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Law Society vice president compliments Gove as ‘forward thinker’

Jonathan Smithers sends mixed messages on behalf of the largest body of solicitors

19 May 2015

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In welcoming him to the profession, the Law Society vice president, Jonathan Smithers, gently reminded the new Lord Chancellor, Michael Gove MP, that parts of the profession are still suffering following the coalition's legal aid cuts.

'On behalf of the Law Society of England and Wales, I would like to welcome you to the post of Lord Chancellor and Secretary of State for Justice,' said Smithers, as Gove was sworn in at the Royal Courts.

'We receive you as Lord Chancellor in a period of uncertainty for many of our members,' he continued, 'particularly those who undertake publicly funded work. By working together, however, I am confident that we can find common ground to protect British values of freedom, tolerance, respect for the rule of law and equal access to justice.' These values, Smithers added, are more than just principles.

'They are an essential compass to help make our society fair and just. These values, along with others, such as the independence of our judiciary and the strength of our system of laws, contribute to the stability of the UK and further our reputation as a place to do business.'

Smithers also appealed to the Conservatives' stronghold, the economy, by reiterating the industry's financial strength: 'Beyond our profession's facilitative role, we make a major direct contribution to the economy. We generate 1.6 per cent of the UK's GDP and employ north of 350,000 people. By working together, we have the opportunity to strengthen the UK's overall economy and ensure that our country retains its pre-eminent position as the leading global centre for international legal services and the jurisdiction of choice for all.'

'Forward thinker'

Smithers concluded his welcome to the new Lord Chancellor by complimenting his reputation for fairness and as a forward thinker, which, the Law Society vice president said, most certainly precedes him.

'Lord Chancellor, I welcome you again to your new role. I hope that we can all ensure that the legal profession is able to uphold its professional principles, innovate in its practices and, most importantly of all, that together, we advance the cause of justice.'

Laura Clenshaw is managing editor of Solicitors Journal