Here are some highlights from our work this week.
Influencing on behalf of the profession and promoting the profession
The Law Society’s media profile this week:
Law Society Gazette ran an interview with me this week to mark the start of my presidency. Among its focuses are my ‘gender agenda’ which is “auspiciously timed, as the #MeToo campaign and mandatory gender pay gap reporting keep the plight of professional women in the foreground”. It goes on: “As Blacklaws points out, women have accounted for over 60% of newly qualified solicitors since 1990 and yet only 28% of partners currently in private practice are female.” New Law Journal also covered my inauguration.
A £170m flagship court to deal with economic crime is to be constructed in central London. The Law Society welcomed the new court but warned that its fees and those charged by London’s other international dispute resolution courts will need to become more competitive ‘if our jurisdiction is to continue to attract commercial parties from across the globe’. More details in the Gazette plus New Law Journal.
How many of your clients know what would happen to their digital assets after death? Is it something they’ve ever thought about? Would many even know what was meant by a digital asset? These were among the questions addressed by the head of the Law Society’s wills & equity committee, Ian Bond, whilst speaking at the annual national Solicitors for the Elderly conference held last month at the British Library. Full story in Today’s Wills & Probate
Barristers and solicitors will be given electronic ID cards to allow them to bypass onerous security measures in place at courts around the country. Both the Law Society and Bar Council have confirmed a pilot scheme is ‘very likely’ to take place next month at a select group of courts. If successful it could be rolled out nationally. I’m quoted saying: “We have been speaking to HMCTS officials about the delays our members face in clearing security and we support the plans for a pilot scheme. It is clear that improved access for regular court users could lead to efficiency improvements and this will benefit the court service, and lawyers alike.” More details in the Gazette & The Times (subscription required)
The government’s Brexit White Paper was met with a cool reaction in the City, as it failed to clarify ambiguity around the status of professionals.
The paper rejects City firms’ preferred option of ‘mutual recognition’. In a terse statement, lobby group TheCityUK, said: “The overriding issue for financial and related professional services firms is the ability to continue serving customers and clients. Mutual recognition would have been the best way to achieve this. It’s therefore regrettable and frustrating that this approach has been dropped before even making it to the negotiating table.”
Meanwhile I was quoted saying: “Ultimately the government will be judged on the outcome but today’s white paper is at least pointing in the right direction – however, the final deal will depend too on the priorities of the EU27. There is going to be a tough negotiation towards what looks like a free trade agreement. The white paper clearly states the benefits of civil judicial co-operation to both UK and EU and the fact businesses benefit from legal certainty in situations where disputes arise.” Full report in the Gazette. Other legal sector responses to the White Paper are covered in The Times (subscription required)
Don’t forget you can read all Law Society press releases by clicking on this link. For live updates follow us on Twitter.
Consultation responses and parliamentary activity, influencing on behalf of the profession:
The Courts and Tribunals (Judiciary and Functions of Staff) Bill was introduced into the House of Lords for its first reading to ‘make provision about the judiciary and the functions of the staff of courts and tribunals’. We recommend that across all courts and tribunals, those that are delegated judicial functions should be three-years post qualified as a solicitors, barrister or chartered legal executive and that this should be set out on the face of the Bill.
We are inviting legal aid solicitors to participate in focus groups to explore the impacts of the Legal Aid, Sentencing and Punishment of Offenders Act 2012 (LASPO). The evidence will be submitted to a post-implementation review by the Ministry of Justice. The groups will be led by our head of justice, Richard Miller, and will run throughout the country. Our intention is to run two, one-hour, groups at each location relating to family and other civil work, and criminal work, respectively.
Public and Criminal Law
Our Technology and Law Policy Commission will hold its inaugural evidence session on Wednesday 25 July from 3:30pm. The Commission, led by me alongside co-Commissioners Sofia Olhede (UCL), Sylvie Delacroix (University of Birmingham) and guest Commissioner Andrea Coomber (Justice), will examine the use of algorithms in the justice system, the impacts on the rule of law, implications for data rights, and whether our human rights framework is fit for purpose. A cross disciplinary exploration, we will be taking evidence from academics, technology developers, law enforcement agencies, regulators, legal professionals, human rights experts and political science and ethics specialists. Council members and their constituents wishing to attend and observe a highly engaging session with global experts, can join here.
