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£1,750-a-head Magna Carta ‘summit’ hijacked by legal aid event that costs a tenner

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With stratospheric delegate fees, don’t expect to see too many young lawyers brushing shoulders with the PM and BoJo at next month’s official Magna Carta celebrations. But there is an alternative…

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The great and the good will be sending their evening wear to up-market dry cleaners in advance of next month’s Global Law Summit in London — but not everyone in the legal profession is looking forward to the star-studded bash, with one campaigning group calling on lawyers to boycott the event.

The Justice Alliance — a campaigning group making much of the running in the fight against the government’s legal aid cuts — has just announced the Not the Global Law Summit. The event will run as a spoiler to the Ministry of Justice-organised shindig, which officialdom views as the appropriate forum for celebrating the 800th anniversary of the Magna Carta.

Headliners at the alternative gig include a parade of contemporary comedians, including Stephen K Amos and Angela Barnes. That show — scheduled for Union Chapel in Islington — will coincide with the opening night of the official summit on 23 February. And the alliance has arranged series of events to run in parallel with the Ministry of Justice’s programme.

Indeed, the MoJ’s bash — otherwise known as Chris Grayling’s big night out — is billed by Prime Minister David Cameron as a forum where:

“Global leaders in both business and the law [will] discuss the issues that are shaping the agenda legally, commercially and socially over the next generation”.

According to Justice Secretary Grayling’s boss, the event provides:

“Yet more evidence that Britain continues to lead the way in promoting free enterprise, economic growth, and the rule of law around the world”.

But not everyone is quite so chuffed with the idea. Since its announcement last year, the summit has been dogged by critics claiming it represents an elitist and commercially-biased image of UK law. Rumours have also been rife that the organisers have struggled to drum up much interest in the gig, which is seen my some as an over-priced propaganda tool for the MoJ.

High on the list of complaints are delegate fees. Early bird rates are available until the end of this month, but even those are pegged at £1,350 for private practice lawyers (for some reason, the organisers are cutting some slack for those in-house, with that early bird rate set at a couple of hundred quid cheaper.)

But top-whack tickets during the conference will go for up to £1,750, more or less ensuring that lawyers from the dwindling legal aid sector will be giving the whole shooting match a miss.

Indeed, the Justice Alliance — founded by Binberg Peirce solicitor Matt Foot, the son of renowned campaigning journalist Paul and nephew of former Labour leader Michael — describes the summit as nothing more than “rank hypocrisy”.

According to the alliance:

“Delegates from all over the world have been summoned to celebrate Britain as a bastion of the rule of law, when in reality the government is denying justice to the poor by slashing legal aid and attempting to shield itself from scrutiny by restricting judicial review and pledging to repeal the Human Rights Act”.

The alliance points out that the summit delegate list bears a striking resemblance to the names attending a little gathering in Davos this week. Included are a Goldman Sachs managing partner, the vice-president of the Barrick Gold Corporation and a senior Rothschild banker.

Sponsors include a host of City law firms — Allen & Overy bagged platinum status — and commercial barristers’ chambers, along with the Law Society, the Bar Council, the City of London Law Society, and media sponsor, The Lawyer newspaper.

In addition to the obvious high-profile slot for Grayling, other speakers include London mayor Boris Johnson, and the wife of former Prime Minister Tony Blair, Cherie.

Lashing out at the event, the Justice Alliance says:

“The government … is trumpeting our justice system while behind the scenes damaging the rule of law and causing irreparable harm to access to justice. We are calling on all principled lawyers to boycott the Global Law Summit and attend Justice Alliance’s alternative celebration of the Magna Carta.”

27 Comments

Not Amused

I have been, as I expect everyone has, offered a ‘cut price’ ticket at what is still an eye watering fee.

I consider the entire event silly and vaguely grotesque and will not be going. I have also seen the attendance list which is 1) on the short side, and 2) mostly comprised of people who got a free ticket. I would buy the fizz on sale or return if I were them.

