LAPG Conference, 7 October

Legal aid lawyers from across the country gathered in Leeds on Friday 7 October for the Legal Aid Practitioners Group (LAPG) annual conference. After an introduction by LAPG co-chair Nicola Mackintosh QC, the keynote speech was delivered by Liberty director Martha Spurrier on ‘human rights and unifying values’. Martha spoke about the impact of legal aid cuts as well as the ongoing scandal of indefinite immigration detention.

A panel featuring speakers from the Law Society, the Bar Council, the Legal Aid Agency and the Solicitors Regulation Authority then considered what the future holds for legal aid lawyers and the profession as a whole, before delegates dispersed into breakout sessions covering family law, immigration, crime and management issues. In the afternoon plenary, delegates were treated to an informative and (somehow) amusing round-up of what lawyers can still do for clients using legal aid in family law, asylum and immigration, public law and social welfare. YLAL also ran two breakout sessions during the conference, on public law and careers in legal aid.

Our first breakout session, on careers in legal aid, was chaired by YLAL co-chair Rachel Francis and was primarily aimed at students attending the LAPG conference through the University of Law. We heard from great speakers about different branches of the legal profession: Emma McClure, a newly qualified solicitor at Swain & Co, spoke about her route to qualification and work as a public and prison law solicitor; Elizabeth Mottershaw, a pupil barrister at Garden Court North, offered her insight into life at the bar and how to secure pupillage; and Charlotte Wilson, a legal executive at Irwin Mitchell, discussed her decision to qualify through the Chartered Institute of Legal Executives (CILEx) and her work in community care and Court of Protection. Finally, Alex Offer, chair of the pupillage committee at Garden Court North, gave his tips to aspiring lawyers and said that “you don’t do legal aid work because you want glamour or status; you do it because you give a damn”.

Our second session, on public law, was chaired by YLAL co-chair Oliver Carter and featured expert speakers on a range of practice areas. Alison Pickup, the legal director of Public Law Project (PLP), gave an overview of the last 12 months of legal aid challenges, including the residence test case brought by PLP, the IS exceptional funding case and the Rights of Women judicial review concerning the domestic violence eligibility criteria. Yogi Amin, partner and national head of public law at Irwin Mitchell, then spoke about recent developments in health and social care law, including the Care Act, deprivation of liberty cases in the Court of Protection and end of life cases. Gemma Vine, head of the civil liberties department at Lester Morrill, rounded off the session by speaking about her work in inquests and inquest-related judicial reviews.

We would like to thank all of the speakers at our breakout sessions, all of those who attended the conference and, in particular, Carol and Chris at LAPG for arranging such an excellent, inspiring and thought-provoking conference. We look forward to attending again next year!