PIBA Chair - New Legal Year Update


 

Dear PIBA Member

On 2 October, I was privileged to represent PIBA, at Westminster Abbey, at the service marking the Opening of the Legal Year. This was the first formal occasion for Dame Sue Carr, after her swearing in as the first Lady Chief Justice that morning. There will come a time when we can stop talking about such legal firsts. But this landmark appointment is a reminder of how we need to redouble our efforts to encourage and retain as diverse a pool of practitioners as we can in our own practice area. The statistics for gender, ethnic and disability diversity (and the pay gap) in PI work remain stubbornly poor. We received excellent engagement with our member survey on these issues and thank you to those who responded, as well as those on the EDI & retention sub-committee who are analysing the responses and working with the Bar Council and others to see what more we can do to accelerate change.

On the subject of the Bar Council (“BC”), I encourage you to cast a vote in favour of John-Paul Swoboda of 12KBW, who is standing for re-election to the BC as a PIBA sponsored candidate. It is vital that we speak up for the interests of members on our representative body and J-P has been a committed advocate for injury practitioners. Here is the link and voting closes at 10am on Thursday 19 October 2023:

https://www.mybar.org.uk/bar-council/election-listing.html

The value of engaging with and working with the BC cannot be overstated. Both the Chair and Vice-Chair of the Bar have worked tirelessly this year, in partnership with PIBA, to lobby Government law officers and the MoJ in relation to the shortcomings in the draft rules implementing the extension of Fixed Recoverable Costs to cases up to £100,000. When the MoJ continued to ignore all that PIBA and the BC have been saying in consultation responses and the like for the last 4 years, the BC sent a letter before claim for a judicial review application. The combined effect of these joint efforts, together with those of the likes of APIL, has had a direct impact given a consultation has already been issued on potential changes to the new rules. This is a first real recognition that there might be issues to address. PIBA and the BC’s joint response sets out pragmatic ways to address the defects in the current rules on perennial problems such as the failure to uprate advocacy fees or index link them and the lack of a payment mechanism for preparation done by advocates where cases are vacated at short notice by the Court or settle shortly before trial. We will continue to lobby and press for change. Again, on your behalf, I am so grateful to all those who have contributed to PIBA’s work on these issues, particularly Martyn McLeish of Cloisters who has shouldered the greatest burden and of course, to Bar Leadership, Nick Vineall KC and Sam Townend KC. Here is a link to PIBA’s latest joint consultation response with the BC, submitted in September 2023

As ever, there has been a flurry of other consultations launched to which PIBA has responded including some with short deadlines over the summer. I am grateful to all members who have contributed including on:

  • Criminal Injuries compensation for non-contact offences: here
  • Dual Discount rates (the MoJ’s recent update on the consultation responses draws on the PI response to the call for evidence): here

Other projects which PIBA has ongoing include: liaising with the King’s Counsel Appointments about addressing the challenges for PI practitioners in applying for silk; assisting The Advocates Gateway to produce a revised toolkit for dealing with vulnerable participants in civil proceedings; a working party to produce some standard PI Trust terms; considering how Inquest and (Injury related) Inquiry work can be better represented in PIBA activities; looking at an update to the standard PI CFA agreements; and liaising with BMIF about the cost of indemnity cover for PI work.

PIBA’s high quality education programme continues this autumn and beyond. Do get the dates in your diary and sign up for insightful updates plus a chance to interact informally with colleagues at the PI Bar. You should have received updates recently about the PIBA London Autumn conference, on Saturday 7 October 2023, which will probably just have taken place by the time you read this. Thereafter, we can look forward to the varied programme of quality speakers at the PIBA Northern Circuit Conference, on Saturday 11 November 2023. Then at the flagship PIBA Annual Lecture, at Inner Temple Hall, on Wednesday 29 November 2023, we are fortunate to have Lord Sales JSC as our speaker. Looking further ahead, there will be other ad hoc evening events in London and on Circuit over the winter and then our residential conference, in Oxford, from Friday 22 March 2024 to Sunday 24 March 2024. All the details and links to book either are or will be on this link:

https://www.piba.org.uk/events

Do take advantage of the discounts regularly available to PIBA members on titles such as the new PNBA Facts and Figures and other essential resources. Further details are on this link:

https://www.piba.org.uk/2023_07_books

On a sad note, PIBA mourns the death of Ronald (Ronnie) Walker KC of 12KBW, who died on 19 September. Ronnie was already a towering figure at the PI Bar (and beyond) when I first met him when a pupil at 12KBW whilst he was Head of Chambers, in the late 1990s. After I had finished pupillage and secured tenancy elsewhere, I was fortunate to be led by Ronnie. Whilst I doubt I contributed much to the case as a junior junior, I learnt a great deal from being led by him. His stellar intellect was coupled with an ability to be kind and generous to others. He was involved in most of the leading PI cases of the time and many since. At the time of his death, he was still in practice after a staggering 40 years in silk. You can read more about him in this tribute on the 12KBW website:

https://www.12kbw.co.uk/12kbw-mourns-the-loss-of-ronald-walker-kc/

We hope to see you at one of PIBA’s events over the coming months. If you have any suggestions or concerns about PI practice or would like to get more involved in your Specialist Bar Association, do get in touch with me or any member of the Executive Committee detailed on the website:

https://www.piba.org.uk/committee

I close this message by thanking all those who work hard in a myriad of ways to support the activities and efforts of PIBA, as well as Jo Davies, PIBA’s tireless and ever efficient administrator.

I hope the coming legal year is a successful one for you and your colleagues,

Best wishes,

 

Charles Bagot KC

PIBA Chair 2022-2024

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