Call by the Law Society for Feedback on its Member Support

12 06 2014

Chancery LaneWe work in a profession that has very diverse interests. But whether we are working in private practice, inhouse, for a regional firm or are located in the city, as legal professionals we are united by our commitment to serving the interests of our clients.

 

As our professional body, the Law Society is here to actively represent and support our interests and promote our commitment to the profession and the rule of law.

 

The Society is doing a lot of the good work and, as a council member, I see the breadth of the Society’s activity and influence; I’ve shared a few examples below. However, I’d like to hear from you about how you feel you have benefitted from your membership of the Law Society.

 

This could include completing CPD training, attending a networking event, being a section or division member who contributed to a legal challenge or reading a useful practice note. While I want to hear positive stories, I am also keen to learn from you any concerns you might have about the Society’s performance. My contact details are included at the end of this note and I hope to hear from you.

 

Here are some of the recent examples of where I believe the Law Society has represented and supported member interests and promoted the profession and the rule of law.

  • On 22 April the most significant changes in a generation were introduced to family law. Nearly 40% of firms undertake some family and children work so these changes were important for many members. For the last year the Society’s policy team and committees have represented the views of members and influenced the family justice changes. Through our engagement, trusted relationships were established. As a result, the Society was able to provide immediate support to members about the changes via a comprehensive set of new court documents which were posted to its family court resources web pages. An individual email was sent to over 17,000 members to alert them to the court documents. Subsequently, a number of members have contacted the Society to thank the team for their work and the speed with which they made resources available.
  • The world around us is rapidly changing, bringing with it both challenge and opportunity. A free Society event on 4 June 2014 – ‘39.5 ways to prepare for growth’ – will help firms of all sizes adapt to the changing world. Last year the Society ran over 400 CPD conferences and events, which were attended by more than 24,000 members. Events are held in many cities including Newcastle, Cardiff, Bristol and Cambridge. One member recently attended their first Society event, and emailed his feedback to the events team: ‘Yesterday was the most interesting conference that I have attended as a solicitor…the combination of practitioners with experience and the different representatives…made the conference thought provoking.’
  • The Law Society will have a strong presence at the Liverpool International Festival for Business held during June and July. It’s the largest international business event in the world in 2014 and the largest business event in the UK for over a decade.
  • Did you know the Society’s library telephone enquiry service can provide immediate answers and is open from 9am to 5pm? The library’s team of experienced law librarians can clarify points of law by finding commentary and cases, source precedents, updated legislation and more. The service is free for enquiries that require no more than 30 minutes of research. Keith Etherington, chair of membership board, recently called the library from court to clarify a point of law. With support from the library team he was able to positively change the direction of the case. More information on library services are available on the Society’s website.

 

If you have any questions, please do not hesitate to contact me, and I look forward to hearing from you on Peter.Wright@DigitalLawUK.com

 

 

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Ballot Papers distributed in Election for Law Society Council in Yorkshire

4 06 2014
You Can even vote Online!

You Can even vote Online!

Ballot Papers have now been mailed out in the Law Society Council elections. For the first time, you can vote online using the security code on your ballot paper. Turnout in these elections is usually less than 10%, and of those who vote, usually 10  – 15% of those are hard copy ballots that have not been signed and are therefore invalid. So please use your vote and vote online to save time.





Council Election Statement – Peter Wright

29 05 2014

Profile JCII have had the honour of representing the constituency of Yorkshire on the Law Society Council since 2009 and in that period have sought to represent the views and interests of solicitors across the region as fully as possible. With more than 11,000 solicitors on the role across Yorkshire, it is not an easy task, but I have worked with local Law Societies, Groups and the Law Society Regional Manager, along with engaging on social media to provide the most effective representation possible for my constituents.

 

I have set up a website and blog for constituents at www.YorkshireUnion.wordpress.com where more information can be found on information from local Law Societies through to recent news and updates from Chancery Lane. I was also elected as President of the Yorkshire Union of Law Societies in 2013 in order to develop the Union into a stronger representative voice for solicitors across Yorkshire.

 

I have regularly attended meetings on local Law Societies, along with social events where it is possible to speak to those who may not be on their local law society committee but nonetheless care passionately about their work as solicitors,their firms and their profession. I have attended meetings and events across the region at Law Societies including Harrogate, Sheffield, York, Doncaster and Leeds.

