LAW Society of Scotland director Neil Stevenson’s monthly column explains the stories behind some of his tweets
Plan for growth – working together with @ScotArbCentre and others to promote Scotland
Plan for Growth 2 is to be launched on Thursday in London, followed by an event in Scotland next week. Plan for Growth 2 focuses on marketing the strength of the legal profession in the UK (in its own right and to support other economic development work), and ensuring that the sector receives the same support from UK government and agencies as other economic sectors. But an obvious question might be, why are we discussing a second plan when we have not promoted the first Plan for Growth, published in 2011? Billed as a UK document, it contained just one mention of Scotland, helpfully pointing out it was “different”. We responded to that robustly but constructively. We were delighted to work with @scotarbcentre and the team at the Office of the Advocate General to ensure Scotland’s sector, through a round table for interested firms, was involved in the development of this second scheme and promoted within it.
#protestforjustice is helping drive a debate on e-engagement. A fruitful discussion about how members can better engage and influence policy has emerged from the debate on client contributions for criminal legal aid work. More bodies are moving to a more formal, evidence-based approach, where a research strategy is used to engage directly with members and the public to assess views. Direct, two-way communication will be essential as the society works to form a view on Legal Aid contracting. Scottish Government proposals on this are expected soon. Westminster’s Justice Secretary Chris Grayling’s announcement of price contracting for criminal legal aid in England continues a global trend where governments start talking about improving standards through contracting but quickly move to driving down price.
#LSSagm to be broadcast live for the first time
The Law Society’s AGM later this month (22 March) will be the first to be broadcast live, as well as having a live Twitter stream (as in previous years, follow #LSSagm). In some ways the society is incredibly democratic – an elected council, AGMs where members can lead motions on any issue, a proxy voting system, and a mechanism for referendums. However, like all bodies these gold standards of engagement sometimes glitter more than deliver. What busy lawyer can spare time to travel from Inverness or Orkney to Edinburgh to participate in an AGM unless the issues are critical? The live Twitter discussion at the AGM last year was a first step in allowing members to follow the discussions from afar and see the council report on its work and finances.
@ScotgovJustice consultation on Courts Reform Bill
You have been injured at work and are unable to return, losing five years’ salary at the end of your career. Or, due to the negligence of a heating installation engineer, you have lost your home in a fire. Until now the justice system has recognised these serious, life-altering types of case required proper judicial time and an appropriate forum for resolution. Claims up to £5000 are dealt with by a sheriff, but the rest would go to the Court of Session. The government proposes raising the Court of Session threshold to £150,000. Our recommendation recognises there is a need for significant change but, based on research into case profiles, we see the area for discussion as being between £20,000 and £50,000. This will protect those who have suffered a great loss, and follows an empirical analysis rather than the figure seemingly picked out the air in the original Gill review. We want to lobby hard on this point.
• Neil Stevenson regularly tweets (@StevensonLaw) with his personal views on issues in the legal sector. Follow all of The Scotsman’s legal news on Twitter @scotsmanlaw