Stephen Grosz QC, Chair of the Law Society’s Human Rights Committee and senior consultant at Bindmans LLP shares his views about his legal life in human rights.
Why did you choose a career in law?
I wanted to use the law to improve the lives of people who are dispossessed, disempowered or vulnerable.
Tell us about your firm
Bindmans was founded in 1974 by a group of lawyers who were committed to providing high quality legal services to people in need regardless of their ability to pay for them. It has concentrated in particular on the relationship of individuals and the state. Over the years Bindmans has been at the cutting edge of developments in the law of human rights and public law.
Through its Human Rights Committee, the Law Society seeks to uphold human rights and the rule of law both domestically and internationally. In particular it strives to support judges, lawyers and other human rights defenders who are under threat for carrying out their professional activities.
What are currently the main challenges for law firms in the human rights field?
The majority party in the coalition government is overtly hostile to the Human Rights Act and to the European Court of Human Rights. This hostility is now reflected in certain sections of the press, and is undermining public support for the concept of human rights for all, leading to possible repeal of the Act and abrogation of the European Convention on Human Rights. The government is also seeking to limit access to judicial review of state action, both by restricting the availability of legal aid and by placing additional burdens and hurdles on claimants and public interest interveners. Human rights lawyers are frequently vilified as gold-diggers or characterised as left-wing campaigners.
What are currently the main opportunities for law firms in the human rights field?
The field of human rights is always replete with opportunities for developing the law. In particular, human rights lawyers should be developing the common law of human rights, importing human rights principles into public law, in case the Tories carry out their threat to repeal the Human Rights Act and withdraw from the European Convention.
What opportunities for co-operation are there between human rights lawyers internationally?
The Law Society’s Lawyers for Lawyers programme shows the importance of international support for lawyers at risk. Bars and law societies can provide vital support – through public statements, interventions or trial observations - for those trying to enforce human rights standards or uphold the Rule of Law. Exchange of information and experience between human rights lawyers in different jurisdictions can be invaluable.