(20)(0)

Daniel Olive

I fear the attendees and sponsors may end up looking rather foolish. I hope they had a good solicitor draw up their sponsorship agreement, and negotiate an escape clause.

(7)(0)

James Vine

Very close scrutiny will be required of any lawyers who DO take the podium, but DONT expose this governments hypocrisy

The actual anniversary is AFTER the Election!

(11)(0)

Mr Wyatt's Sexy PA

This whole event makes me go ‘meh’.

(3)(1)

John Cooke@WilkesandLiberty

I am going in order to collect names

(5)(0)

LJ Crookshanks

What a bloody joke. This government has GOT TO GO.

(9)(1)

LJ Crookshanks

Can someone please ask why Tony Cross QC is a speaker? He is Chairman of the Criminal Bar Association for goodness sake.

(10)(0)

Follower

Cos he’s one of them ‘establishment’ guffers inhe

(0)(0)

Not Amused

Hmmm …

I should add that I have absolutely *zero* respect for people politicising this. The Labour party froze legal aid in 1997. Then they cut it. Then they cut it. Then they cut it again. Indeed it is arguable that the entire problem is a product of the legal aid ‘budget’ (of which no detailed breakdown has ever been asked for or provided) is wasted on unnecessary public sector employees put there by the Labour party.

I am extremely upset by the latest round of cuts. I was also extremely upset by the other rounds of cuts. I am getting fed up to the back teeth with lying socialists with short memories trying to pretend that a centre ground Tory and Liberal coalition is somehow wholly to blame for this national scandal.

Where where the socialists at the criminal Bar exactly? When their supposedly amazing party was doing all of this cutting? Where was Emily Thornberry then?

Please do not politicise this. Please stop “weaponising” failures in public services. Because we the public are not convinced. We don’t care who was to blame – we want someone to fix it.

(20)(8)

Barbie

Of course we are convinced! When the going gets tough for the Tories they blame Labour. Chris Grayling should be held to account!

(2)(0)

Not Amused

Man asks labour supporters not to politicise important public issue. Man accused of being Tory.

(5)(0)

VTESI

Agree with most of what you wrote but can’t help pointing out that the “socialists” left at the bar are all those poor kids who want criminal pupillages. So they’re out there, they just can’t get a foot in the door…

(3)(0)

Not Amused

Well, I think we have to recognise that certain sets like Tooks (as it was) and Doughty Street have definite political persuasions.

” You don’t have to be a socialist to work here but it helps”

(4)(0)

James Vine

NA. Perhaps your reference to “centre ground tory and Liberal coalition” gives us some insight into your own Political stance. (And I do know who you are by the way)
I Have as much loathing for Straw Baird and Bach as you do, however it seems to me unarguable but that artificially bringing forward the anniversary to a date BEFORE the election tars the Tories with the same brush.
And please do not presume to guess my personal politics. You will be very wrong from what I have seen so far.

(0)(0)

Not Amused

Well, you must forgive me, I’m afraid I do not know who you are. If you know who I am, then you know what I have done fighting on this subject.

Regardless, my points are about legal aid. I’m willing to take what you say about the date on face value. I don’t really think it impacts anything I’ve said.

(0)(0)

Apex Predator

I cannot believe I have just read above that the Chair of the CBA is attending. I cannot compute that.

(4)(0)

Un Amused!

Excuse me, since when was New Labour considered to resemble anything close to a socialist party? First I’ve heard of it. Anyway, the background to the legal aid cuts goes further back than 97. I recall LA rates being frozen from about 1990 onwards, then franchising came in under the Tories which paved the way for contracting and the more savage cuts later on – planned on I seem to recall by New Labour and later executed by the Tories. So your reasoning doesn’t add up i.e. people on the left have no right to complain now as they acquiesced from the start. New Labour’s policies were nothing to do with true socialism. Reforms were undoubtedly needed as the LA system was abused for years as it was a massive cash cow easily milked during the 80’s and 90’s. But as for this government, the reforms have gone way too far. In fact the slow strangulation of legal aid is merely a side show to the stripping down of the justice system and the public sector in general. This is clearly political and the government evinces its true hypocrisy in having the nerve to celebrate Magna Carta with fake smiles. I’ll be attending the Justice Alliance’s party with an easy conscience.

