At today’s CILEx annual Presidential Luncheon the Lord Chief Justice, Lord Igor Judge, proclaimed that “CILEx is Golden”, in recognition of its 50th Anniversary.
The annual event, attended by many of the most influential individuals in the legal services sector, was addressed by the Lord Chief and CILEx President Nick Hanning.
Nick Hanning said: “I love my Institute. Not just because it gave me the freedom to train and develop as a lawyer when no other profession would do so, but because it grants everyone that liberty.”
The Lord Chief Justice commended CILEx for its work in opening up access to the legal profession.
“CILEx has provided a pathway into the profession for people who would otherwise have considered it “ridiculous” said Lord Judge. “Whether their reservations about joining the legal profession stem from the belief that they would be held back because they were female, or black, or somehow or other because there would be prejudice against them, those individuals were offered an open door by CILEx..”
“CILEx, whose membership is now 74 per cent women, has enabled both the solicitors and barristers profession to make it clear that their doors too are open to men and women from diverse backgrounds. In comparison, 48.2 per cent of solicitors on the Roll last year were women, and women made up 47.4 per cent of solicitors with a practising certificate.”
The senior judge went on: “The achievement of enabling talented men, but particularly talented women, to come forward into the legal profession regardless of background is one of the great achievements.”
Lord Judge also emphasised that this achievement was all the more significant because “it is not based on diminished standards”.
The Lord Chief Justice also took the opportunity to pay tribute to CILEx Chief Executive Diane Burleigh on the award of her OBE. He said “Diane Burleigh has achieved monumental, monumental, progress… I have not been aware of any public honour that has been better merited than the honour bestowed on her this year.”
The event also soberly addressed the further proposed cuts to Legal Aid. Speaking of the cuts, Nick Hanning highlighted the removal of legal aid from vulnerable members of society, the blocking of judicial reviews, and state intervention in the freedom to choose a lawyer.
Mr Hanning said: “You might be forgiven for thinking all those things are happening elsewhere. Not here. Not in England and Wales … but you’d be wrong,” comments that prompted applause from the audience. Justice Minister Helen Grant was due to attend but was unable to at the last minute.
CILEx Law School has also reached a milestone in 2013, celebrating thirty years since it was set up to provide courses for CILEx students by distance learning.