This week saw the Ministry of Justice publish the Legal Aid, Sentencing and Punishment of Offenders Bill; a piece of legislation with potential to touch all corners of the legal profession. You can review the Bill in its entirety here, or read on for Premextra's roundup of how the media, politicians and commentators have digested the news this week.
In the relentless march towards reform of the UK's legal system, the publication of this Bill represented a chance to see more of the detail behind the Coalition government's plans; for personal injury lawyers this could have included perhaps a timescale on implementation of the new rules affecting them most. However as Neil Rose in Legal Futures pointed out, those particularly concerned about the Jackson reforms have the hardest task to make their voices heard "above the more politicised debates on legal aid and sentencing.
"Symbolically, civil costs reform is the one element of the bill not mentioned in its elongated title," he said.
To illustrate the point about how those two issues were to grab the headlines at the cost of civil costs reform, it's worth spooling back a few days to witness the news agenda in advance of the Justice Bill's publication; the government certainly made sure it had got its ducks in a row with Justice Minister Jonathan Djanogly publishing figures on which law firms and barristers currently earn the most from Legal Aid which were also leaked to the conservative press over the weekend to drum up some enthusiasm for Kenneth Clarke's proposals.
You've got to have a thick skin in politics though as Mr Clarke already knew and began to rediscover in the day or two subsequent to the Bill's reading. The story took on a life of its own and became far more about the Justice Secretary's perceived weakness and David Cameron's apparent strength as the PM came out fervently against the idea of discounted sentences. As a result it was nigh on impossible to find a straightforward analysis of the Bill which would allow reasoned, rather than political discourse, to take precedent.
Nevertheless, data can be found including this useful piece in the Guardian which details the cuts precisely by region across England and Wales, while reports in the Law Society Gazette lay out the reforms in a relatively straightforward fashion.
Interestingly it was left to the insurance trade press to remind readers of the stay of execution granted to referral fees within the Bill; a fact which yielded significant tub thumping from motor insurers and indeed one or two personal injury claims lobbyists as well. An opposing stance has been reported in recent weeks however, with stock market analysts Collins Stewart pointing out that investors will be relieved by the continued presence of referral fees as a source of income.