawyers.
We also continue to work alongside a wide range of stakeholders to promote the safety of legal professionals in Afghanistan.