I have attended meetings and events organised by Junior Lawyers Divisions around the region, engaging with the law students and trainees who will be our future members along with newly qualified solicitors who are looking to make their way in their new careers. I have spoken at many such events,offering guidance on CV drafting and legal interview skills, most recently at a careers evening for Junior Lawyers in Doncaster. I have also provided 1-2-1 CV and interview guidance to young lawyers at “CV surgery” events for the JLD.

I have also worked with the Lawyers with Disability Division, speaking at several events to offer careers advice and guidance. The range of attendees has included solicitors from many different types of practice, some of whom are at the outset of their careers along with other more experienced practitioners who may be looking to get back into the profession.

It has also been possible to engage with the fastest – growing segment of our profession, in – house lawyers, and I’ve spoken at several Commerce and Industry Group events.

 

I am Managing Director at DigitalLawUK, also holding the position of COLP and COFA at the firm and am all too familiar with the pressures firms are operating under due to the regulatory burden applied by the SRA. I have worked to help local law societies share knowledge and experience about the regulatory regime, and in Doncaster have attended meetings of their COLP & COFA Forum

 

The proposed cuts to Legal Aid are making life intolerable for Legal Aid Practitioners, and along whenever this matter has been debated by the Law Society Council, the Council had been united in its opposition to the cuts as evidenced in several resolutions. Price Competitive Tendering may have been fought off, along with client choice being retained, but enough firms were struggling to survive even before the cuts come into effect. I chaired a meeting of the Yorkshire Union in November in Sheffield where Legal Aid Practitioners from across the region were invited to attend, and the Ministry of Justice proposals were debated at length, providing me with valuable examples that I have been able to use during subsequent debates on Council.

I trained in a High Street firm 10 years ago, but have also worked for larger practices including Shoosmiths LLP and Nabarro LLP and have been able to consult with Solicitors and Partners in firms across the region on issues before they come to Council to enable me to represent the interests of my constituents as strongly as possible.

It takes time to get up to speed as a Council Member, given the complexity of the issues faced by Council and its Boards and Committees, and after my first term on Council representing your interests I know how the Council functions along with its Boards and specialist committees and am now able to make a real difference. As a result I was elected by Council last year to the Membership Board, and this year have just been appointed as Chair of the Technology and Law Reference Group.

Please feel free to take a look at the Yorkshire Union website and stay in touch using the following social media channels:

Thank you for reading this and I hope you will be able to give me your vote so that I can continue to represent your interests on Council along with the two other Law Society Council Members for Yorkshire.





Law Society Council summary: 14 May 2014

29 05 2014


After the 2 April 2014 Council meeting in Cardiff, we returned to Chancery Lane for the 14 May 2014 meeting. Among matters announced to the Council was the election of Robert Bourns, one of the City of London Council members, to take office as Deputy Vice President in July 2014 (and then, according to the Law Society’s constitution, to succeed as Vice President next year and then President in 2016).

Ongoing work on legal aid proposals

Council heard about 19 roadshows held across the country to assist practitioners deal with the consequences of the Lord Chancellor’s decision on criminal legal aid, attended by over a thousand people. These roadshows, and the Law Society’s response to the criminal legal aid cuts, have been covered in the Gazette and in the legal trade press, and, in the case of our wider response, the Guardian which featured interviews with Lucy Scott-Moncrieff (past President) and Richard Atkinson (chair of the Criminal Law Committee).

Shaping the environment

Council noted that the Law Society has given evidence to three parliamentary committees, including the Crime and Courts Public Bill Committee, and has briefed parliamentarians on the Finance (No 2) Bill, the Immigration Bill, the Deregulation Bill, and the Criminal Justice and Courts Bill. Internally, the Society ahs set up a team to look at strategic issues affecting the profession and the legal system, and its first project will look at the relationship between the UK and the EU and its implications for legal policy and providers of legal services. The Law Society has also prepared a response to consultations on the future of the Land Registry, and discussions are under way at Ministerial level over concerns about what appears to be a policy by UKBA of trying to bypass solicitors when dealing with migrants.

Member engagement

The Council agreed to a motion in February reiterating its desire that the Law Society should be a genuinely member focused organisation, and work is now proceeding on this, with a group of Council members representing a wide range of constituencies providing input and direction.

