Tuesday, 30 June 2015

The Tuesday Truth


Its 8.45pm on Tuesday 30th June 2015. There is barely any of Tuesday left so not much time for any Tuesday Truth

Tomorrow the Legal Aid Practitioners Group celebrates their Legal aid Lawyer of the Year award 2015. I went last year and recognised that at a time of great despair for legal aid practitioners and their clients this was one night to celebrate what was good about legal aid, to acknowledge the many vulnerable people that legal aid helped, to applaud those practitioners both solicitors and barristers who gave up their time for modest recompense to fight for the underdog.

Tomorrow night I am honoured to be receiving a special achievement award with Bill Waddington, Robin Murray and Jon Black for defending legal aid. We accept this award on behalf of everyone who has volunteered to fight the atrocious government attack on access to justice. There have been many people who have given up their time and this battle has gone on not for weeks/ months but years. We have been nominated by some of those people and we have worked with incredibly talented individuals on our committees.

However on the one day when legal aid is honoured, when we and many more deserving candidates are thanked for their tireless work the government will continue with their relentless attack on legal aid and access to justice.

The government will introduce another 8.75% cut to solicitor fees tomorrow, a further kick in the face for legal aid. 17.5% in just over a year with further cuts in January. Insufficient resources to protect those from state investigation

Finally many solicitors and barristers are saying no, this cannot go on and are refusing to work at the new rates.

There have been meetings all over the country which have seen solicitors and barristers’ two parts of the same profession unite to protect access to justice.

Michael Turner former Chair of the CBA said at a meeting at Garden Court chambers that this was not about the bar or solicitors it was about an attack on our justice system and of course we all share a responsibility to fight that.

Tomorrow and for the immediate period there may be widespread disruption around the country in the administration of justice. Solicitors and barristers take this action with a heavy heart, but the short term pain is sadly necessary for the long term gain of a proper robust justice system.

The meeting at Garden Court was well attended and had many valuable contributions from solicitors and barristers.

Many speeches began “I am not a radical but……….” In relation to protest action.

Greg Powell a former legal aid lawyer of the year began his remarks with “I am a radical and……..

Whether the speaker considered that they were a radical or not the message was the same, we cannot sit back and take this anymore.

So when you read this short Tuesday truth (it’s almost a Wednesday wander) I urge you to think about what we do , who benefits and whether you are a radical or not, as a lawyer advising yourself, you can see this is not about austerity, it’s about removing legal aid a fundamental right in an effective and fair democracy.

Monday, 22 June 2015

The Tuesday Truth


Written by Jon Black President of the LCCSA on behalf of the LCCSA and CLSA

And our ballot, sorry survey, sorry purely non- advisory response of random people not creating anything like a consensus says….It’s the same battle 

Reading this week’s Monday message from the CBA, you could be forgiven for thinking the most significant threat to our failing justice system is the existence of Solicitor Advocates .  To many this obsession is like being irate about the pointing around your windows when your house is falling into a sink hole.

It appears to many to be a diversionary tactic when the CBA had a clear mandate to take action.  It yet again serves to help the government in dividing the profession.  It has been clear for some time that Mr Cross sees the solicitor advocate as a bigger threat to the bar than the current policy decisions of the Ministry of Justice. 

Moving the goalposts and other clich├ęd metaphors

When is a ballot not a ballot?  When the CBA decide they do not like the answer they get, it appears.  If you call a thing something else when it appears in front of you it confuses the rational order of naming things. “Look it’s a sheep !”  “But when we sent it out to graze, it was definitely a horse. It still looks like a horse, its brown and has long legs and sticky up ears and  is not woolly in any way. “   “ No, no,  you’re wrong its definitely a sheep. “  “Umm confusing. “

 It’s almost as if those who voted to discount the response on the CBA Executive were attempting to circumvent the democratic process in which 96% of those voting supported action by suggesting after the event that this was a ‘survey’ and not a ballot.  This did not seem to have been made clear before the result was known.  Had CBA members in March 2014 voted against the original deal would that ballot also have been called a survey after the event  ?  When is a mandate not a mandate?  When is it a sounding? A toe in the water?  A discussion document?   A sop?

