Posts Tagged ‘Government’
Jack Straw introduced a 10 minute rule Bill in the House of Commons on 13 September 2011 seeking to ban referral fees. The Government has adopted that Bill. Referral fees will be banned in personal injury cases and it is likely to be a criminal offence, punishable by two years imprisonment, to pay or receive or offer or solicit a referral fee in a personal injury case.
I have no problem with that. I do have a problem with Mr Straw, a Cabinet Minister for the whole of the 1997-2010 Government, and Justice Secretary and Lord Chancellor from June 2007 to 6 May 2010 suddenly discovering referral fees.
The Compensation Act 2006, which licenses Claims Management Companies (CMCs) and specifically regulates and authorizes the payment of referral fees, came in to force on 23 April 2007, just weeks before Mr Straw became Justice Secretary and Lord Chancellor. His own department, the Ministry of Justice, is responsible for licensing Claims Management Companies, and the list of such companies appears on the MoJ’s website.
Thus for most of the lifetime of regulated referral fees Mr Straw was the Minister directly responsible for them.
Yesterday, 6 October 2011, the Legal Services Act 2007, surely the most disastrous piece of legislation of the last Government, and one of the worst in the country’s history, came in to effect.
It allows all comers, subject to minimal requirements, to sell legal services. The Claims Management Companies that Mr Straw dislikes so much will become Alternative Business Structures (ABSs) (the Act’s name not mine!) and will practise law.
Thus the ban on referral fees will be utterly meaningless and irrelevant as the sellers of the work, the Claims Management Companies – will simply do the whole case themselves, or carry on selling the work to other ABSs and law firms as there has never been any restriction on payment of referral fees between lawyers.
The whole purpose of the Legal Services Act is to allow non-lawyers to compete with lawyers on a level playing field. Preventing Claims Management Companies which are ABSs from trading work in the way that solicitors can would defeat that objective.
In any event CMCs which are ABSs can instruct the solicitors that they currently sell clients to on an agency basis. Thus at present a CMC sells a client whose claim attracts costs of £1,200.00, for a £700.00 referral fee.
Now the CMC can simply instruct the solicitor on an agency basis and pay the solicitor £500.00, keeping the balance of £700.00.
Thus the CMC receives £700.00 and the solicitor £500.00, exactly as now and for doing exactly the same work.
Like Theresa May and the Human Rights Act cat, Mr Straw must know this.
The Legal Services Act 2007 received Royal Assent on 30 October 2007 at which time Mr Straw was the Lord Chancellor and the Justice Minister. He is also a barrister. Hate it or love it, everyone regards it as one of the most significant Acts ever in relation to law. It is inconceivable that Mr Straw was unaware of its consequences – its whole purpose is to allow CMCs and others to compete with lawyers.
Here is the link to Mr Straw’s speech in the House of Commons seeking leave to introduce the Bill:
Reading this no-one would ever have any idea that it was Mr Straw’s Government that has caused all of these problems, and specifically Mr Straw himself who was the Cabinet Minister responsible when the Legal Services Act became law.
Thus Mr Straw himself has ensured that his proposed ban on referral fees is totally meaningless and irrelevant, but of course it attracts favourable comments in the Daily Mail, and uncritical publicity on the BBC’s website.
I would prefer not to be governed by people like Mr Straw and Ms May.
The death of civil Legal Aid, born in 1948, has been announced in the Legal Aid, Sentencing and Punishment of Offenders Bill.
A spokesperson for the Legal Aid family said:
“Legal Aid used to be a voucher scheme, with clients having an unrestricted choice of solicitors, all of whom did legal aid and who received the same fee.
“Clients paid means-tested contributions and solicitors paid 10% of their fees, including those received from a losing party, to the Law Society to administer legal aid, which thus made a profit in many cases for the Legal Aid Fund.
“It cost the taxpayer almost nothing, and most taxpayers had access to legal aid. It was very healthy and very popular.
“Then the big business profit centre mediocre middle management statists radicalized our Legal Aid. Individual clients meant nothing; solicitors meant nothing. Mass contracts and “matter starts” replaced justice, quality and professionalism.
“Most of Legal Aid’s friends deserted him; he had become unpleasant due to his terrible ‘big business syndrome’.
“This strange cult decided that Not for Profit organisations were the answer. These were Alternative Non-Business Structures funded by the State, but public spending cuts mean that they are all dying too; the Immigration Advisory Service and Law for All have just been buried and 18 out of 56 Law Centres are terminally ill.
“People do not realize how terrible this cult is and how it is infecting every area of British life.
“All Solicitors were friends of Legal Aid and then he lost most of them. His death is a release from this terrible curse.”
The Legal Aid family hopes that one day a cure will be found and request that all donations be sent to “Small is Beautiful”.
“Glance is the enemy of vision”
One week and we already have MORE READERS THAN THE NEWS OF THE WORLD!
Everyday, every lawyer, law student etc., especially at parties, is asked:
“How can you represent someone that you know is guilty?”
neatly encapsulating the fact that:
- All people are guilty of everything;
- All lawyers are bent;
- Only people who do not need representing should be represented.
Lawyers’ responses include:
1. Slowly and carefully explaining the presumption of innocence, the rule of law and the cab-rank rule, that is that we take the next case that comes along.
2. Saying “It could be your son or daughter”.
3. Asking how the questioner can work for X corporation which [uses child labour] [causes global meltdown] [supplies arms to not very nice governments] [used to advertise in the News of the World].
4. Pouring yet another drink.
So here is the news as non-lawyers would like it.
“Mr Johnny Foreigner, 32, genocidal drug-dealing war-lording phone-hacking slave-trafficking fundamentalist mercenary of Aspidistra Crescent, represented by Petronella Prod-Up, 14, intern at LSC firm Bustall and Co (deceased), importers of Vietnamese cross-country skiing aids, was found guilty at Guantanamo Bay Magistrates Court, Surrey, by Coronation Street star Judge Tim Tom Trotter, 16, currently starring in “I’m a Celebrity Big Brother Apprentice – get me out of here”.
Thoughts of a dry brain in a dry season
(T S Eliot: Gerontion)
“The first thing we do, let’s kill all the lawyers” (Henry The Sixth, Part 2 Act 4).
As this play is as readable as a commercial lease or European Court of Justice judgment I am surprised anyone ever made it to Part 2.
Soon you may all find out if the Bored of Stratford was right as from 6 October the Government aims to kill the legal profession by allowing non-lawyers to practise law.
This has all-party support – it was the Labour Government that introduced the Legal Services Act 2007 and it is being implemented by a Conservative-Liberal coalition.
I suppose this will ease unemployment among the jobless phone-hackers and police bunga bungas but hey, maybe it is time for a bit MORE regulation of lawyers, police, politicians and the press, not less.
So, and you heard it here first, Law Abroad plc and Underwoods Solicitors are remaining just that – solicitors. No Alternative Business Structure for us. After all the legal profession, and its offspring the judiciary, are about the only parts of the British Constitution not subsumed in scandal.
This is the way the world ends
Not with a bang but a whimper
(T S Eliot: The Hollow Men)