 

Events and services

Council heard about events organised for communities, including the Junior Lawyers’ Division annual conference, the Women Lawyers’ Division returners’ course, and a practical encryption seminar for small firms. The annual Presidents’ and Secretaries’ conference had taken place on 9-10 May 2014. The library telephone enquiry service began its extended opening hours in the week of 31 March 2014, and there has been a positive impact on enquiry volumes.

 

Equality, diversity and inclusion

Council received the annual report from the Equality and Diversity Committee, now renamed the Equality, Diversity and Inclusion Committee to reflect the full range of its remit as covering the inclusion of as wide a range of characteristics as possible among the Law Society’s employees and volunteers as well as the profession at large. Among issues addressed in the report were the ongoing success of the Diversity and Inclusion Charter which now has 431 signatories which between them represent over one third of solicitors in private practice. The regular range of Firms Diversity Forums has continued across England and Wales, BME / Judicial appointments outreach events were run jointly by the Law Society, the Bar Council and CILEx. The Law Society worked with Riliance to develop a free online tool to help firms with collecting the diversity data annually required by the SRA. It was agreed that priorities for next year would include: further activity to enhance the diversity of the volunteer community; and embedding an HR diversity programme within the organisation, including a series of diversity and inclusion workshops targeted at manager, staff, and board and committee chairs; and a continued focus on promoting and implementing the Diversity and Inclusion Charter, Procurement Protocol, and Career Barriers Action Plan externally.

 

Other issues

Council discussed and signed off Management Board’s proposals for the recruitment of Des Hudson’s successor as chief executive, a process which will begin with advertisements on 25 May 2014.

Council also had a preliminary discussion of issues in relation to the Compensation Fund, the operation of which the SRA is reviewing and on which there is likely to be a consultation later in the year. The discussion covered issues including the effect of ABS on the Fund, the recommendation of the Legal Services Board’s Consumer Panel that there should be a single fund covering all of the regulated legal professions, and the effect of the conveyancing process of claims on the fund. Further consultation with the profession is planned over the next few months.

‘Formal’ committee status was agreed for what has until now been the Intellectual Property Working Party, recognising its significant contributions to an important area of law.

The opportunity was also taken to make some consolidating updates to the Society’s General Regulations. 





Law Society Council summary: 2 April 2014

29 05 2014

The 2 April 2014 Council meeting was an opportunity to remind ourselves that the Society is the Law Society of Wales and England. The hospitality of Cardiff also gave the chance to network with a large number of the Society’s stakeholders including a wide range of Welsh solicitors as well as judges, academics, and Assembly members. The Council was also addressed by the Right Honourable Mrs Justice Nicola Davies DBE, presiding judge on the Wales circuit, on the importance of recognising the increasingly distinctive nature of the law in Wales. The Revd Professor Thomas Watkin, formerly First Welsh Legislative Counsel, the legal officer principally responsible for drafting the legislative programme of the Welsh Assembly Government under powers conferred by the Government of Wales Act 2006, spoke to Council also. Council also heard a report on the work of its Wales Committee, for example in pushing for appropriate representation of solicitors with knowledge of Wales on relevant policy committees, as well as the customary reports from the Boards and an update on continuing work to improve internal controls within the Society’s administration.

 

Also held during a break in the formal business of the Council meeting were the hustings at which the seven Council members who are standing as candidates for Deputy Vice President (DVP) this year had the change to make short speeches and respond to questions from fellow Council members. Under the Bye-Laws of the Law Society, the DVP is elected by the Council, and the election is expected to conclude towards the end of the month when we will announce the results.

Ongoing work on legal aid proposals

The Government Response to Transforming Legal Aid: Next Steps was published on 27 February, accompanied by the independent reports from Otterburn Legal Consulting and KPMG which informed the Government’s proposals. In line with Council’s motion of 24 February we responded by reiterating our firm opposition to fee cuts, stating our serious reservations about the proposed contracting model and expressing concern about the challenging future for many of our members. In our response we recognised that the Government had listened to the concerns raised by our members and noted that it was helpful that they had made a number of changes that would mitigate to some extent the impact on our members. In addition the Society has been working to provide a package of advice to firms considering bidding for contracts as a consortium. We have also put together a toolkit for solicitors wanting to raise awareness of the impact of proposed criminal legal aid cuts and to dispel the myth that all solicitors are high earners.

