ELECTION STATEMENT FOR THE ETHNIC MINORITY SEATS ON THE LAW SOCIETY COUNCIL 2013
SUNDEEP BHATIA,BEAUMONDE LAW PRACTICE, PINNER,MIDDLESEX
This is no time for complacency. Diversity in the legal profession faces it’s biggest challenge..
According to Law Society statistics ,(Trends in the Legal Profession 2012), more than half of BAME solicitors are to be found in firms of 5 partners or less.
There are several reasons for this. We may have stepped out of pre-existing firms, after reaching a glass ceiling, in order to make our names.
We are more likely to have found opportunities in smaller firms (many of whom practice Legal Aid law).
The firms we found are likely to be newer, and therefore smaller, because they have not had the opportunity to grow.
All these firms offer valuable services to local communities. Yet it is these firms which are under threat.
A toxic mix of Legal Aid cuts, moves by building societies to cull panels ,and reforms by government against claimants in the fields of employment and personal injury threaten their existence.
In relation to Legal Aid, we have yet to see the effects of the civil legal aid cuts which came into force in April.
Now the criminal justice system faces decimation at the hands of the Ministry of Justice who have announced their intention to introduce Price Competitive Tendering and to reduce the number of firms conducting criminal defence Legal Aid work from 1600 to 400 threatening the existence of many BAME firms.
The Ministry acknowledges this will disproportionally effect BAME solicitors and defendants but justifies the moves as a proportionate means of achieving a legitimate aim.(ie saving money).
We face a future in which there are likely to be a reduced pool of suitably qualified BAME solicitors from whom to select appointees for High Judicial Office.
This is a time for candidates who are experienced in influencing Law Society Policy, in campaigning , and in dealing with the Media.
I have been a Law Society Council member since March 2010 and ,as well as sitting on Council, I also sit on its Equality and Diversity Committee, its Employment Law Committee and its Regulatory Affairs Board. I know how Council operates and how to get things done. I also have experience in working with Council colleagues, from all types of Legal practice and background.
I possess an enhanced awareness of diversity issues due to my work on the Equality and Diversity committee , my background as an Employment Lawyer and my awareness of the Government’s plans in that field ( through my access to Employment Law related consultations on the Employment Law Committee.)
I have also been campaigning on Diversity related issues since 2005.
As a committee member of the Society of Asian Lawyers,(SAL) ,and former committee member of the London Criminal Courts Solicitors Association,(LCCSA), and The Middlesex Law Society, I have taken on the Legal Services Commission and the Government over previous proposals against Price Competitive Tendering in relation to criminal defence work. (In 2005, 2006 and 2010).
My 20 years of experience as a criminal defence solicitor and Sole practitioner has served me well in this regard.
I have debated against Lord Carter in the Law Society library and in 2007 was vice Chair of SAL when it, together with the Black Solicitors Network, sought a Judicial review of the Legal Service Commission’s plans to introduce Price Competitive Tendering.
I intend to carry on Campaigning both inside and outside of The Law Society against Price Competitive Tendering.
I currently represent SAL on The LCCSA Sub-committee regarding Price Competitive Tendering and am coordinating action via SAL and other diversity groups.
I was Chairman of The Society of Asian Lawyers from 2008 to 2010.I am currently its Secretary.
I am used to working in co-operation with other BAME Societies and Associations. I sit on the External Implementation Group of the Solicitors Regulation Authority,(SRA) with representatives of the Black Solicitors Network, Association of Muslim Lawyers, Association of Asian Women Lawyers ,British Nigerian Lawyers Forum and The Turkish British Legal Society. The group oversees how the SRA is progressing in implementing the recommendations made by Lord Herman Ouseley in his 2008 report on why the SRA seemed to disproportionally target BAME solicitors when exercising its regulatory function.
The Group also overseas the work of Professor Gus John who is carrying out a comparative case review of the SRA.
I also sit on the steering committee of the Law Society Minority Lawyers Division with these and other Diversity groups,
I was selected, by representatives of these same groups, to jointly chair the 2011 Minority Lawyers Conference where I introduced The Lord Chancellor and chaired the Plenary Session.
During my three years on Council, to date, I have campaigned against the Abolition of the Assigned Risks Pool and have been involved with the Equality and Diversity Committee in attempting to promote flexible working.
I have also Campaigned hard against the “Quality Assured Scheme for Advocates” which I believe threatens the financial viability of smaller BAME firms. This is because a reduced volume of cases will give the Solicitor Advocates of these firms less opportunity to attain the required number of assessments, to obtain accreditation , under the scheme. The extra cost of instructing external Counsel will undermine the financial viability of many such BAME firms.
I have written a well-received article, on the subject, in the Solicitors Journal and was interviewed by Joshua Rozenberg for his Law in Action programme.
I intend, if re-elected, to carry on opposing any policies ,whether by the Government, or The Law Society, which pose a threat to diversity within the Legal profession .At the same time I will seek to mould diversity friendly policies whilst attempting to influence developments in the Law.
It would be an honour to continue serving you .
I therefore respectfully ask for your vote and thank you for taking the time to read my
Beaumonde Law Practice
107 Marsh Road
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