We want a level playing field too but the pitch is being dug up

It is with sadness that we again need to respond to this issue and waste time addressing a point that we hoped was far behind us.  The LCCSA and CLSA have previously publicly embraced the recommendations of the Jeffreys Report and agree that training and education should be on the same terms for each part of the profession.  The LCCSA and CLSA have frequently suggested that this issue could be resolved through private discussion between the representative organisations, including the Law Society and the Bar Council.  The Bar has never taken us up on this offer and instead has chosen to discuss the issue with the MOJ who we are told “feel their pain”.  Given the brutal economics that department has unleashed on both sides of the profession lets see how far that professed empathy gets the Bar. In the zero sum game it’s leadership is now engaging in, the junior bar lose as much as the solicitors. 

What the justice system deserves, what our clients deserve, are the best advocates, irrespective of whether they are solicitors or barristers.  Solicitors understand the importance of instructing the appropriate advocate, it is their professional duty to do so.  There has of course been a significant increase in the amount of advocacy being conducted in house but that does not automatically mean that those advocates are not well qualified or experienced.  All lawyers want to win, if they don’t win enough then irrespective of whether they are solicitors or barristers the best professional training should be available.  Standards across the board should be raised.  The solicitors associations have been engaged in nearly three years of campaigning and litigating in a fight for survival, continuing advocacy training will be a priority but at present fighting for access to justice and for professional survival has had to come first.  

But what are solicitors prepared to do ?

It is a frequent gripe, not just from barristers, that we are not prepared to take action.  Consider this, we have tried to negotiate with the government; we have tried to reason by way of statistics and reports and when this failed the LCCSA and CLSA invested heavily in litigation to stop the two tier process.  As those who were present during the National Justice Committee meetings know it was the solicitors who wanted to call a date for direct action weeks before it happened but had to wait while the CBA and Circuit Leaders conferred and the stars aligned.

But the question being asked “What are solicitors prepared to do?” is a fair question although open to manipulation by those who do not want to confront the government.  We have picked up the gauntlet and are asking our members if they would be willing to refuse work at the new rates and support a return to no returns.

The CBA should not underestimate the importance that the support of solicitors meant to the effectiveness of the No Returns policy which the CBA claim has led them to the sunny uplands of “being left alone”  with an overall decline in work and no sign of fee rises. Hurrah!  The responsibility of calming angry clients when they arrived at court unrepresented was not a pleasant one, but we stood by the Bar. There were a renegade few firms who did otherwise but like turkeys opting for bread sauce rather than cranberry their lack of unity has not improved their survival prospects. Indeed there were also barrister chambers in some regions of the country who did not support the CBA policy on No Returns.   

At the height of the Bar’s greatest negotiating strength many think the leadership disastrously surrendered the advantage obtained through the determination and sacrifice of masses of juniors up and down the country and like turkeys voting for the slow roast, non fan option settled for an agreement that there would be no direct action so long as the bar was left uncut.  

Two months before, the then CBA chair had publicly resolved to negotiate jointly with solicitors. https://www.criminalbar.com/latest-updates/news/q/date/2014/01/20/monday-message-20-01-14/

 To suggest we are suffering from ‘blinkered prejudice’ which leads us to be mistrustful is patronising and wrong.  We are asked why are we cautious and perhaps cynical as to how far the CBA can make progress with the MOJ?  It is because it is clear that these further cuts were always planned , that they ultimately harm the bar as much as the solicitors and that no amount of deal making in the manner  that took place last year and in the last few days would have changed that.  

But why did some of you bid ?

The CBA leadership has constantly looked for reasons not to unite with us, citing reasons such as the (limited) number of firms which did not support and participate in No Returns and the fact that after the loss of our Appeal, firms submitted bids. Barristers are self employed,  in itself a precarious and exposed position, they have responsibilities to their families and to colleagues in chambers with regards to rent but what many fail to understand is the huge burden on the small business owner not only struggling to keep what for many is their life’s work afloat but also immediately responsible for the employment of a raft of people , who has continual demands in terms of monthly salaries, topping up pension contributions and servicing loans never mind supporting their own families and paying the mortgage . The collapse of a law firm is swift and shocking but its aftermath is painful and protracted as many articles in the Law Society Gazette demonstrate. Bidding for nearly all of those who did was done through gritted teeth with enormous reluctance.  It was an agonising, dispiriting process but it was either quick and messy business death or a few more months of grinding out an existence in the hope that survival was possible.  Of course let us not forget the bar entities that are understood to have submitted bids as well.