More effective engagement with the profession

We have moved quickly on implementing Council’s assertion, on 12 February, that the Society must work hard at becoming a truly member-focused organisation. A project manager has been appointed and staff will be seconded from across the organisation to manage the day-to-day work. To achieve our ambition, we must re-engage members, better communicate the value of membership of the Society, and, by delivering valued services and products, give all of our members reasons to recognise that being part of the Society is an essential part of being a solicitor.

Other engagement activity

Council heard about a debate on the Government’s proposals for judicial review organised by the All-Party Parliamentary Group for Legal Affairs, which is co-sponsored by the Society with the Bar Council. The Relationship Management team had arranged a number of chief executive and officeholder visits at local law society events and dinners in the City, Midlands, North East, North West, South East, Yorkshire and Wales. We are organising a dinner for City members and other stakeholders on social mobility, with guest speaker Rt Hon. Alan Milburn. We have also set up and hosted a breakfast for the ten Law Society Council members who work in or represent the City.

Raising the profile of our member services

Council heard that the Law Society will be participating in the National Legal Exhibition & Conference (LegalEx) on 15 to 16 May 2014. This two-day event will include an 80-stand exhibition, eight theatres focusing on topics such as legal technology, how-to sessions, practice growth and legal updates. Our theatre will include seminars on the Conveyancing Portal and CQS and Law Society Consulting, promoting Lexcel, commercial investments and accreditations. Council also heard about the 25th anniversary of the Practice Advice Service (PAS), which had been marked with articles in the Gazette and on the Law Society intranet. The team plans to capitalise on the success of the anniversary and related articles to market the service over the coming year.

 

Diversity and Inclusion Charter annual review

Council heard of increasing participation rates in the annual review process – 239 firms participated in 2013 compared to 177 firms in 2012. The annual review is integral to the commitments firms make under the charter, and the 2013 review demonstrates that the great majority of charter signatories are maintaining momentum on the diversity and inclusion agenda, although further progress remains to be made in terms of the diversity profile of the solicitor workforce, and on training and impact assessment.

 





Law Society Council summary: 12 February 2014

29 05 2014

The first Council meeting of 2014 was an opportunity, following the Special General Meeting (SGM) and the subsequent special Council meeting on 17 December 2013, to consider developments on criminal legal aid, and to plan the Council’s response to the lessons about the need to engage more effectively with all of our members.

Ongoing work on legal aid proposals

The Council re-committed the Society in December to continue to lobby the government on legal aid, including expressing its opposition to uneconomic and inappropriate fee structures. Several meetings have been held with the Lord Chancellor and the newly appointed Minister for Legal Aid and Legal Services, and we have organised further round-table events, most recently on 11 February, for senior criminal defence practitioners to meet the Lord Chancellor. We also briefed national and trade titles on the 6 January 2014 day of action, with coverage in the Guardian, Times and Sunday Telegraph. We have held a programme of Legal Aid events, hosted by the Vice-President with the Head of Legal Aid, in every region of England and in Wales. Discussions are ongoing, and we will report further developments as soon as possible.

More effective engagement with the profession

The Council noted evidence from the recent SGM and other quantitative and anecdotal sources that engagement with and support for the Law Society among many members of the profession could be improved. It took the opportunity to re-assert that the objective of the Society is to be a member-focused organisation, co-ordinating services effectively and targeting what the profession really needs, to identify some short-term improvements, and to set in hand a longer-term programme of work. There will be further updates on this in subsequent Council summaries.

Conveyancing portal

The potential for a Conveyancing portal had attracted interest in the Financial Times and the trade media, with a comment piece explaining how it would help firms manage risk, cut costs and serve clients. Following a long process of regular engagement with the conveyancing community, plans were finalised and received approval from the Management and Membership Boards. The business plan and business case now came to the Council for approval, which was granted. This represents a significant investment in transforming residential conveyancing – which is carried out by over half of the Society’s member firms – and maintaining solicitors at the heart of it. We will be forming a joint venture with a global IT company to build and operate the Portal. Further information will be provided over the coming months as the programme progresses.