(9)(1)

Not Amused

The reasons I asked people not to politicise this were because:

1) Those who do put ordinary people off;
2) Those who do end up looking like frothing loons;
3) Those who do inevitably have to jump through ridiculous hoops or ret-con history just to defend their precious party (which shafted them quite regardless of the individual’s unreciprocated love);
4) It’s a waste of time because you just alienate Tories, who after the next election may well be in a position to help

If you don’t believe me that politicising this is an unhelpful thing to do then you have to answer one question – has politicising it helped so far?

(1)(3)

Guest

For my part, I’m not sure the easy pot-shots at the fat cats attending this global law summit are wise. Sure, their interest in ‘the rule of law’ is quite different from that of those of us who campaign for legal aid here in england: they have a commercial interest in promoting reasonably transparent and enforceable law globally, rather than a concern about poor people in englans being without access to their rights. But instead of whining and ridiculing them for being interested in the rule of law for the ‘wrong’ reasons (and for ignoring the rule of law catastohpe on their doorstep), why aren’t we welcoming these unlikely allies and educating them about the domestic legal aid crisis? It’s a big room full of powerful people who say they stand for ‘the rule of law’. Sometimes I despair that the legal aid sector is so keen on its moral high ground, it is its own worst enemy.

(10)(2)

PAS

Yes they may well believe in ‘the rule of law’ that delivers for them but not necessarily a legal system that delivers for those who cannot afford to pay.

(0)(0)

Guest

I agree. I think that was my point. But instead of just deriding them, why don’t we treat this as an opportunity to educate them? They are pre-invested in the principle of ‘the rule of law’ so let’s show them how that translates into local problems on their doorstep. Maybe some of them will turn into influential allies. Or do we not want that sort of ally (the rich, powerful, well connected sort)?

(3)(0)

The Quest - for Justice

It is grotesque

(1)(1)

Anonymous

Legal aid cuts took place under Labour and Tory governments alike.
The constant factor was the civil servants pulling the strings.

(4)(0)

Anonymous

Your prices are wrong. And how very grown up to go to a gig of contemporary comedians, instead of networking with decision makers and looking to move the agenda on from one of the most difficult period’s in the UK legal profession’s history.

(3)(4)

Richard

Rather than have the alternative event at the same time, which no-one but those attending will even notice, it would have been better to stage a protest outside the official event.

(3)(0)

Julian Bray

If it is any consolation Magicians (i.e. the real Magic Circle) do likewise during the Annual International Brotherhood of Magicians Convention. Whilst the formal black tie dinner is on at the Convention Centre (either Eastbourne, Southport or Bournemouth, it rotates from year to year) the working magicians decamp to a local pub, one with a large function room, they bring in top magicians who are attending the convention, stand ups, a band – more a pit orchestra, cabaret, and then send out for takeaways from several local outlets. The entrance fee is always £10 and that goes to a local charity. The acts give their services for free….. this could catch on….

(0)(1)

Michael

1 My preference would be for the event to be boycotted by barristers, solicitors and all representative bodies.
2 the “we must engage to influence change” doesn’t work and hasn’t work because the politicians and civil servants and consultants don’t give a damn what we or our representatives say.
3 the CBA has stopped campaigning against MoJ reforms and is invisible in the fight for access to justice.
4 no politician understands the worth of a fully resourced criminal justice system. They talk about Victims’ Rights yet don’t ensure the system is fully funded.

(0)(1)

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