Archive for May 22nd, 2013

Hat Tip to Catherine Baksi ‏@legalhackette “Over 500 find Christopher Grayling guilty of attempted murder of legal aid at #saveukjustice demo”

Catherine Baksi interviewed the Lord Chancellor and Secretary of State for Justice – interesting and well worth a read.  

The demonstration and #SaveUKJustice campaign on Twitter is not about ‘fatcat lawyers’ – indeed, many criminal lawyers make a very modest living by providing representation and advice in the field of criminal law – it is about access to justice, the right to choose a solicitor, the right to a fair trial, the right to be treated fairly by the state.

Many bloggers have written on the subject.  Patrick Torsney has a comprehensive listing of blogs written by lawyers and others from the legal blogging community. 

The Guardian was quick to report: Lawyers protest outside parliament against legal aid cuts
Hundreds, some wearing wigs and gowns, demonstrate against justice secretary’s plans, which they say undermine UK justice

The London Criminal Courts Solicitors Association (LCCSA) provides pictures of the event on their Facebook page

I did a podcast interview with Michael Turner QC recently: Tour Report #21:  Podcast with Michael Turner QC, Chairman of The Criminal Bar Association,  on the legal aid reforms

The demonstration generated a great many tweets and you may follow them here

I provide a few…

Jules Carey ‏@Jules_Carey : This reminded of Tony Hancock sketch: “Does Magna Carta mean nothing to you? Did she die in vain?” #SaveUKJustice
Northpod Law ‏@northpodlaw : Client choice remarks from Grayling described as enshrining mediocrity. #justiceforsale #saveUKjustice
deffostepho ‏@deffostepho :  Room full of lawyers and they’re all angry. #saveukjustice pic.twitter.com/hcQCPU9eNK
The CBA ‏@TheCriminalBar : We are turning public opinion. 70% public fear losing #legalaid

I am doing a podcast interview with ex-MP and barrister Jerry Hayes (pictured below) about the demonstration – and the need for it – on Friday.  Jerry is a good speaker and will, I feel sure, be robust and direct in expressing his views!

The reforms to legal aid will impact on the legal profession, but as wiser heads than mine have observed – lawyers can get other jobs.  Will a person in need be able to afford representation, let alone get a good lawyer if the good lawyers are forced to move away from practice within the field of criminal law?

And here is a storify of #SaveUKJustice tweets at the demonstration this morning from  Shoaib M Khan ‏@UK_HumanRights3m

PLEASE SIGN the petition so that Mr Grayling has to answer before Parliament for his ill conceived reform plans.

>>>>Sign the petition – please, if you haven’t already.


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Legal Salary Survey

Legal Salary Survey 2013

An interesting infographic on salaries from Sellick Partnership


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What do you do if you’ve worked with asbestos in the past?
Paul Rooney Legal, Solicitors

Asbestos is the greatest cause of work related deaths in the UK, and work related exposure is the most common source of contact with asbestos. For this reason, it’s vital to be aware of the dangers of exposure and the steps required following diagnosis of an asbestos related disease.

Asbestos exposure can occur in various places of work, including:

  • an asbestos mine or asbestos processing plant
  • working in a high-risk occupational surroundings, such as construction, painting and decorating or automotive industries
  • serving on military facilities, including ships, where asbestos has been used in construction

It’s important to note that it generally takes recurrent, heavy exposure to asbestos to be at risk. Working in a building where asbestos was used in its construction, but is suitably sealed, is not likely to result in contracting an asbestos related disease, as not a high enough dose of asbestos will be inhaled.

In the UK, the greatest risk of asbestos related lung disease arises from insulation work, although some work activities are more highly associated with asbestos exposure. For instance, the use of power drills and work that involves the physical disturbance of asbestos is more likely to create a significant concentration of asbestos fibres in the air. DIY activities can also cause exposure to asbestos.

Mesothelioma, a form of lung cancer, develops from triggered biological changes in the body after asbestos fibres have accumulated. As it can take some 40 years or more to manifest, new cases are expected to rise and experts believe that by 2050, there will be 90,000 deaths attributed to mesothelioma in the UK.