So what has taken place behind the scenes?  I  was invited to meet Michael Gove with four other colleagues at the end of May.  The new Lord Chancellor had been in post for two and a half weeks, we understood he had only recently been briefed as to our concerns regarding closure of firms and access to justice. We spent most of the meeting explaining why the Two Tier scheme needed to be reconsidered. Although he was particularly interested to hear how our clients will be affected, he said that notwithstanding our concerns it may be difficult to end dual contracting at this stage, the ship having already left the harbour. The Titanic comes to mind. Mr Vara, the Legal Aid minister also in attendance,  hinted that they were focussing on ensuring that quality of advocacy was not impacted , which we can take to mean that the quality of litigation is for some reason not a priority.

We then heard nothing until 9th June, we now learn this was the date of the MOJ’s second meeting with the CBA post election.   I know it is often said we mustn't look back at the past but like all history lessons it helps us to understand where we are now and how we can learn from what has happened before. We had been promised in the aftermath of the disastrous deal in March 2014 and again in the Consultation documents, that a review on fee cuts would be undertaken in conjunction with a review into advocacy fees.    The Transforming Legal Aid document announced a cut to AGFs alongside the staged cut to solicitors’ fees. The 27th November response once again made reference to the cut in solicitors’ fees subject to review, but now no mention of the AGFS cut It appeared to have disappeared into the ether. On further enquiry we were told that in fact there was to be a review of AGFs , the criteria being based on crime spend and the Leveson Report  , whereas the solicitors'  cut would take into account Leveson and the impact of the first cut . 


(para 3.4)

Hugh Barrett head of Legal Aid at the MOJ told us in April that the second cut would be subject to a review after the General Election . So when did that review take place? In the 19 days before we met Mr Gove on 9th June ? If so why didn't he say so? In the 7 working days after our meeting? Or the five working days between the CLSA document sent on 2nd June setting out alternative savings?

Curious, it’s almost as if there wasn’t a proper review and perhaps no real intention of having one. We have been here before in the procedurally flawed consultation. The MOJ approach to the profession now seems to have been erased from the CBA leadership’s collective memory..            

The MOJ is blithely ignorant of the fact that if you properly fund those  who are committed to their clients , who prepare and litigate fearlessly and with intelligence , persistence and skill  then the advocate is in the best possible position to advance the lay clients case. Advocates and co defending solicitors alike have had their jobs made harder by the decline in standards across the board since savage budget cuts to the CPS , to the Courts Service and the introduction of LGFs heralded the ‘stack em high sell em cheap’ mentality which prevails at the MOJ and LAA at a time when we now learn that the head honchos are lavishly rewarded for presiding over a crumbling justice system.

With the grim reality of the second fee cut and the fee restructuring to come in January 2016 has come the realisation that the government has nothing but contempt for the whole profession and is entirely reckless as to the sustainability of criminal defence never mind any pretensions to guarantees of quality.  As a result we have reached last chance saloon and there are now a significant number of big firms indicating that they are in favour of refusing to accept new work after 1st July.

It has been suggested that the CBA cannot or will not support solicitors because our ballot appears to be about the rates not Duty Contracts.   However, a boycott of new work disrupts the duty scheme creating a backlog which would stretch into January. Furthermore, may we remind Mr Cross of the pledge that he was keen for solicitors to sign in 2013, on exactly this point, namely that solicitors could not carry out their professional duties at the new rates . What has changed? A cosier relationship with the Lord Chancellor?

The purpose of historical reminder is not to perpetuate division, but to demonstrate that what has gone on here has not only been divisive but contrary to the interests of both professions. We need to build a new generation of trust. It is against our joint interests to continue on divergent paths and to allow solicitors to suffer such devastating cuts.

Those thousands at the bar who passionately  believe in the rule of law and access to justice will, we hope, join with solicitors in making it clear to this Lord Chancellor that we will fight together to withstand his attempts to destroy the provision of legally  aided  representation.

