AllAboutLaw Blog: your weekly legal news drop

Welcome to the second edition of AllAboutLaw’s weekly blog! This week, we will take a look at prosecution lawyers’ planned walkout against low fees, as well as several current news stories related to sexual-offence cases and to technology within the legal sector.

  • Last updated Jul 9, 2019 2:31:58 PM
  • Anna Vall Navés
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Criminal barristers likely to cancel national walkout 

After prosecution barristers in England and Wales announced last week that they would stage a one-day walkout on July 1, they struck an interim deal with the Crown Prosecution Service (CPS) this week that is likely to result in the walkout being called off. 

The initial announcement of a walkout from the Criminal Barrister Association (CBA) came after a majority of its members voted in favour of taking action against fees of as little as £46.50 for day’s work. The walkout was set to bring the criminal system to a complete halt for the day, preventing trials from taking place.

The Ministry of Justice was one of the worst hit by austerity measures, experiencing budget cuts deeper than any other Whitehall department. In addition, fees have not been updated in line with inflation for years. 

Last week, the CPS agreed to a “full review of legal aid payment schemes”, and this week it has come to a provisional agreement with the CBA. Among some of the key measures in this agreement is an increase of all fixed fees to the level of the Advocates’ Graduated Fees Scheme (AGFS) from September 2019.

The CBA will ballot its membership to decide on the deal and the planned walkout. In a statement on the CBA website, Chris Henley QC, the head of the organisation, claimed that he was “much more positive about things” following the interim deal and recommended that the proposals be accepted.

Christina Blacklaws, President of the Law Society of England and Wales, said that while it is “encouraging” that the government is recognising the underfunding of the criminal justice system, it needs to “listen to more than just the loudest voices” if it truly intends to deal with what she terms an “impending catastrophe”.  

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 ““There are complicated issues to which there are no straightforward answers. The desire for simple moral truths, and to see only what we want to see, makes it more difficult to navigate our way through such challenging dilemmas” – Kenan Malik, lecturer at Imperial College London.

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Firm news

The four UK firms established in South Korea—Clifford Chance, Allen & Overy, Linklaters and Stephenson Harwood—have secured the right to stay in Seoul after Brexit, owing to a continuity trade deal signed this week between the UK and South Korea.

Clifford Chance becomes the second magic circle firm to increase the salary for newly-qualified associates to £100,000, following a similar increase from Freshfields.

Clyde & Co senior partner Simon Konsta will step down and be replaced by Peter Hirst, after the firm announced its 21st consecutive year of revenue growth.

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Rape cases reportedly "dropped" by the CPS

Women’s organisations have threatened to sue the CPS over an alleged covert policy change in relation to rape cases. While there was a 16% increase in rapes reported to the police in 2017-18, there was a 23% decrease in cases taken on by the CPS. There are claims that CPS leaders encouraged prosecutors to drop supposedly “weak” cases such as rape, which would amount to a major failure in protecting victims’ human rights.

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Lawtech: technology in the legal sphere given funding boost

The Ministry of Justice announced last week that it will allocate £2m to technology in the legal sector. As this announcement suggests, lawtech—also known as legaltech—is becoming an increasingly relevant part of the industry’s future. New technologies from automation to AI promise to streamline work and allow lawyers to quickly make sense of large pools of information.

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Recommended reading

1. The Law Society has released a map of algorithms in the justice system, along with some of the risks that the use of these algorithms may entail. 

2. Also from The Law Society this week, an article on the Diversity Access Scheme scholarship that covers the ways in which the law can be made more accessible.

3. In The Guardian, Catherine Bennett writes on how the Law Commission ignores the rights of surrogate mothers.

4. In a new Talking Law podcast, Paulette Mastin—counsel in the Capital Markets practice at Linklaters and chair of the Black Solicitors’ Network—discusses diversity in law firms and provides advice for anyone seeking to achieve seniority in law.

5. Finally, in our own Commercial Insights section, Becky Kells provides the basics to understanding mergers and acquisitions in law.

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