It is a pleasure to have been asked to give the keynote address to your conference this morning. It is my first such address as Master of the Rolls, and I particularly welcome this early opportunity to say a few words about the Jackson reforms and to do so at The Law Society. It seemed to me particularly important that I do so, and do so here – not least because of the long historical relationship which exists between the Society and the Master of the Rolls. I say not least because it seems to me that at the present time – perhaps more so than before – it is crucially important for the judiciary and the legal profession – as far as they properly can do – to work together to ensure that this period of unprecedented change is one in which we increase effective access to justice.
I say unprecedented change because I think we must all – the judiciary, government, Parliament, the legal profession and, most importantly of all, the public – appreciate that that is exactly what is currently occurring. Those changes stem from both Jackson reforms, and the Legal Aid and Sentencing of Offenders Act 2012, and from the Legal Services Act 2007. The changes involve further reductions in legal aid and inevitably increase in self-represented litigants. This will produce increased pressure on the courts which are operating, as all sectors of the State are, with reduced budgets. They also encompass reform to conditional fee agreements, the introduction of damage-based – or rather contingency fee – agreements, and the non-implementation of a supplementary legal aid scheme or SLAS.