The CBA leadership claim to want a ‘level playing field’ but they are simply talking about the players on their team.  We are not asking barristers to fight ‘the solicitor’s battle for us’.  We are asking barristers to fight the war of attrition we must win to preserve our criminal justice system and with it the rule of law.   

Monday, 15 June 2015

The Tuesday Truth

Criminal Solicitors: An endangered Species

The statement from the Legal Aid Minister last Wednesday 10th June 2015 makes no mention of my profession…….a solicitor.

It refers to maintaining high standards of advocacy but does not mention the quality representation provided by Solicitors in the main in the Magistrates Court where all criminal cases are heard at some stage. It also does not consider the difficult job done by solicitors at the police station, often the most significant part of any criminal case.

 The statement does refer to litigators and I suspect that Mr Vara does not care whether the litigator is an experienced Solicitor or legal executive, a paralegal or someone just out of school.

The sexy public side of criminal defence is performed in the Crown Courts by Higher Court Advocates, the majority of which are from the Independent Bar (currently). It is those wigs and gowns which everyone recognises.  This is why when those wigs and gowns were outside the court protesting and not inside the government knew they had a problem and had to do a deal.

Mr Vara knows it is that image he needs to avoid and so there is his public flirtation with the bar

The implementation of no returns last year proved to be a huge problem for the government. There were cases in Crown Court's across the land that simply couldn't be covered. Don't get me wrong they did their best and called in every PDS Advocate they could to traipse across the country covering cases.  In one case a QC was called into cover a trial at Liverpool Crown Court that wasn't a case for a Silk and at what cost to the public? The fact is the government need the Bar on side to force consolidation upon solicitors and inflict in excess of 17.5% cuts to our fees. They are determined to make their savings at whatever the cost and so in a nod to the Bar once again we see the AGFS protected. Clever tactics Mr Vara and Mr Gove might think but those of us in practice know better. In protecting the AGFS they are ring fencing an area of work which solicitors will have no choice but to try and capitalise upon. Whether they do this by way of Solicitor Advocates or by way of employing in-house Counsel they will be forced to do it to make up for the savage cuts that they are about to sustain.

Whilst the Solicitors receive this cut in the name of "austerity" after 20 years of cut after cut it is even more disappointing to learn that the Chief Executive of the Legal Aid Agency has received a £20,000 pay rise to take his salary to £225,000, a reward perhaps for reducing scope, access to justice and state accountability. Those that deliver this work at the coalface , who try to protect the vulnerable face cuts to subsidise those who implement policies which may lead to more litigants in person, more advice deserts and the meltdown of a justice system. Something does not seem right here!

 Their initial premise was cuts of 17.5% in exchange for consolidation. We  saw an 8.75% cut in March last year with no consolidation. That first cut has already seen some firms go out of business and many make staff redundant.  We are now about to get the second one for 6 months also without consolidation. Their promise of a review after the cuts and reform ( ie shoot first and ask questions after) is lamentable. If they had any true concerns they could conduct a pilot. They haven't and they won't.

You might ask yourself why it is that Gove has decided to implement the cut before consolidation. Grayling and the MoJ have always openly acknowledged that that the current supplier base couldn't sustain the second cut without consolidation. What's changed? Two tier is underway they have their time table and they have their tenders. Is there a sudden requirement to save £X by the 31st of August or is it that they now realise that two tier isn't going to work. That would be the perfect reason to change the course of their plans. Two tier is about to become a spectacularly embarrassing failure, not good when the profession have been telling them it would be for two years. Gove however is a shrewd man and sees that there is opportunity to force consolidation through the back door. Impose the second half of the 17.5% cut and allow survival of the fittest. Those who can survive the cut might see an increase in volume from the firms forced to close, of which there will be many. Great job by Gove, he even gets to announce in a few months that having listened to the profession he has decided not to press ahead with two tier - the perfect cover up. Not convinced? Ok so they implement the second cut because you don't do anything about it. You choose not to protest because your firm was ok with the two tier, you wanted the increase in volume. The reality is you only wanted the increase in volume because you knew you couldn't sustain the second cut without it. You have problems now. You submitted your tender, you don't know the outcome and yet you now face at least six months operating at a further 8.75% less with no increase in volume. That's a big problem for cash flow. Your firm needs to make it through six months hoping to get a contract. Are we not now at the point where the work is not worth doing, if not now, when will it be, at a 20% cut, or 25%?

