Next monthly meeting: Wednesday 11 May at 6:30pm
Doughty Street Chambers (54 Doughty Street, London WC1N 2LS)
Map to Doughty Street Chambers: http://www.doughtystreet.co.uk/about_chambers/contact_us/location_map.cfm
London monthly meetings are normally held every second Wednesday of the month.
LAPG Conference 2008
The LAPG conference was an enormous success and lots of YLAL members were able to attend. The conference was the first public engagement for Lord Bach, the new minister for legal aid, who gave a keynote speech during the conference’s opening session. His speech is available at: http://www.justice.gov.uk/news/sp101008a.htm
YLAL’s chair, Laura Janes, addressed him from the floor, introducing him to YLAL and alerting him to our recent research into unmet legal need and the plight of paralegals. We later gave the minister a copy of our research reports and expressed our interest in meeting with him once he has had time to digest our findings. He spent some time talking to YLAL members, asking them about their personal experiences of setting out on a career in legal aid.
YLAL’s morning workshop was about inspirational campaigning lawyers. It was opened by Saimo Chahal, partner at Bindmans LLP, who shared her experience of using media interest to engage the public in wider discussions about the issues underlying her cases. She talked about her work on the right to assisted suicide without fear of prosecution, developing the law on public inquiries where people have almost died in the care of the state and representing people with mental health problems who are often unfairly stigmatised in the press. Louise Whitfield from the Public Law Project talked about her organisation and the way the outcomes of several of their cases have made local councils rethink their duties under the Disability Discrimination Act and have led to change. She provided two case studies where high court judicial reviews had made a substantial difference to community care. Shauneen Lambe, director of Just for Kids Law, advocated litigation as an excellent way to achieve change for vulnerable people and talked about her experience of children in custody and the multitude of problems they typically have had to endure throughout their young lives. She also explained how her project provided a much needed enhanced service for young people involved with the criminal justice system.
The second YLAL session was about what it is like to embark upon a career in legal aid. Richard de Friend, director of College of Law (Bloomsbury), gave a useful overview of the legal aid profession as a career, analysing job prospects and listing the skills employers are looking for. John Finlay, (Fisher Meredith), Naina Patel (Blackstone Chambers) and Marcela Navarrete (Wilson & Co Solicitors) talked about how they got to where they are now and gave tips on how to succeed in finding a training contract or pupillage.
Henry Bellingham MP, Shadow Minister for Justice, addressed the conference before it closed. He began his address by thanking YLAL for briefing him as the representative of the opposition party and described our report into unmet legal need as an “excellent document and excellent summary of where we are right now”. He went on to say that he would be setting up a review to look into more ways of funding legal aid. Following his speech he spent time with YLAL members discussing the Conservative Party’s stance on some fundamental rights issues.