Thoughts on pulling through a gloomy January; the legal aid package and talks; and the impact of the Brexit deal

Distant light

As COVID-19 cases surge, and we become even more locked down, I have noticed news broadcasts referring to any glimmer of related good news, such as projected vaccine rollout, as a “chink of light”.

In dark times, made darker by it being January, we all need something to cling on to, to look forward to. That, I suppose, is an illustration of how we need to pay particular attention to our mental health through this pandemic, and more than ever in the month that is notorious for bringing on bouts of depression. 

And the message of the pandemic, that we have to help each other out and pull through this together, equally applies in this context. In other words, don’t suffer alone. If you need help and haven’t a friend or family member you can open up to, there are resources and professional support on hand through the Lawscot Wellbeing pages online.

Even if your new year doesn’t feel great at the moment, I wish you a happier one as it goes on – and an upward curve for us all.

Nailing the package

Also needing a bigger chink of light right now is the legal aid sector. The Christmas present from the Government, in the form of the 10% fee rise over two years plus other business support, was welcomed as a good start, even if well short of what is needed to repair the finances of many practices. But the goodwill built up during negotiations and expressed on both sides at the time of the initial announcement risked being sacrificed when a draft SSI released two days later – on Christmas Eve – was read as taking away with one hand part of what had just been given with the other. A failure of communication somewhere, surely.

It has since been clarified that that was a separate, and (it is claimed) cost neutral revision of the criminal fees rules. However the Society, and members, are now on the alert to ensure that that is in fact the case, and that the full package announced will be promptly delivered. Especially now, unity is strength in the talks.

Déjà vu

Also just in time for Christmas was the UK Government’s Brexit deal with the EU. It is rather far from the “deep and special relationship” desired by Theresa May when talks first opened, and does not avoid the negative impacts now coming to light for many individuals and businesses. It does however contain provisions permitting UK lawyers to continue to provide some types of advice in member states. An outline can be found on the Law Society of England & Wales website. More generally, it is designed to be subject to review, and we have not heard the last of negotiations. One way or another, advisers will be kept busy. 

 

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