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What Boris Johnson’s big majority means for the legal profession and those seeking to enter it

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Focus on innovation, the North and alternatives to higher education could impact lawyers

📸 Original image via Snowmanradio

A year ago a curvy blond had just been ditched by top QC Marina Wheeler and was looking at the end of his career in politics after quitting as foreign secretary in protest at Theresa May’s Brexit deal.

Now that same blond is in charge of the country and being talked about in the same breath as Tony Blair and Margaret Thatcher.

Love him or loathe him, Boris Johnson has a great big majority and his Conservative government is set to bring about major changes over the next five years.

Brexit now looks a dead cert (although expect more flurries of legal action as activist lawyers look to hold the government to account as the UK thrashes out new trade deals), with the focus now surely turning to implementing the Johnsonian vision for the future of Britain.

What will this mean for the legal profession and those seeking to enter it?

Law firms to look north

Perhaps the biggest feature of the Tories’ win was their spectacular defeat of Jeremy Corbyn in many traditional Labour strongholds in the north. To retain these seats Johnson will have to channel funding outside the M25. Serious state investment in infrastructure, healthcare, green energy and technology will generate substantial amounts of legal work for the big commercial law firms. As they chomp through it, and become reliant on it, expect their attitudes to the north to start to shift — don’t be surprised if some firms start to drop the ‘northshoring’ language of outsourcing and start referring to their hubs in Manchester, Leeds, Belfast and elsewhere as proper offices.

Quick plug here for our LegalEdCon North event in Manchester on 30 January 2020.

Solicitor apprenticeships to finally reach the magic circle?

Labour’s plan to scrap undergraduate tuition fees would have been great news for students while posing a problem for the new Solicitors Qualifying Exam (SQE), which was designed partly to allow a cheaper route to qualification for debt-burdened future lawyers.

The Conservatives’ win means that the prohibitive cost of qualifying as a lawyer remains very much an issue that will negatively impact access to the profession unless pro-active steps are taken to mitigate it.

To this end, expect pressure to be put on big law firms to start using the money they are forced to set aside under the apprenticeship levy (which at many firms is just sitting there dormant) to help students from less privileged backgrounds to become lawyers.

Under the solicitor apprentice model being developed to dovetail with the introduction of the SQE in 2021, rookies complete a law degree and then professional skills training part-time while working four days a week as paralegals. At the end of six years they are qualified solicitors. As the success stories from this new route start being told, more firms will surely jump on the bandwagon.

Don’t get your hopes up on legal aid

Although the Tory manifesto pledges to end austerity and splash cash on the NHS, it is almost silent on legal aid. Indeed, other than mentioning a pilot scheme to evaluate the return of legal aid to cover early advice in some areas of social welfare law (as removed by Chris Grayling when he was Lord Chancellor in the Coalition government), there’s barely any mention of it.

Instead, Johnson and co have been banging the law and order drum by talking loudly about being “tough on serious crime”. What does that actually mean? “Making prison sentences a bit longer”, says legal aid whistleblower the Secret Barrister. SB’s suggestions for fixing the criminal justice system sadly look likely to go unheeded.

Online courts could be the big legal tech development

With artificial intelligence, blockchain and other tech buzzwords so far translating into some savings around the margins in law firms, rather than a revolution in the way legal services are delivered, the next big thing in legal tech may prove to be online courts.

As Professor Richard Susskind notes in his piece for Legal Cheek today, “court systems around the world are pretty much broken”. Citing OECD figures, he reports that “more than 4 billion people live beyond the protection of the law and courts” and highlights “astonishing backlogs … of 100 million cases in Brazil and 30 million in Indian”. The stretched court system in England and Wales seems almost efficient in comparison, but with no plan to replace the third lopped off the legal aid budget in 2014 it’s clearly going in the wrong direction.

In a government infused with the pro-innovation focus of the PM’s top advisor, Dominic Cummings, the solution to this and many other problems is likely to be sought in technology. In this new book, Online Courts and the Future of Justice, Susskind sets out his vision for a new online court model that completely rethinks the delivery of justice towards a model that reduces oral advocacy and focuses instead on the deciding of disputes in written form online. The conditions look ripe in the UK for this to take off over the next decade.

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29 Comments

Anon

TL;DR

Johnson will be a disaster.

Keir Starmer will sort this mess. Do the right thing Labour.

(28)(23)

Anonymous

Keir isn’t getting anywhere near Government any time soon. Radical communism is not electable.

(29)(2)

AC fan

Haven’t you been following AC Grayling on Twitter? In light of the voting percentages at the GE Brexit is going to be cancelled. Then Sir Keir will ride in on his white horse and save the day, make Islington great again, and put the rest of the country back in its silly little box.

(15)(4)

Legal Genius

Means fair taxes and the scummy people in the UK drowning in filth where they belong!