Council meetings

The Council discussed whether the current number of meetings (six a year) was enough to allow it to carry out its governance, oversight and policy making functions, in particular given the often large gap between a meeting in early July and the next one in mid October. It concluded that one additional meeting, in the autumn, would help ensure that policy matters, as well as issues of communication and engagement, could be properly reviewed. It also concluded, however, that the current pattern of usually meeting within a single day was preferable to extending meetings into a second day, which would be likely to make participation more difficult for significant parts of the profession.

Working to support our members

The Council received reports on activities including the twentieth Legal Breakfast, entitled General Counsel today: challenges and opportunities, with an exceptional range of speakers. Other events have included a dinner for the President and CEO to discuss legal issues with a cross-party group of MPs and peers. The Brussels office organised a seminar in London, attended by approximately 50 practitioners, on the review of the EU Shareholders’ Rights Directive. We have held CEO and office holder visits and anti-money-laundering and diversity and inclusion events in several regions. We have briefed on a number of pieces of high-profile legislation, including the Financial Services (Banking Reform) Bill and the Immigration Bill, and we secured a significant amendment to the Transparency of Lobbying, Non-Party Campaigning and Trade Union Administration Bill, removing an anomaly that could have severely limited the ability of Royal Chartered bodies to engage in lobbying within one year of a general election.

Product management and service delivery

The Council heard that the product management team had been fully integrated, with all the communities, divisions and sections now supported by a single team, thus ensuring better alignment of what we offer members of each group. There has been a recent focus on enhancements to the division websites, and very positive feedback has been received from members about the division e-newsletters. The Practice Advice Centre, the outsourced Find a Solicitor service, and the Membership Services and Support Centre continued to answer high volumes of calls to satisfactory standards. A new user interface for the CPD Centre had made the site simpler and quicker for members to navigate, and at 31,965 registered users, numbers were 71 per cent up since the start of 2013.

 





Law Society Council commits to ongoing lobbying on legal aid proposals – 11 December 2013

12 12 2013

The Law Society Council today reaffirmed its commitment to direct engagement with the Ministry of Justice on proposed changes to legal aid in order to secure the best possible deal for all of its members and to ensure continued access to justice.

In a Council resolution, the Society reaffirmed its opposition to the cuts (see below).

The Council also insisted that the Government reconsider proposals for single fees irrespective of plea, and amend the single national fixed fee for police station work without escape mechanism. Further, the resolution endorsed the use of all appropriate resources to oppose the planned changes to civil legal aid, in particular the plans to restrict access to judicial review and the proposal to introduce a potentially illegal and unworkable residency test.

At the meeting, the Council expressed its regret at the proposal for a no confidence motion at the upcoming SGM, but pledged to engage with local law societies and practitioner groups, as well as facilitating the widest possible participation of practitioners, as it continues to lobby the Government on these issues.

Law Society Council Resolution – 11 December 2013

Transforming Legal Aid – Law Society Council Motion 11 December 2013

1.      Council reiterates that the fundamental objective of the Law Society is to further the best interests of the solicitors’ profession in England and Wales and contribute to upholding the rule of law in the interest of the general public.

 

2.      Council notes the strength and depth of feeling among criminal legal aid and other practitioners about the Government’s proposals in respect of legal aid contained in the Transforming Legal Aid: Next Steps consultation paper.

 

3.      Council therefore reaffirms:

 

3.1.   its opposition to uneconomic and inappropriate fee structures;

 

3.2.   it is an affront to the rule of law that a single fee should be paid regardless of the plea of the defendant;

 

3.3.   it is inappropriate for there to be no escape fee for the most serious police station cases;

 

3.4.   it is uneconomic for a single fixed fee to be paid for police station work no matter the local conditions; and

 

3.5.   it is objectionable that fee cuts be introduced that jeopardise the quality of criminal defence and risk the livelihoods of committed criminal solicitors.

 

4.      For clarity, Council asserts that, in furthering the above objectives, the Law Society will:

 

4.1.   Continue to make the case to Government, with reference to the best available evidence that proposed reductions in fees for criminal legal aid work are likely to carry a substantial risk of market instability with consequent damage to access to justice;

 

4.2.   Insist that the Government reconsider proposals for single fees in the magistrates’ courts and the Crown Court irrespective of the plea entered and work to ensure that alternative measures which do not harm the interests of justice are implemented;

 

4.3.   Insist that the uneconomic proposals for a single national fixed fee for police station work without an escape mechanism are amended;

 

4.4.   Seek to negotiate with the Government, in the long-term, a package of remuneration for legal aid solicitors that is sustainable and takes account of inflationary change;

 

4.5.   To continue to oppose vigorously the planned changes to civil legal aid, in particular the plans to restrict access to judicial review and the proposal to introduce a potentially illegal and unworkable residency test.

