A Warwickshire solicitor has been installed as President of the Law Society of England and Wales.
Coventry-born Kevin Martin, a consultant with Stratford-upon-Avon law firm Lodders, took up the presidency yesterday following a year as vice president.
A practising lawyer for 35 years, he says he aims to create a stronger voice for the profession, and to strengthen its drive for reform in the pursuit of access to justice.
"A key theme will be to address the discrepancies that can arise out of the criminal justice system, particularly in relation to civil liberties," he said.
"For example, we are calling upon the Government to review proposals that could leave countless immigrants and asylum seekers with no right of appeal, and to ensure that the judiciary oversees the process.
"We also want to see current pressures on the provision of civil legal aid alleviated, with a budget ringfenced for a more viable system for the less advantaged to seek redress."
Mr Martin says the Law Society will continue to advise Government to assist the implementation of legislation that is already planned, and which is due to be enacted as part of the current programme.
He says, for example, that controversial Home Information Packs set to be introduced in 2007 as part of the reform of the housing market, may be impracticable and expensive in their current form. But, if carefully planned, they could provide solicitors with opportunities to improve their residential conveyancing services.
Effective governance of the legal profession is a further priority, and Mr Martin supports moves by the Government to boost the regulation of solicitors, barristers and legal executives by creating the Legal Services Board, a new umbrella body.
He wants to encourage new opportunities for solicitors in England and Wales to build their businesses, by opening up practice rights abroad, especially in growth markets such as India and China.
He said: "The Law Society of England and Wales represents more than 120,000 solicitors, and as such is the gatekeeper to maintaining best practice within the profession.
"We have achieved international recognition for our work, and I have pledged to continue our efforts, making sure our voice is heard, not only in the UK, but in Europe and beyond."
Mr Martin, who is 58, lives in Coventry with his wife Maureen. The couple co-own Davenport Lodge Preparatory School which Mrs Martin runs. They have two sons, James, 29, and Richard, 27.