Law Society Legal News Summary 25 March 2024

Crown Court backlog 

Law Society vice president Richard Atkinson and Stuart Nolan, chair of our Criminal Law Committee, feature on BBC Breakfast (from 1:19:24 and 1:21:14), BBC One South East, BBC One West Midlands, BBC One London, BBC One North East and Cumbria and ten other regional BBC broadcasters, speaking about the Crown Court backlog, with 66,000 cases incomplete last year. 

Richard Atkinson said: “It’s a couple of decades of lack of investment in the courts’ estate, where we have crumbling buildings and the personnel where the court are unable to recruit legal advisers at the moment, where defence lawyers are leaving in droves. 

“All of these have added to the fact that there simply aren’t the resources to deal with the amount of work that we have.”

Long-term sickness 

Max Winthrop, chair of our Employment Law Committee, spoke with Times Radio (from 1:51:54) about long-term sickness and what it means legally for their employers.

County Court delays 

Worksop Guardian continues coverage of the small claims cases delays in the County Courts.

Law Society president Nick Emmerson said: “The Law Society has repeatedly expressed its concern about rising delays in the county courts, meaning many are not accessing justice.

“These delays can result in litigants suffering hardship because they cannot get the remedy they are entitled to, or in some cases dropping their claims, because they cannot afford to put more time and money into them. 

“Clearly, proper investment in our justice system rather than decades of cuts would have meant the court service didn’t find itself in this difficult situation.”

40th anniversary of the PACE Act 

The Gazette Magazine (pgs 21-23) cover the 40th anniversary of the Police and Criminal Evidence Act (PACE) 1984, which transformed the criminal justice process. 

Law Society president Nick Emmerson said the criminal justice system needs urgent investment or “more solicitors will be forced out of the criminal defence profession, representation will become difficult to provide and there is a serious risk of miscarriage of justice.” 

Read our press release on the declining number of duty solicitors

Financial benchmarking survey 

The Gazette, Solicitors Journal and Today’s Wills & Probate continue coverage of our financial benchmarking survey, which found that an 1,000% rise in interest receipts help law firm stay resilient amid strong economic headwinds. 

Law Society president Nick Emmerson said: “Although law firms are proving to be financially strong and resilient, we live in tough economic times and this survey is an opportunity for law firm leaders to plan for the future. Despite costs rising and billable hours decreasing, profits have only marginally declined.” 

Paul Bennett, chair of the Law Society’s Leadership and Management Section, said: “The resilience of law firms shines through this year’s survey. Economically, it is a tough period, but firms are doing well. The obvious challenge of productivity shown in the reduced billed and recovered hours is a likely good place for law firm leaders to support their teams with training and personal development.” 

Read our press release

Disability and Neurodiversity Award 

The Gazette reports that the Law Society has won the Disability and/or Neurodiversity Initiative of the Year award at the Women in Diversity in Law Awards, for its work to improve inclusion for disabled solicitors. 

Polly Williams, our head of diversity and inclusion, said: “We are extremely proud and excited to have won this award. This is the culmination of many years’ work for the Society and its Disabled Solicitors Network.

“We would like to thank the Legally Disabled? researchers Professor Debbie Foster and Dr Natasha Hirst, the DSN committee members over the years who have informed and supported our work, most recently led by current chair Reena Parmar and immediate past chair Jane Burton, and all those individuals and organisations who have shared their experiences and knowledge.

“There is still much to do, and we look forward to continuing to work together to achieve it.” 

Find out more about the Legally Disabled? research

Also worth a read: 

  • Lawyers call out judges’ membership of Garrick Club – Legal Cheek
  • Jon Sopel joins Garrick Club, with plans to implement ‘change from within’ – Times (£)
  • Princess of Wales reveals cancer diagnosis – BBC News
  • UK government oversees record rise in net migration – BBC News
  • Data shows no major improvement in probate delays – Today’s Wills & Probate
  • Home Secretary spent £165k on private jet to sign PM’s Rwanda deal – Independent

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