 

5.      Council also states unequivocally that in pursuing the above the Law Society will:

 

5.1.   Engage with a wider spectrum of the membership in the Society’s campaign, including local law societies and practitioner groups;

 

5.2.   Facilitate the widest possible participation of practitioners from the Law Society’s volunteer community in negotiations with Government on these issues.





Ian Kelcey – Comment on Law Society SGM – 5 December 2013

5 12 2013

Dear Colleagues,

As you will all know the SGM is fixed for the 17th December and as a criminal practitioner I thought it would be sensible to set out my views on the forthcoming vote and what has been happening on the various criminal law websites.

I am firstly going to reiterate that our profession is coming under sustained attack from a Government with an agenda for deep cuts. This has come together in proposals from the Ministry of Justice which represent a multi-pronged attack on our legal system and poses many and various risks to practitioners up and down the country. Read the rest of this entry »





Yorkshire Union Interview In Leeds & Yorkshire Lawyer

29 05 2013

Better days ahead

Peter Wright, the newly elected President of the Yorkshire Union of Law Societies, looks to cyberspace and mutual support for a brighter legal future

Peter WrightWhen did the Yorkshire Union of Law Societies last cross your radar? The chances are – unless you are very involved in your local law society – that it would have been quite some time ago. Peter Wright, the Union’s new President, wants that to change however. Using his knowledge of social media and extensive network of contacts (he deals with digital law in his day job as a partner at DigitalLawUK and has been involved with the national Law Society in an international capacity since his trainee days), he is optimistic that he can significantly raise the Union’s profile in the next couple of years. “In the past what’s generally happened is that committee members have made great efforts to attend various different events like an AGM or annual dinner,” he says. “But with time constraints and having to cover a whole region while also operating busy practices, they’ve struggled a little bit. Especially with partners trying to keep their firms going in the current climate. “It’s only natural that their priorities change, and that when it comes to law societies and the Yorkshire Union, focus has dipped slightly.” Wright stresses that his assessment of the Union’s visibility is not a criticism of his predecessors but rather a simple fact of life.

He acknowledges that he will not be able to do much more in  terms of making himself seen and heard at physical events, but when it comes to using his knowledge of social media and web design, he hopes some small tweaks to the Union’s online presence can yield some big results.

Laying some foundations

Before being elected at the start of May, Peter had already overseen the building of a new website (“it’s rudimentary right now, but is an important presence,” he says), and has set up a Twitter account. His own firm DigitalLawUK, has over 2,500 followers of its Twitter feed, more than most national firms and he hopes to replicate such interest in the Union. “The only way we and law societies are going to attract new people is not just if they’re committed, but if they are kept up to date with what’s going on through social media. Many societies get junior lawyers involved at first, but they then can’t hold onto them. They would remain more active if they had the benefit of regular streams of information about activity,” he argues. And there’s plenty that Wright believes the Union could be doing that would need publicising. One idea he has involves the Union setting up some regional mini-conferences, where members of a local law society (or societies) can meet and exchange ideas on dealing with regulatory issues, for example. “We need to make sure that we’re sharing knowledge and experience. Otherwise local law societies can be working away trying to reinvent the wheel, when they could be benefiting from sharing their ideas with others,” he says.

In rude health

Having represented Yorkshire on the Law Society’s Council since 2009, Wright is very familiar with what the county’s societies have been doing to support their members. Many of Yorkshire’s societies remain vibrant, despite static or dropping membership levels, he says. He picks Doncaster as one example, citing a recent successful dinner they held where they managed to get a colonel from the US airforce, who is head of legal for all US service personnel in the UK, to give a talk, and their response to the local jobs crisis created by Atteys falling into administration. “The Doncaster Society had an emergency meeting to see what they could do to provide support to the staff,” he reveals. “They looked to see if they could at least co-ordinate something with the national Society to inform local clients of the situation – when a firm like that does go under, with a large number of staff, it can be very distressing. “So it’s good to know that there is a little bit of support from the profession.”  Other societies such as York, Harrogate and, of course, the Leeds Law Society, are all giving something valuable back to their members, he says. By working collectively they could do even more, he believes, given the new world of ABS giants and tightened costs.

