As the professional body for solicitors, every week the Law Society is working hard to influence the legal and regulatory environment on behalf of our profession and to promote solicitors at home and abroad. We support practice excellence, are an informed source of legal sector news and support members at every stage of their career.
Here are some highlights from this week.
Influencing on behalf of the profession and promoting the profession
The Law Society’s media profile this week:
Cris McCurley, a member of the Access to Justice Committee appeared on BBC Essex to discuss the criminal justice system. You can listen to the broadcast here. Cris’ interview starts from 2:16:10
Chancery Lane warned against plans by the Solicitors Regulation Authority to remove EU lawyers' exemptions from tests to qualify in England and Wales in the event of a ‘no-deal' Brexit. The Law Society said the plans could cause an ‘unnecessary barrier to qualification’ which could have the knock-on effect of making England and Wales a less attractive jurisdiction and imperil its position as Europe's largest legal market. Full report in the Gazette.
Restricting the right of landlords to recover non-litigation costs in leasehold enfranchisement claims could deter them from engaging solicitors and thwart efforts to make the process simpler, the Law Society has warned. Full report in the Gazette.
Mobile phone and computer evidence means that the system of paying advocates by the volume of pages of prosecution evidence is out of date, ministers have said. I welcomed the review of criminal legal aid fees and hoped it would be accompanied by a commitment to increase spending on criminal legal aid. But I added: “Reporting on a fundamental rethink in 2020 is all very well, but we are facing a crisis today.” Full report in the Times.
A new poll shows around four in 10 legal practices are still confused about GDPR rules, and only around one in four see cyberattacks as a leading risk to their business. Peter Wright, author of the Law Society Cyber Security Toolkit and managing director of DigitalLawUK, says too many companies don’t believe they’ll be hacked because they are a small, independent practice. Full report in Lawyer Monthly.
Jenny Beck explains the risks for litigants in person paying for advice from McKenzie friends to take their case through the courts. She explains the impact of cuts to legal aid and why the advice of a solicitor is important for people trying to navigate the Family Court. Listen on BBC West Midlands (2:26:36)
Labour’s Chuka Umunna highlighted that the Law Society is holding various events to mark the centenary of women lawyers in an article for the Independent. He mentions the First Hundred Years project to chart the journey of women in law, illustrating how that has led to a giant leap forward for gender equality in the UK over the years.
The Law Society has renewed its warning about the potential problems of leaving the EU without an agreement on a future relationship in the wake of last night's House of Commons vote. Full report in the Gazette. And vice president Simon Davis also said a no-deal Brexit would “introduce opaqueness where previously there has been clarity in relation to a whole range of rights enjoyed currently by our citizens”. He added: “Where cross-border disputes arise among families and between businesses in the UK and EU countries, the resolution mechanisms available across Europe will no longer apply, leaving them unclear as to which lawyers they can use and which courts can help them.” Full report in the Times (£).
This week we convened 16 organisations from healthcare, science, academia, engineering, architecture, business, energy, town planning and more to write a letter to the Independent setting out our shared concerns about exiting the EU without a deal. We urged politicians “from across the divide to unite to avert a UK-wide crisis and find a way forward to ensure the end of our EU membership doesn’t end an era of unprecedented economic strength for the UK – with all the political and social fallout that will herald.” I was the lead signatory on behalf of the Law Society.
The Guardian covers our concerns about changes to safeguards affecting some of the most vulnerable people in society – those with limited mental capacity. New legislation being rushed through parliament will remove independent scrutiny – and hand decisions to care home managers and private hospitals. Sheree Green, a member of our mental health and disability committee, is quoted saying: “The government’s bill is quite different to the one produced by the Law Commission. [It] places responsibility on the care home manager to do the DoLS or ‘liberty protection safeguard’ work, as it will in future be known.”
The Independent reports EU citizens have won the right to challenge a law which prevents people from accessing immigration data held by the Home Office. It cites the Law Society statement from last year which said nearly half immigration decisions are overturned on appeal – clear evidence of serious flaws in the ministry’s procedures.