(3)(17)

Brother from another mother

How can anyone in Britain think Boris is right wing? Here in the US he would be a part of the AOC gang. The guy recognises and wants to fight the global warming, supports state medicine, inheritance tax, gay and abortion rights. Boris also is pro-immigration – immediately after becoming the PM abolished lots of Theresa May era restrictions for non-EU students, which barred guys from India, the USA and Africa from staying after studies. Really do not understand British press and commentators.

(24)(23)

Anonymous

It’s relative. Shit happens in the US that would make the average Brit, regardless of their spot on the political spectrum, spit their tea out in shock – like neo-Nazi rallies, guns for sale in Walmarts and a lack of universal healthcare.

(35)(1)

Anonymous

It’s likely that the legal system will remain very expensive compared to other countries.

(7)(1)

Anon

Evidence?

(1)(1)

Anonymous

Yes, there is, thanks – the fact that the Ul legal system is extremely expensive compared to other countries, and the fact that this is unlikely to change. Which part(s) do you disagree with, if any, and why?

(1)(1)

Anon

I’m not sure if I agree or not, as I haven’t seen a shred of evidence to eleaborate upon or back up your assertions apart from repeating yourself, which you have lazily badged as evidence. Are you a lawyer? I’d be stunned if you are, making such wild claims without being able to back it up is not the best quality to have.

(2)(1)

Anonymous

You’ve seen the evidence in the previous comment but have chosen to pretend you haven’t. You do disagree (or pretend to) that the UK legal system is expensive compared to other countries but have got yourself stuck in a corner so can’t admit that you do. So, do you disagree that the UK legal system is expensive compared to other countries, or do you disagree that this is likely to change? You should hope I’m a lawyer – if I’m not and you are then the beating you’ve taken in this argument from a lay person shames you badly!

Anon

Your “evidence” is your own assertion. If I used your logic, I could say the sky is green and then tell you this is a fact because I said it.

Come back with some referenced sources and then tell me who’s “won”.

Anonymous

You still haven’t answered the questions – what is it you don’t agree with – the fact that the UK legal system is expensive compared to elsewhere or the fact that this is unlikely to change? The evidence of the first is the fact that the UK legal system is expensive (costs more) than most other jurisdictions, the evidence of the second is the fact that measures to reduce cost don’t seem to be a priority. We don’t have to come back to see who’s one – it’s already clear, and it isn’t you. The more you fail to answer the questions the clearer it is.

Anonymous

It costs multiple times as much to issue a claim in England and Wales as it does in the Republic of Ireland.

Anon

I’m getting no where with you. I suspect you have mental health issues, for which I’m sorry, but I’m not qualified to help. I do hope you steer clear of the legal profession for your own benefit – you won’t last long if you just say things without even a link to a website to prove your purported point.

Have a lovely Christmas, and I hope you get the help you richly deserve.

Anonymous

Yep, you’ve lost the argument allright, probably best you give up. Twice as bad for you if you’re a lawyer and I’m not.

Anonymous

And fees to issue proceedings are 2 to 5 times cheaper in Germany.

Anonymous

Also far cheaper to issue proceedings in Australia compared to the UK.

Anonymous

And Spain.

Anon

I pray for you and the speedy recovery of your mental health.

Anonymous

Thanks for agreeing with me.

Anonymous

And Russia.

Anonymous

And the US.

Anonyman

Right wing indeed. Laughable. He comes from a family of centrists and has only been pretending to be a (vaguely) right wing populist in order to get into office. The epitome of a demagogue.

(7)(2)

Anonymous

I reckon, this so-called ‘The Secret Barrister’ probably used to put on a funny voice (or get paid actors to do it for he/she/them) to get on LBC and BBC Radio London to give the most ludicrous (and made-up) examples of how ‘Stop and Search’ is somehow racist… the point is, if you have got a knife, you are a wrong ‘un and you deserve locking up, end of, and ‘Council Cuts’ and ‘Youth Clubs’ don’t really come into it. Nowt particularly ‘right wing’ about this little fact of life called ‘common sense’.

(9)(7)

Bert

Grim

(0)(0)

Jez

VOTE LEAVE

TAKE BACK CONTROL

WON.

(6)(0)

Nihilist lawyer

I’m so tired. Life.is.meaningless. Nothing matters. Nothing

(3)(0)

Jeremy Corbyn

There is a serious factual error in this article.

Johnson aka Alexander Kerensky did not win last week’s election. Instead, a coup de tat facilitated by the elite media and forces of capital manipulated the uneducated and unwashed northern proletariat into class-treachery. We are now working to establish a revolutionary government by May Day 2020 to be led by me and Comrade Lily Allen. Comrade McDonnell has been declared a former person-Trotskyite.

I will be contacting Russia Today to take over this malicious website following the Revolution.

(7)(3)

Comments are closed.

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