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Pro bono week: Solicitor general appears to sign death warrant for controversial City law firm levy

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MP says government not persuaded by Michael Gove-era idea of 1% turnover tax on mega-firms

Robert Buckland MP QC

The City will be breathing a sigh of relief this week as the solicitor general, Robert Buckland QC, appeared to rule out a compulsory levy on the turnover of top law firms.

The idea of taking a 1% cut of the turnover of the top 100 corporate law firms to fund the justice system has been kicking around since former Lord Chancellor Michael Gove floated the idea three years ago.

But speaking to the Law Society Gazette, Buckland said that he was “not persuaded” that such a levy would be the right way forward.

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The solicitor general, one of the government’s legal members along with the better-known attorney general, is reported to think that “a compulsory levy on big City firms is not in the spirit of what pro bono means” and that “pro bono comes naturally to lawyers”. This appears to rule out the other element of Gove’s embryonic proposals, which involved possible legislation to force commercial lawyers to devote time to pro bono working.

Buckland, who chairs an industry panel on free legal assistance, was speaking during National Pro Bono Week, which has already seen the Bar Pro Bono Unit change its name to Advocate. This year, the annual celebration is being under the coordination of the National Pro Bono Centre to coincide with global pro bono celebrations across a dozen countries around the world.

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25 Comments

Anonymous

I think you should probably give ‘solicitor general’ capital letters.

Otherwise you might accidentally suggest we don’t think he’s very important …

(12)(0)

Si, generale.

He needs a proper general’s uniform. There have been some absolute beauties from south America. I’m thinking something in white, with plenty of gold braid, a peaked hat that would make the SS jealous (and therefore be in keeping with much this government has done), and possibly a nice blue sash. He could set it off with some sort of star-shaped, jewel-encrusted adornment to be worn at the neck.

(7)(2)

Anonymous

Get rekt Gove

(4)(2)

Anonymous

This was a stupid idea. Why should lawyers pay more tax than everyone else? We don’t use criminal courts or rely on legal aid more than anyone else. The government could just fund it properly out of taxes.

(13)(3)

Anonymous

I dunno… maybe something called humanity?

Can’t the fat cats sacrifice a Ferrari for a Mercedes or Fortnum’s for Waitrose if it means implementing a just, lawful and fair society?

What a bizarre set of values we have. So selfish have we become that even a poxy 1% is touted as a ‘stupid idea’.

And I’m not even that left wing – I just think your comment is ridiculous.

(7)(24)

Anonymous

But can’t people enjoy the money that they earned? Why should it be taken away so some bum can sit on his sofa in a council flat saying he can’t be arsed to work?

(7)(8)

Anonymous

Er – I think that comment reveals your ignorance on many levels.

Firstly, we’re talking about legal aid not benefits. Legal provision is very expensive, and beyond the reach of many people who are actually in employment.

Secondly, presuming you mean – ‘why should we pay for legal aid for a person without a job’, I think it’s because we want to be a civilised and just society, where people can enforce their rights when they are wronged.

(6)(10)

Peter fernando

Might as well live in the Alter of Capitalism, the great 6 times bankrupt country, USA ,where hobos don’t have any chance of getting justice unless they join the army or another less salubrious gang. Why break the habit of a lifetime of exploiting the vulnerable to advance one’s own life at the expense of the impoverished.

(0)(7)

Anonymous

Should surgeons be required to donate part of their salary to fund the NHS? Should headteachers be required to donate part of their salaries to their school? Airline pilots? Should they be personally liable for refuelling costs?

(24)(0)

Anonymous

I don’t think you understood my post (I was the top level comment). I completely agree with well funded legal aid paid out of taxes. I just don’t see why City lawyers should pay more than everyone else for it. Raise income taxes and/or taxes on partnership drawings across the board if you need more funding. Society as a whole benefits from legal aid so society as a whole (including me and my City colleagues) should pay for it. But I don’t see why we should be targeted specifically.

(9)(0)

Anonymous

I would also add that it’s an easy win for the Tories because believe it or not most law firms of all stripes are staffed mostly with young, reasonably socially conscious people who mostly don’t vote Tory anyway (at least in my experience at my MC firm and friends at other firms) whereas a general higher rate tax increase would hit the bankers and fund managers etc who do vote Tory. So they wanted to target us since we aren’t their demographic anyway.

We don’t actually have any greater connection than a banker to the family, small claims or criminal courts, and arguably have less since it tends to be more often bankers who end up in criminal courts or screwing people out of their savings who then need help to get their money back.

(3)(3)

Anonymous

“And I’m not even that left wing ”

Hehe.

(4)(1)

Anonymous

Right. But the question is why should legal fat cats specifically have to pay this, rather than fat cats generally.

(1)(0)

Anonymous

Balls.

These multi-millionaires rely on the legal system for their fat pay, gold plated pensions and trophy wives but don’t think they should contribute to its maintenance.

Taking with one hand and not giving with the other. What a sad indictment on the society of today. No one cares anymore.

(4)(15)

Anonymous

45% tax very much feels like giving a lot.

(17)(1)

Anonymous

If you earn a million you take home about £500k. That’s £10k a week. For 10-15 years. I’m not sure what planet you’re on but no one needs that much money.

(0)(19)

Anonymous

So you would impose a salary cap on anybody and everybody then? If so, can we assume that the upper limit would be less than you currently earn?

How would you react if somebody who earns substantially less than you decides that your level of earnings is obscene and unnecessary, and demands that your tax burden increases substantially?

(14)(0)

Anonymous

What I hate is this sort of attitude assumes you don’t deserve it. Most people who are capable of securing this sort of income have worked hard and deserve to be rewarded commensurate to that, and also the level of responsibility they have in order that the market has decided this is the correct salary level. Why should these people be penalised for being successful? That seems plain unfair.

(5)(1)

Anonymous

I’d like to see some of these partners working 7-7 in a sweat shop for 50p an hour.

Anonymous

Bit of a false equivalence.

Anonymous

What are you on? Who decides what’s fair? You and your mates?

(2)(0)

Anonymous

“rely on the legal system for their fat pay, gold plated pensions and trophy wives”

If we ignore for one second the utter stupidity of your comment I would like to make sure you’e aware that do lawyers in fact contribute to the organisation and running of the legal system, it relies upon us as much as we rely upon it.

(5)(2)

Anonymous

“If we ignore for one second the utter stupidity of your comment…”

…then the comments from hereon in would be much the poorer.

(0)(0)

Anonymous

Firms could of course donate 1% as a CSR/pro bono initiative.

Crudely, this would mean a partner on £1.2m donating £12,000 (3 day’s wages). Could easily generate a couple of hundred thousand + per firm.

Seems pretty reasonable to me but our value system is so warped even this would be considered a stretch by some.

(0)(0)

Anonymous

1% of turnover is different to 1% of profit

(0)(0)

Comments are closed.

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