The press office is working with solicitors and regional papers to provide agony aunt-style columns on major legal issues. If you would like to participate, please email email@example.com
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Consultation responses and parliamentary activity, influencing on behalf of the profession:
We are working to represent the views of members on the UK exiting the EU and influence both the UK government and EU institutions. We continue to support members by providing guidance on preparatory steps they can take to prepare their firms. The government has published a series of notices on how to prepare for a no-deal Brexit. We have published guidance on the potential effects on our members in the event of a no-deal Brexit in the following areas:
Access to Justice
The Justice Committee have launched a new inquiry into the access to justice implications of the HMCTS court modernisation programme. MPs will look at two elements of the changes:
1. Increased use of digital and video technology
2.The closures of the courts and tribunal hearing centres.
The deadline for the call for written evidence is Monday 11th March 2019.
The government has responded to the Justice Select Committee’s report on criminal legal aid.
The CEO attended the Economic crime ministerial strategy board which was also attended by senior cabinet ministers including the chancellor and lord chancellor.
The Law Society was mentioned twice in the committee stage of the Mental Capacity (Amendment) Bill Committee, highlighting our concerns at 16-17 year olds and access to the Court of Protection.
We were also mentioned six times in debates on several Brexit related statutory instruments on lawyers rights and civil legal aid.
Our influencing work internationally:
This week, I was delighted to attend the Ceremonial Opening of the Legal Year in Hong Kong, jointly hosted by the Law Society of Hong Kong and the Hong Kong Bar Association. As part of the events, I spoke on a panel on ‘Legal Profession as a Talent Platform - What law societies and bar associations can do to enhance the image of the legal profession to attract new entrants to the profession?’ to an audience of 40 bar leaders from more than 20 jurisdictions.
While in Hong Kong, I met with our member firms, as well as the president of the Law Society of Hong Kong, the secretary of justice, and the Justice Centre, Hong Kong.
Later in the week, I attended the IBA 5th Asia Law Firm Management Conference where I spoke on a session on retaining talent and being an attractive workplace for future talent. I met with the Singapore Academy of Law and its Future of Law Innovation Programme (FLIP) – an initiative that brings together stakeholders from business, government and academia to collaborate on developing new models for the delivery of legal services in the future economy.
On Wednesday, I met the Law Society of Singapore’s Women in Practice committee and was honoured to provide the keynote speech at their Women in Practice: Change and Impact panel discussion. One hundred people attended.
On 17 January, David Greene, deputy vice president signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) with Georgia’s Anaklia City JSC (Anaklia City) to cooperate and exchange best practices in the development of a special economic zone and disputes resolution centre in Anaklia, Georgia. The MoU provides a way for us to continue our engagement with Anaklia City and will provide several business development opportunities for members. We look forward to working with Anaklia City.
Supporting members at every stage of their career
We've now published ‘Your professional body – the value of your membership’ aligned to the member offer. It clearly shows how we influence for impact and promote the profession. It also showcases the services we offer to support practice excellence, keep members up to date and act as a career companion. All new members will receive a copy in the post. A simple summary of our member offer is also available.
Judicial appointments: interview training for solicitors - 8 February 2019 – London
In view of increasing competition for judicial appointments, this interactive course will equip delegates with the skills to help enhance your application and interview performance. This workshop has been developed specifically for solicitor applicants but the content is relevant for anyone serious about submitting a credible judicial application.
JLD Forum: Junior lawyer skills day
The Junior Lawyers Division is holding a free one-day career development and skills event in partnership with the South Hampshire JLD and the Bournemouth JLD.
Apprenticeship Week at the Law Society
Bringing together firms, training providers and prospective apprentices to learn about and discuss apprenticeships in legal services.
Supporting practice excellence
Some of our upcoming events are:
Competition Section seminar: the impact of data on merger control
This seminar will survey EU merger control cases involving data issues, and ask whether or not the European Commission has now developed a legal and economic framework for assessment of those cases going forward.
Webinar: Smart contracts for lawyers
A smart contract is a set of rules taking the form of electronic code that is capable of self-execution. The development of the blockchain and distributed ledger technology has enabled smart contracts to be re-imagined to offer a new paradigm of contracting, automating the performance of contractual obligations and aligning to business outcomes.
This webinar we will provide participants with the practical next steps to overcome the uncertainty of smart contracts, firstly through clarification of the fundamental characteristics before directly showing how a lawyer might go about drafting and deploying a smart contract on a blockchain network.
As always, please feel free to share this update with your constituents unless otherwise specified.
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