Bright future

Wright met his wife at a bar conference in Washington DC in 2008, during his days as the secretary general of the European Young Bar Association. She set up her own legal firm straight out of law school in Arizona, and some of that American get-up-and-go sunny disposition seems to have rubbed off on her husband. “I know many are concerned about Tesco Law and ABS, but it can be a benefit to bring in some expertise and knowledge from outside,” he says. “If it’s a success here, then who knows? If we have UK firms who are the largest in the world benefiting from the alliances they will form through ABS, then you could find it becomes a commercial imperative in many other jurisdictions as a result.”

Article in Issue 121 of the Leeds & Yorkshire Lawyer (June 2013)





Cabinet Changes affecting the Legal Profession

15 07 2014

Key Ministerial changes

The Prime Minister has now confirmed the final make up of the Cabinet and junior ministerial ranks. A list of relevant appointments is set out below (new appointments are highlighted in bold). Please note that the Deputy Prime Minister, Nick Clegg, has decided to delay moving any Liberal Democrat ministers until the autumn, and Labour has indicated they will not make any changes to the shadow cabinet and frontbenchers in advance of the 2015 General Election

 

Ministry of Justice

  • Lord Chancellor and Secretary of State for Justice – Rt Hon. Chris Grayling MP
  • Minister of State for Policing and Crime (joint with Home Office) – Mike Penning MP
  • Minister for State – Rt Hon. Simon Hughes MP (Lib Dem)
  • Minister of State – Lord Faulks, QC
  • Minister for Courts and Legal Aid – Shailesh Vara MP

 

Law Officers

  • Attorney General – Jeremy Wright MP: Mr Wright was first elected as Conservative MP for Kenilworth in the West Midlands in 2005. He is a former practicing barrister specialising in criminal defence and prosecution based at No. 5 Chambers in Birmingham, where he is still a door tenant. Prior to becoming A-G he was Prisons Minister at the Ministry of Justice.

 

  • Solicitor General – Robert Buckland MP: Mr Buckland was first elected Conservative MP for Swindon South in 2010. He is also a former criminal law barrister, and he still sits as a Recorder. This is his first role in Government, and he was previously a member of the Justice Select Committee. He has been an independent minded backbencher, and very active, often behind the scenes, in the debates on legal aid and judicial review. His father was a solictor based in South Wales.

 

Department for Business

  • Secretary of State for Business, Innovation and Skills – Rt Hon. Vince Cable MP (Lib Dem)
  • Minister of State for Business and Enterprise (attending cabinet) – Matthew Hancock MP

 

Foreign Office

  • Foreign Secretary – Rt Hon. Philip Hammond MP

 

Other solictors in Government.

  • Secretary of State for Education, Minister for Women and Equalities – Rt Hon, Nicky Morgan MP: Ms Morgan was first elected in 2010 as MP for Loughborough, and prior to entering parliament was a city solictor at Travers Smith. She was previously a Treasury Minister.

 

  • Financial Secretary to the Treasury – David Gauke MP: Mr Gauke was previously Economic Secretary and has now been promoted to the number three role (behind the Chancellor and Chief Secretary). He is a former Partner at Macfarlanes.

 

New EU Commissioner

The Prime Minister has announced that Lord Hill of Oareford will be the UK’s nomination for the new European Commission. Jonathan Hill was recently Leader of the House of Lords, and before than an education minister. The Lord Hill’s nomination will be presented by the Prime Minister to the European Council at a summit of the EU’s 28 national leaders in Brussels on Wednesday.

Ministerial departures

The following have now left the government and returned to the backbenches:

  • Rt Hon. Dominic Grieve QC, MP – Attorney General
  • Oliver Heald MP – Solictor General
  • Rt Hon. Ken Clarke QC, MP – Minister without portfolio. Former Lord Chancellor 2010-12, and recently the minister working on overseas trade including EU-US FTA (TTIP).
  • Rt Hon. Damian Green MP – Minister for policing, criminal justice and victim
  • Hugh Robertson MP – FCO Minister for Asia
  • Rt Hon. David Jones MP – Secretary of State for Wales. Former practicing solictor.