Diagnosis of mesothelioma is difficult, but symptoms include breathlessness, chest pains, weight loss, fatigue and persistent coughing. While these symptoms are not always signs of lung cancer, it is advisable to consult your GP if you have them.

The outlook for mesothelioma is poor, often because of the advanced stage it is at when diagnosed. According to the NHS, most people with the condition will die within three years.

In 2010, there were 2,347 deaths from mesothelioma in the UK. Asbestosis is not as common, causing 189 deaths in 2009, while 1,015 people with the condition were assessed for industrial injuries disability benefit in 2010.

Cases of asbestos related diseases have also emerged from living near asbestos factories or washing the clothes of a loved one who works with asbestos. High risk areas are shipyards, railway engineering and factories.

If you believe you have been exposed to asbestos, it is strongly recommended you speak to your GP as soon as possible. If you know, make sure you tell them the dates of possible exposure, the type and likely amount of asbestos you’ve been exposed to.

Understandably, if you are diagnosed with an asbestos related disease, you will be worried and scared. You will want the best medical care and you might be entitled to compensation which could help with your medical care.

If you are concerned that you may have been exposed to asbestos, you can contact the British Lung Foundation Helpline on 03000 030 555.

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The need to move away from our John Major and Del Boy image
Richard Powell, Solicitor

If you were to ask a member of the public what news stories they remember from the past week, what would they think about?  Chances are, it’ll be about Fergie’s retirement, the three women rescued from captivity in Ohio or the latest allegations against April Jones’ supposed killer.

What I can guarantee with pretty much absolute certainty is that nobody, unless they are a lawyer or a barrister, will be thinking about the reduction of fixed fees in road traffic accident personal injury claims.  There will be nobody who’s turned to a friend and exclaim “gosh, I wonder what this means when combined with the new legal Bill that came into effect in April.”

Nobody will be thinking this outside the legal profession because, quite simply, it isn’t interesting enough to be in the mainstream news.  I wish the truth was less brutal, but there it is.  To anyone outside of the industry, Personal Injury is seen at once as the John Major and the Del Boy Trotter of the legal world.  We are either grey and boring, or we are boorish and brash, with none of the lovability of the latter and about as much charisma as the former.

What gets bums on seats in news terms is not how your access to justice may be affected when lawyers in their droves can’t handle your personal injury claim and you have to go it alone (until a spectacularly massive scandal of this nature breaks).  It is not even what will happen when hundreds of lawyers and ancillary staff are put out on the dole because of the combined effects of the LASPO Bill, fixed fee reforms or when a form of Grayling’s whiplash proposals are passed.  It is personal tragedy.  It is outrage.  It is the moral paucity of the politicians elected in by an increasingly apathetic population.  What most people remember about John Major’s time in power is not Black Wednesday, but his affair with Edwina Curry.  The scandal, not the substance.

When one of the biggest shakeups to legal aid came in last month, in the form of the LASPO Bill, a couple of stories came out about the impact the changes would have on Medical Negligence and Family Law cases.  There were no stories about how it would impact on people making personal injury claims and that they’d lose a big proportion of their compensation award paying their lawyer’s fee.  Nothing about the fact that people with claims that are meritorious but not straightforward would probably not get taken on by any lawyer unless said lawyer wanted to run the case at a loss…and as much as Failing Grayling might expect us to do this, some of us do still have bills to pay.  We’re not unlike our clients in that respect.

Even if the small claims limit for road traffic accidents gets raised to £5,000 next year, it is unlikely this will be covered, even though that will effectively end no win, no fee claims in these kinds of cases.

Until the industry starts to be viewed as an interesting, positive force, our stories will forever languish at the bottom of the media pile, going unnoticed and unloved.  If we are to move away from John Major and Del Boy, we need to start making Personal Injury Law appealing to the mainstream.  We need a new celeb comparator now, before it’s too late.  Personally, I’d rather be Daniel Craig, but I’m open to suggestion…


About the Author: Richard Powell is a personal injury solicitor at YouClaim, who specialise in compensation claims ranging from clinical negligence to road accidents. Connect with Richard on Google+ or LinkedIn.

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