Whichever way you look at it as a profession we've been shafted. We dared to challenge them twice in court, unforgiveable!!!.   Criminal lawyers were not rushing to the polls ticking the conservative box. They know that in the main the bar are visible side of criminal justice, keep them happy, no one needs to know what is going on behind the scenes.

They thrive on our lack of unity, there are always firms somewhere who will see an opportunity, we will take the cut because we will have much more work”. These firms need to wake up. This is the beginning of a 5 year term for this government and legal aid is not a vote winner. Those who survive this cut and the duty contracts tender(if indeed it ever comes to fruition), will be in the firing line for the next cut and the next reform which is likely to come in the next 5 years. I saw on Facebook that Dominic Grieve said that they came for us because we were a target of little resistance and this of course is common sense. They need to make savings; solicitors make a noise but never cause a problem so they will simply keep going. Grayling always made it clear that two tier was only part one of his plan. Once they have 527 firms in place it becomes a more manageable task to get the larger organisations such as G4S, Serco and Capita on board. After all this is what this government do best, sub-contract to large companies regardless of their capabilities. If this doesn't concern you then it should. Yes you might be "fortunate" enough to get a contract but what's going to happen to you in four years time when they start the process again. You'll do something about it then right? Wrong, there'll be no support from the public and less of us to provide support. There's also every chance they'll continue to extend the PDS which will put to bed any ideas of a protest. 

There will always be someone who will turn up at the Magistrates Court or the police station; there will always be someone who will provide the cover and the MOJ know that.

And if anyone dares object they will send out those contract notices, I mean the contracts themselves with their numerous extensions are probably unlawful but after all its the Ministry of “Justice”, so we have to play by their flexible rules.

Its an inappropriate analogy but sometimes solicitors who get great pride in protecting the interests of their clients through passionate advocacy ironically are like the abused partner in a domestic relationship and they simply go back for more and more, just taking it, time after time. They will stop sometime! I dont think so.

The bottom line is that in the end we will have substandard justice system where those accused of offences will have defence teams lacking the proper resources to do the job. The vulnerable, the young and the mentally ill will be even more compromised when caught up in this system.

I personally have been patronized by the Justice Ministers and civil servants enough. I sat with a few others in a meeting a few weeks ago with Mr Gove, Vara and various civil servants Mr Gove was polite, charming and appeared engaged, but with a very insincere “Hmmm” which he deployed far too often as he pretended to be really interested.

He said that would welcome other suggestions for savings they could make to the legal aid system which upon reflection seems analogous to throwing him next weeks winning lottery numbers from the Titanic.

 

The LCCSA and the CLSA have set up a hub, please log in.


The bar recognize that Varas flirting is nothing more than a tease and the preservation of their fees will mean nothing if there is no work.

The MOJ make up the rules as they go along, they do not care if the duty solicitor tender works or not, they will patch something together, after all it's only now that they accept there may have been overcrowding in prisons, they will move the goal posts whenever they see fit.
Isnt it time for us to start making the rules, if not for us but the people we act for and for the integrity of a robust justice system not just on the surface. If you agree that the time has come to make a stand then rest assured there are many willing to stand shoulder to shoulder with you, from both sides of the profession

Monday, 8 June 2015

The Tuesday Truth


Criminal Law Isn’t Only About Billing

A file I picked up today to review inspired me to write this blog.  It relates to a man who pleaded guilty at his first court appearance last October . . After a  huge amount of work , the 12 or so visits to see him in prison, the 8 court appearances thus far  my firm’s fee for this case will not exceed £200.

The two doctors I had assess him, were paid £2500 each for one visit to the prison and one report. I do not begrudge them, they did an amazing job, rather I am illustrating the imbalance.  Nevertheless I did the work, I am glad I did the work  and I would do it all over again and below I explain why:

He is the walking embodiment of the term “repeat offender”. He has committed the same offence   27 times in the past 9 years.

He is strange man, in his late 40s and has  terrible eczema which covers his hands, face and bald scalp and no doubt the rest of his body which thank goodness I have not seen. He is a loner, never married, never had a girlfriend, no family to speak of.

