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Suzanne Townley

News Editor, Solicitors Journal

Levelling up: hope springs eternal

Levelling up: hope springs eternal


Foreword: March 2022

As I write, the February half term holiday is well under way and Storm Eunice rages outside – but we look forward to spring and hope better weather and brighter days are on their way. Indeed, ‘hope springs eternal’ is a fitting sentiment for this month’s issue.

In the news, a Bar Standards Board report has revealed a post-pandemic pay drop for barristers across the board, with persistent pay gaps for female barristers and those from minority ethnic backgrounds (p10). Female barristers from minority ethnic backgrounds remain among the lowest paid, even when compared to contemporaries of a similar seniority, working in the same practice area and location.

This has been the way for too long, and we must not only hope that pay will be levelled up once and for all, irrespective of gender and ethnic or social background – but also actively strive for it.

Meanwhile, the Ministry of Justice has announced it will relocate 500 jobs to Wales as part of its Places for Growth programme, aimed at levelling up communities across the UK to provide more opportunities for all (p11). Dominic Raab, Secretary of State for Justice, has expressed his hope that the justice system will benefit from the input of those from more diverse backgrounds, with different outlooks and experience.   

On p12, Brown Rudnick’s Jane Colston shares her experiences as a trustee of the International Law Book Facility, a legal charity that supports rule of law and access to justice for all by providing legal textbooks to not-for-profit organisations. A new student essay competition also provides an opportunity for those from less advantaged backgrounds to build a foundation for a career in law.

Jonathan Wheeler of Bolt Burdon Kemp discusses the necessity of legal aid for families who find themselves in the most difficult of circumstances – when the justice system enquires into the cause of death of a relative (p26).

He reflects on the fact that often the only party in the room without legal representation is the family member representing the interests of their late loved one and suggests legal aid should be available to those families.

On p38, Jane Wessel of Arnold & Porter Kaye Scholer looks at the rise and fall of legal aid more widely. Wessel considers whether pro bono schemes sufficiently plug the gap left by its demise; hearteningly, she reports the legal profession has risen to the challenge, with increasing numbers of solicitors and barristers providing free legal advice for those who need it most.

In 2020 - 21, lawyers from 59 firms working as part of the Collaborative Plan for Pro Bono racked up over 514,000 pro bono hours – a contribution that must be congratulated.

Finally, we have a Q&A this month with Jan Tregelles CBE (p46), who shares a fascinating insight into the work being done by social care charity Revitalise – the UK’s largest provider of respite breaks and holidays for disabled people and their carers – and Access to Social Care, a charity that provides free legal advice and information to those with social care needs.

As chief executive officer of Revitalise and chair and co-founder of Access to Social Care, Tregelles shares an insight into the challenges these charities face, including the legacy of legal aid cuts and underfunding.  

Regardless of our background, gender or ethnicity, as legal professionals, we all have the opportunity to do good with the skills, knowledge and opportunities available to us. This month, I invite you to consider how you may be able to use these advantages to help support access to justice for all.

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