City set to welcome top UK law lord

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THE head of the UK legal sector is coming to Leeds to challenge the rising cost of legal services and the impact it is having on access to justice at an event to mark the official opening of Leeds Law Society’s new offices in the city.

The Master of the Rolls and Head of Civil Justice, Lord Dyson, is the head of the civil courts and the Court of Appeal and is returning to his home town of Leeds on May 26 to highlight the challenges facing civil justice.

While challenging lawmakers to improve access to justice, he will also join the Leeds Law Society to officially open its new office at 62 Wellington Street.

Lord Dyson was born and raised in Leeds and worked as a barrister before climbing through the ranks to the pinnacle of the legal profession. He has announced he will retire at the end of July and, in one of his last public speeches, will issue a rallying cry to protect the future of the sector and make sure talented people from all walks of life can become solicitors.

He said: “The biggest challenge facing the legal sector today is the cost of legal services, and the implications for access to justice, in particular for small businesses and individuals.

“There are important areas of the law to which it may be difficult to attract the brilliant young lawyers of the future – for example in family and criminal justice – and that extends to the judges of the future too. The traditional public funding in these sectors is not as substantial as it was, and while they continue to attract some brilliant and very motivated people, I’m concerned there is a worrying trend away from them.

“That may be affecting accessibility to the profession, especially with education and training costs so high. Another concern is the size of the profession and how sustainable it is in terms of the numbers of those taking courses leading to a career in law.”

Leeds Law Society president Colin Gilbert says: “More than 300,000 people missed out on legal aid last year and that is not only preventing access to justice, but it is also stalling the development of common law.

“This is a major issue and we have been campaigning hard to represent our members concerns. It is fantastic to get the support of Lord Dyson and, by inviting him to return to Leeds, we are making sure our members’ voices are getting heard. This is an opportunity to speak to the man with his hand on the tiller.”

Ahead of his visit to the Leeds Law Society, Lord Dyson has also praised its work and the importance of the Leeds legal community on the national and international stage.

He added: “Leeds Law Society is hugely important in bringing together solicitors and representing their interests. It has excellent training and development programmes and is also very effective at lobbying key bodies and liaising with local courts on services.

“Leeds has a vibrant legal community serving the needs of not just the local population and businesses, but clients further afield and internationally. Leeds is a major regional business and commercial centre and the locally based legal profession plays an important role in supporting its status.”

The Society has taken 2,000 sq ft, across four floors, on a 20-year lease at 62 Wellington Street, to allow the society to host meetings and stage a variety of events for members.

Mr Gilbert added: “The Leeds Law Society plays an integral role in preserving the future of professional services for the Leeds City Region economy. Now, more than ever, legal practitioners need representation at a national level and we are the gateway to ensuring that their opinions and concerns are heard.

“This move has enabled us to deliver more and strengthens our voice on the national stage. It is a game-changer for the society and secures our future at the heart of the Leeds legal profession.”

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