However, there is something about him that is quite endearing and  interesting and over the last 9 months or so I feel I have gotten to know him well and developed a relationship with him. I should add at this time that I do not think I am unique in that I get to know my clients well. I think rather than it being due to some quality that I possess, it is the nature of the solicitor – client relationship that provides for relationships to be cultivated in this way. Clients of a criminal lawyer rooted in their local community often repeatedly find themselves  in trouble, the odds are stacked against them, they are often desperate and anxious and have a lot to lose if things go wrong. Naturally they place a huge amount of trust in the one person who stands up for them and notwithstanding what they have been accused of nevertheless takes their side.

I was really intrigued by this man, I had to understand why he was continuing to commit this offence over and over again. I could not tolerate yet another short custodial sentence being imposed only for him to come out and do it all over again. I had to find a way of  trying to stop the cycle. My role as a criminal solicitor is not to just help people demonstrate their lack of culpability   it is to ensure that the client makes the best decision in his/her circumstances and work along with other agencies to try to ensure the most effective punishment is ultimately handed down to those guilty of their crimes. This is the only way the criminal justice system can most effectively work to rehabilitate people as well as punishing them.

In discussions it became obvious to me that he really did not see the harm that he was doing. He justified his actions over and over on the basis that there was no real victim (his victims were often unaware he was even doing it). I spent a long time debating with him and through this it became clear to me that he had a compulsive behaviour. He described to me how after having been raped at the age of 10 (something else he had never previously disclosed to anyone) and having received no therapy or counselling thereafter he developed obsessions, it was trains at first, then it became photography, now it is people. It did not come as a surprise to me that he has obsessions; I get several letters per week from him as do the prison authorities, the courts, the police and anyone else he happens at that time to have an interest in. It was however a breakthrough in that we now had a psychological reason to explain this behaviour. There was never any doubt that his offending was linked to this obsessive behaviour. Now if we can identify the root cause, we may be able to treat it and stop the cycle.

I commissioned a psychological report. The author of the report did not find a psychological disorder that would otherwise explain this compulsive behaviour. I felt deflated, I was so optimistic for him and now we were back to square one. I challenged the author of the report, and eventually she conceded that another expert in a different field may assist. I commissioned a further report and the second expert  made a diagnosis of Autism. When I received the report and read its conclusions I honestly felt like I had won the lottery.

I was so happy to have finally secured a diagnosis for my client which allows him to obtain  help but at the same time I was filled with a sadness; imagine a life growing up with undiagnosed autism, being shunned by those around you and not understanding why, being unable to recognise and understand social norms and similarly being unable to demonstrate them yourself to the point people think you are weird and avoid you. Then at the age of 10 being raped and not being offered counselling thereafter, the effects of which would have been all the worse because of his undiagnosed disorder.

As a consequence of being failed time and time again by the system intended to help  , you spend the entirety of your adult life in and out of prison serving short, pointless sentences that serve only to further confuse you and further , alienate you from society.

It is too late for my client, although he may now receive some treatment he will never marry, never secure a decent job, never own his own home and have a family. I only hope that his diagnosis and the treatment he will now benefit from affords him some peace. .

It is not however too late for so many others. We as criminal lawyers cannot be the last refuge of the hopeless, the mentally ill, the lost and forgotten amongst society. We must continue to fight for the vital services needed to help the most vulnerable in society. I believe criminal lawyers are unique in that their commitment to their clients and that the  rule of law should  always provide that where all else fails a criminal lawyer will step in and pick up the pieces. When the full force of this Government’s austerity programme kicks in and lawyers are reduced to working for even less and our firms are turned into corporate machines for producing fast food law at the lowest cost what then will happen to client’s like this? The good intentions and ethical values that drive so many lawyers will be replaced with a drive to maximise profits. There is no room for sentimentality in the pursuit of short term profit. Vulnerable client’s will spend the rest of their lives in and out of prison, untreated at great cost to the public. There is no chance that the other services will pick him up, they are suffering the same cuts in the name of austerity and are being forced to adopt similar commercially driven models.

