That Was The WeekThe Marriage (Same Sex Couples) Bill 2012-13 had its first reading in the Commons. The second reading, where MPs will have a chance to vote, will be on 5 February 2013. Plans to introduce equal marriage would ensure “equal and fair” treatment of same-sex couples, according to the culture secretary, Maria Miller. Measures in the Bill include allowances for civil partners to convert their partnership into a marriage.

The Sole Practitioners Group rejected the Law Society’s invitation to join their new Small Firms division. Last year, the Law Society terminated its funding arrangements for “recognised” groups, replacing them with internal “divisions” under the direct control of Chancery Lane from February 2013 onwards. The Group decided they were not prepared to accept the Law Society’s terms, which would have required them to surrender their annual conference, magazine, website and several other endeavours. By declining to register under the scheme the Group will exist as an independent stakeholder with no official status at the Law Society.

In more Law Society quarrel-related news the solicitors’ body has locked horns with the Bar Council over the new contracts that solicitors and counsel will have to sign upon instruction. The fear is that the contracts, aimed at giving barristers a remedy in situations of late payment, tip the balance too far in favour of the advocate. Lucy Scott-Moncrieff was quoted in The Lawyer:

“In our view, the bar’s proposal favours the barrister and gives the solicitor, and therefore the client, insufficient control or effective remedy in the event of inadequate performance by the barrister.

“It’s very disappointing that there could not have been agreement between the two professions on the content of the new standard contractual terms. In the absence of agreement, the society has had no alternative but to issue guidance to solicitors, warning them of provisions which could be contrary to their interests in the relationship with a barrister and offering them alternative contract clauses.”

The High Court dismissed Barry George’s claim for compensation for his wrongful conviction. George spent eight years in prison after being convicted of the murder of TV presenter Jill Dando, but his conviction was then quashed by the Court of Appeal. The Supreme Court in Adams [2011] UKSC 18 redefined the meaning of what would amount to a miscarriage of justice, lowering the bar for compensation from those who could effectively prove their innocence to include those who could prove their case would not lead to conviction by a jury. George and three of his co-claimants failed this test.