An introduction to the UBA’s International Participants: Martin Whitehorn

2022-12-22

Today, we are happy to introduce one more of our international participants, Martin Whitehorn. Martin is a property solicitor at Julie West Solicitors and national representative for Surrey Junior Lawyers Division, where he works with other junior lawyers groups.

Here are Martin`s answers to some of our questions.

Why did you decide to join the UBA as an International Participant?

In order that my membership fee will assist the UBA with its work on supporting human rights and the rule of law in Ukraine. I am a British and Czech citizen, and remember my mother’s stories of her parents’ ordeals under the Nazi and Russian regimes. I cannot imagine what it must be like to deal with war; it does not feel like I can do much to help but as an international participant I want to at least try.

In your opinion, what are the biggest challenges before the legal profession today?

To start with, protecting the rule of law. Letting political leaders exercise power without protective checks and balances is an increasingly prevalent challenge with international impact. In the United Kingdom, judicial review is the process used to ensure that our government’s actions are lawful, most notably in recent months to challenge attempts to deport asylum seekers to Rwanda. However, this legitimate process has come under attack in recent years, with judges seen as obstacles to government rather than a necessary branch of it.

This first challenge therefore goes hand in hand with the public perception of lawyers, with accusations of ‘lefty/activist lawyers’ and ‘enemies of the people’ being infamous examples. For its part The Law Society of England and Wales is implementing a campaign to challenge this public narrative and promote the value of the rule of law and access to justice. Additionally I hope to see increased transparency in our courts, with improved access to viewing hearings remotely being a step in the right direction to instill confidence that justice is being done.

Finally, increasingly pressing is the environment, as this summer’s heatwaves and floods in Pakistan made all the clearer. Lawyers have great power to drive positive change, with two facilitators of this being Lawyers for Net Zero and The Chancery Lane Project. 

Lawyers for Net Zero is a non-profit organisation devoted to helping in-house lawyers spearhead their organisations’ net zero efforts via guidance and a fellow community of climate conscious in-house lawyers. The Chancery Lane Project, for its part, is an initiative that puts together and freely provides green clauses aligned with the aims of the Paris Agreement for ready insertion into commercial contracts.

What do you think the legal profession will look like in the future?

I could talk about innovations in our profession and the changing nature of how those in private practice and in-house organisations will operate, but would only be repeating others’ comments. I will say that it is my sincere belief that the legal profession will be more diverse in the future, but this will only come with continued effort to ensure the best people progress in it. 

I am not only talking about diversity of characteristics but also diversity of thought, which would be threatened throughout Ukraine if Vladimir Putin has his way. Furthermore I am especially keen that disabled people in the legal profession at whatever level of seniority – both lawyers and those in other roles – be afforded the reasonable adjustments needed to do their best work.

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