Unleash the full potential of the legal sector as a partner for growth: A call to arms for the UK's next government


With the UK general election imminent, the Law Society has taken the opportunity to assert its vision for the future of the British justice system. In a report entitled "Our three key asks of the next government", the Law Society sets out how, in its view, an incoming government should centre justice and legal services in policy decisions. It also confirms the potential benefits for the country of doing so.

In a related press release President of the Law Society, Nick Emmerson commented: “Whichever party wins the election they should place legal services at the heart of plans for economic growth, renew our commitment to the rule of law and work proactively to protect and secure access to justice.” 

The Law Society has three core messages to the next government.

Unleash legal services to drive economic growth

The recommendations emphasise the value of the legal sector to the UK economy (£60 billion each year and employing over 1% of the UK workforce), the role that the sector plays in supporting and growing business, and the value of legal services as an export (£6.6 billion a year). In doing so, the Law Society seeks to position the legal sector as a potential partner in achieving economic growth. In particular, it seeks to encourage the next government to support domestic law firms to invest, up-skill and adopt new technology, and to seek international trade agreements that will help expand trade opportunities for the sector.

Renew commitment to the rule of law

 Although not overt, this section of the recommendations provides an inferred rebuke of the rhetoric and criticism leveled at lawyers by certain politicians in recent times.

"The justice system, and democracy more widely, only works if it is independent of government. This requires lawyers to be able to do their jobs without fear of public pressure to act in a certain way or make certain legal decisions. Intemperate language aimed at legal professionals for political gain risks doing serious damage to the integrity of British justice."

The report suggests that such behaviour threatens to undermine the UK's reputation internationally as "a fierce defender of the rule of law". In response to this threat, it asks that the incoming government ensure a renewed commitment to the rule of law. Specific recommendations include maintaining the UK’s human rights law framework through the Human Rights Act and the European Convention on Human Rights, ensuring adequate time, transparency and evidence for proper scrutiny of proposed legislation, refraining from the use of derogatory language towards judges and lawyers which undermines public confidence, and amending recent legislation that has harmed the rule of law (the Safety of Rwanda (Asylum and Immigration) Act and the Illegal Migration Act are provided as examples).

Protect and secure access to justice

The final of the Law Society's 'asks' relates to the financial and resourcing difficulties faced by the court system and the decline in access justice. This, the Law Society's states, comes down to years of chronic underfunding, leading to legal deserts across the country, huge court backlogs and crumbling buildings. Immediate investment in the court system is requested, along with a review of civil legal aid and the adoption of recommendations from the Bellamy Review of criminal legal aid.

If the polls are to be believed, the UK could soon have a change of government and a lawyer for its next Prime Minister in Sir Keir Starmer. With a background in criminal and human rights law and five years as Chief Prosecutor and head of the Crown Prosecution Service, he could well be sympathetic to the requests of the Law Society. But with calls for greater investment for public services across the board, and with education and the NHS featuring prominently in the manifesto and campaigning to date, only time will tell the extent to which the court system will be seen as a priority and receive the funding it requires. 

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“Whichever party wins the election they should place legal services at the heart of plans for economic growth, renew our commitment to the rule of law and work proactively to protect and secure access to justice.”
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