We are part of the safety net for our society but for how much longer, the safety net is being cut to shreds.

by Oliver Gardner: http://bit.ly/oliveronlinkedin Director of  Howards Solicitors:http://www.howardssolicitors.co.uk/     and CLSA committee member

 

Tuesday, 2 June 2015

The Tuesday Truth

This week's Tuesday Truth is written by Lucinda Nicholls, Solicitor at Richard Nelson and LCCSA committee member

 A Vivid Imagination

So I participated in a 10km Legal Walk recently and needed something to occupy my mind.  At the start I was quite surprised by the thousands of people that completed the walk and I spent the first 20minutes or so reading the back of everyone's t-shirts to see where walkers had come from. 

I then had time to let my mind wonder.  And wonder it did.  It had started after having  a brief conversation with an associate regarding the upcoming Strictly Come Dancing night organised by Furnival Chambers.  It turned out, that before I came to the big smoke, there was also a very well attended white collar boxing event that was eventually replaced by the dancing. In fact I was talking to one of the gentlemen that fought one year.

So what next?  Coupled with the thought of trying to raise funds for the LCCSA, there had to be a new idea on the horizon.  How could we move forward with the times? What would be entertaining, fun and get the adrenaline pumping?  We love a good fight in the legal world and everyone loves a bit of a drama.  Then names of some great people popped into my head from my younger days watching some of the best entertainment..the Undertaker, the British Bulldog, Kane, Jake the Snake, Bret 'The Hitman' Hart, Stone Cold Steve Austin and of course Hulk Hogan! In my mind, I raise one of my eyebrows and shout along with the crowds on the TV 'Can you smellll what the Rock is cooking?!' Oh what fun! Could this be the next stage of entertainment for the legal world? Could it be possible?

Then my mind really started to wonder... I could see 'Jon 'The Pres' Black from the LCCSA bouncing into centre stage of York Hall to the backing track of The Charming Man https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=VHnt3o_nAVo. Solicitors from London and the surrounds screaming in support of the man who fought the MOJ, fought the Courts, and fought the non-believers.  He'd bounce in wearing his HCA gown and black war paint on his cheeks.  On hitting the ring, he'd jump onto the ropes in the corners and the Sols and police station reps and paralegals would be going wild, fist pumping the air and screams of support....

Then the music takes a more sombre affair...as the opposition approaches....the lights go out, notes of Apocalypse Now music (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=zPf_PJlJsJQ ) echoes around the room.  Everyone goes silent.  The spotlight shines onto the opposite entrance and the first thing you notice is the hair.  Oh my life, no....it's not...can it really be Tony 'the CBA boss' Cross?! Oh yes!  The barristers are up off their chairs and the room erupts with energy and adrenaline. He walks towards the ring in his wig and QC gown making sure the crowds can see the difference between his and what 'The Pres' was wearing.  Barristers point and take note as he marches in saying 'I'm fighting for Rivlin.'

 
So they're both in the ring, the crowd is going wild and the referee has given the orders 'No chairs and no tag teams for this fight lads.'  Both men eye each other up.  'The Pres' growls at 'The Boss' but he doesn't flinch. 

 
Next thing you know, the bell rings, the action happens, and both men tackle each other and bounce off the ropes.  The match is evenly fought, no side seems to win, but then out of nowhere The Boss pulls out a heavy looking folder. In big letters on the front it says 'Save the Independent Bar.'  He uses this as a weapon which appears to take The Pres by surprise but it seems he has a trick up his sleeve.  Out of nowhere a Crown Court Archbold appears with The Pres written down the side of it.  He throws it at The Boss whilst shouting 'I use this book as much as you do!'  Everything goes to slow motion as we see the book hurtle through the air and land smack bang in the chest of The Boss, Tony Cross.  This sends him flying backwards and off his feet.

The crowd goes wild, everyone is up on their feet electric with the adrenalin. Screams from both sides of the fence as they egg on their chosen opponent!

It's safe to say I had an over-active imagination on the day of this walk but I could see the fun that could be had.  I might have mentioned the idea to The Pres who's response was 'I've always been quite keen to give wrestling a go.'  I was even telling my personal trainer who told me there's a wrestling champion at his gym who does lessons.  So basically, if we wanted this to work, all the foundations are in place.  We could create our very own piece of epic entertainment that would be etched in legal history forever more, talked about for generations across the fields of England, over the borders of Scotland, and the mountains of Wales. Were you there when Jon 'The Pres' Black fought Tony 'The CBA Boss' Cross? Who's game? I'll be taking ringside seats for this one.