Criminal defence solicitors should instruct a commercial silk to review their ‘unfair’ government contract, unionise en masse and set up a hardship fund, a former criminal bar chief who co-led the barristers’ strike suggested today.
Lucie Wibberley, former secretary of the Criminal Bar Association, told the Criminal Law Solicitors Association conference a war had arrived at their door. ‘You can choose to fight or you can die,’ she said.
Wibberley said solicitors faced a ‘monopsony plus’. They had one contractor – the government – which had complete control over legal aid fees, forcing them down year after year. ‘The issue you’re facing is an employment law problem and it is unfair.’
Wibberley suggested instructing a commercial silk to review the government contract and understand potential remedies.
Should employees decide to strike, they would be taking action against their employer, the owner of their firm. ‘But by taking that action, you’re creating leverage the firm owner needs to apply pressure to the government.’
Solicitors were told they needed a hardship fund. ‘You have many more mouths to feed,’ Wibberley said. ‘Where do you look? You look to the unions. Unite has a multi-million pound strike fund. That’s how their strikers can afford to go out week after week after week.’
Wibberley urged solicitors to change the narrative from one of despair to one that will unite and mobilise colleagues.
‘The war is at your door. You’re facing a government who do not care if the sector collapses. Forget reasoned arguments. We’re not in court. You’re not going to win this battle by being lawyers. The government you’re facing do not care if you’re going to go out of business. It’s action, not words. Your leverage is whether you choose to work.’
Solicitors were also advised to film themselves outside