Archive for September 11th, 2009

Legal Comment 11 September

The President of the new Supreme Court, Lord Phillips, has called for the retirement age of the senior judiciary to be raised from 70 to 75. Lord Phillips, appointed under old rules, may sit until he is 75. The Times reports: “The Judicial Pensions and Retirement Act 1993, which took effect in 1995, brought in a compulsory retirement age for judges of 70 and is now starting to bite for judges appointed since.”

The Times notes… “Mr Straw has made no formal response but privately has indicated he does not favour a change in the rules.”

I agree with Lord Phillips.  The suggestion is both sensible and practical.  Lord Phillips noted that it takes quite a long time to climb the judicial ladder.  Given that many barristers and solicitors have families later in life than perhaps was the case in earlier times, we are losing talent for the judiciary simply because some senior and  experienced lawyers cannot afford to take judicial appointments in their late forties and early fifties. If men and women holding high judicial office feel able to and are competent to continue in office we should take advantage of experience.  It would not, I suspect, be difficult to provide for formal tenure rules until 70, as now, with a yearly informal review  by senior judges of those who wish to continue.  I cannot imagine that a senior judge would wish to compromise his or her life’s work and reputation by continuing to sit when health or faculties began to fade and it seems, to my outsider eye, a waste of expertise and talent to lose senior judges simply because the age of 70 has been reached.

There may, of course, be objections from those further down the judicial ladder that they will lose out in the short term because vacancies would not come as expected if the present law is changed.

While we may be coming out of recession officially, it will take some time for this to impact on the legal profession. Allen & Overy have published a fascinating review: ‘Life after Lehman” where they consider a new culture of cautious deal making and risk analysis.  It is worth a read if you are working within the corporate-commercial or banking sector.

Pressure continue to mount on the legal profession. The Law Society Gazette reports this week… APIL walks out of fixed-fee talks.

In an unprecedented move for the organisation, APIL has withdrawn from talks on extending fixed costs for all ‘fast track’ cases. The Civil Justice Council (CJC) has begun a mediation process to produce industry-agreed fixed costs for road traffic accident, industrial disease, employer’s liability and public liability cases worth up to £25,0000. Fixed costs are already in place for road traffic cases worth up to £10,000. APIL opposes the extension

APIL said it had been forced to pull out of the talks because the CJC had ‘made it very clear that key principles affecting claimants and issues relating to the claims process are not for discussion in the mediation. The only subjects for discussion are the figures themselves’.

Which sector next?

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