Law Society Council summary: 9 and 10 July 2014

14 07 2014

Chancery LaneThe Council met on 9 July and the morning of 10 July, with the Annual General Meeting (AGM) of the Law Society held in the afternoon on 10 July. The AGM saw the succession of Andrew Caplen as President, and confirmation of Robert Bourns as the recently elected Deputy Vice President. It also saw the election and re-election of several Council members, including the members successfully returned in the five geographical Council seats where elections were held this year.

Council approved a 17% reduction in the PC fee for 2014-15

Council approved a 17 per cent reduction in the individual practising certificate (PC) fee for 2014-15. Voting on the Law Society Group’s budget – which covers the Solicitors Regulation Authority, the Law Society professional body and Corporate Solutions, the group’s shared services arm – overwhelmingly endorsed the plans to reduce the group’s net funding by almost £12m. The proposal will now be passed to the Legal Services Board (LSB) for final approval.

Council’s decision followed wider consultation than ever before with the profession on its views of the level of the PC fee, and many of those who responded asked the Society to do all it could to minimise the Group’s call of the PC fee. Council therefore welcomed the papers presented on the net funding requirement for the Group which have permitted this significant reduction in the PC fee and in the firm levy and the compensation fund levy.

Law Society pledges further support to criminal law solicitors

Council considered a request for financial support for a judicial review challenging aspects of the consultation process on the Transforming Legal Aid: Next Steps proposals. In particular, the focus of the claim is the preparation of the KPMG report on the appropriate number of duty contracts to award, which the claimant bodies suggest was not released to appropriate consultees, rendering the process unfair. Council recognised the deep concern of many criminal law practitioners at the Lord Chancellor’s decisions and agreed that the Society should assist the parties by offering to fund mediation to resolve the issues. Should mediation not succeed, Council agreed that the Law Society would provide financial support to enable the practitioner groups to proceed with the litigation, if permission is granted by the Court

The text of the Council motion was:

That the Society, in the exercise of its representative function, should –

  1. (a) By letter invite the claimants to propose mediation, with a stay of proceedings for that mediation, with the option that the Society be involved in that mediation; and
  1. Offer to pay the claimants’ costs of that mediation up to a maximum of £30,000.

2. Provided that the Society’s mediation invitation is accepted by the claimants, and if the offer of the mediation is not agreed to by the government, or if the mediation takes place but is not successful, offer the claimants the sum of £45,000 in respect of their costs of the judicial review.

Shaping the environment

Council noted that the SRA had launched consultations on a wide-ranging programme of reform, involving significant changes to professional indemnity insurance, the Compensation Fund, accountants’ reports, and multi-disciplinary practices. The SRA wanted to implement the majority of these from October this year. The Law Society welcomed steps to reduce the regulatory burden, but represented members’ concerns by stressing that reforms on this scale should not be done piecemeal: the Society has formally responded and continues to engage with SRA and the LSB.

In international terms, as part of reducing barriers for members firms wishing to establish in key markets, the President was part of a delegation to Brazil; the Society held meetings with the Law Society of Kenya; and a round table was held on UK insolvency practices for policy makers from the Reserve Bank of India.

Member engagement

The Chief Executive updated Council on the Society’s move towards being a truly member-centric organisation. As part of this, the focus of the Society’s key communication campaign, launching in the autumn, will be promoting the services of solicitors to the public, using the voices of members and their clients to lend authenticity to the message. The campaign will also use social and digital media to maximise the value it delivers. Council also noted the strong presence of the Society at the LegalEx conference on 15-16 May 2014, taking advantage of an excellent opportunity to show how the Society can help represent, promote and support our members.

 

Events and services

Supporting members through the changes to criminal and civil legal aid remains a priority for the Law Society. We have engaged with members in the nine areas where the KPMG report identifies a challenge of principle to the Ministry of Justice’s (MOJ) proposed model, and we are representing the views of those members to the MOJ. We have also provided support to individual members throughout the tender process for the crime ‘own client’ contracts.

The annual In-House Division conference took place as a joint event between the Junior Lawyers’ Division and the Women Lawyers’ Division on career progression. Council noted that the Practice Advice Service had answered over 3,500 calls between 14 April and 6 June 2014, and the Find a Solicitor service had answered almost 12,000 calls.