On Wednesday I had an introductory meeting with the lord chancellor to discuss our key priorities.
On Thursday the Government published its White Paper on Brexit – the future relationship between the UK and EU and was given a cautious welcome by the Law Society (see Media above).
I attended pre-Pride in London drinks in the bar at Chancery Lane, where we were joined by chief executive Paul Tennant, staff and members. The 70 attendees included representatives of the Bar, CILEX and other organisations and marched together as #Legal Pride, to show the legal profession’s support for its members and LGBT+ rights.
The heads of the Bar Council, CILEX, myself, vice president Simon Davis and David Greene, led 100 #Legal Pride marchers under the banner ‘All are equal under the law’, prompting a great response from the crowd. We are marching in more regional Prides than ever and so next move on to Leeds, Manchester and Cardiff (having already attended Birmingham).
Our influencing work internationally:
On 9 July, we held a reception for Hon. Minister Prasad, cabinet minister for law and justice and electronics and IT in the government of India to mark his first official visit to the UK in his ministerial capacity. I delivered a speech calling for greater collaboration between the Indian and UK legal professions and drawing attention to the benefits a more open legal services market would bring to India. An audience of 49 members with significant India-related practices, barristers, UK and Indian government officials attended. The reception was jointly organised with the Bar Council of England and Wales. I was invited by the Indian High Commissioner to the UK, Y.K. Sinha to dine with Hon. Minister Prasad after the reception.
On 10 July Helena Raulus, head of Brussels office, participated with Brexit Law Committee members on a roundtable organised by Justice Minister Lucy Fraser.
We held an information session on European Lawyers’ practice rights under the draft EU-UK Withdrawal Agreement on 12 July. The seminar was followed by a networking reception. I chaired the session while representatives of the Law Society international team and Brussels Office along with the Solicitors Regulation Authority answered questions from practitioners. There were 120 registrations for the event.
The Law Society vice president, Simon Davis, hosted a Brexit roundtable with key City firms to discussion temporary provision of services, advising on EU law and practice rights post-Brexit on 12 July. The roundtable was attended by 25 solicitors leading on Brexit at their firms.
On 12 July, Helena Raulus spoke on the summer reception for RELs and European / international law firms in London.
Supporting members at every stage of their career
Some of our upcoming events are:
Junior Lawyer Division Forum - Helping you to secure a training position - 6 October, London
The Junior Lawyers Division is holding a free one-day skills event to assist LPC students and LPC graduates with their search for a training position.
Black History Month – Preparing students for the legal profession - 11 October 2018
This exciting event for undergraduates aims to cover all aspects of preparing for a career in the legal profession, including tips on increasing your chances of success, completing applications and interview techniques.
Black History Month Inspiration evening 2018
The annual Black History Month Inspiration evening brings together an impressive line up of inspiring lawyers. In a highly competitive profession which presents innumerable challenges we profile and celebrate lawyers who have faced and overcame obstacles on their professional journey.
Judicial appointments: interview training for solicitors - 15 October 2018 - Bristol
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.
Supporting practice excellence
Lucy Scott-Moncrieff is crowdfunding to help drive a greater use of tech and tools to help those in most in need of legal advice and support. They’re going to launch a pilot with partner Toynbee Hall supporting immigration issues but they need additional funds - https://www.crowdjustice.com/case/the-jeanie-project/
She writes: “Cuts to legal aid mean that fewer people are able to access legal advice or representation, and many people with legal problems don’t know where to turn. But you knew that. We think we have a potential solution, using the ground-breaking technology KIM, but we need your help.”
Mitigating risk for in-house lawyers, 19 September 2018 - Manchester
The role and approach of legal departments in identifying and managing risk is changing. With an increasing focus on the value proposition of the legal team within organisations, legal departments are having to be more strategic risk managers, gauging risk appetite to balance managing risk with creating value.
Small Firms Division annual conference 2018 - London
The Small Firms Division is dedicated to meeting the needs of all smaller legal businesses, including sole practitioners. The Division's flagship annual conferences will take place in London and Leeds, and will provide practitioners with a half-day of small firms-focused conference sessions, practical tips and networking opportunities.
National property law conference 2018
Changes in regulation, the increase of cyber-crime attacks and the uncertainty of the economy and property market are likely to affect the conveyancers and property practitioners in the next 12 months. This is the conference designed to give you the tools and support to help you overcome these difficulties.
As always, please feel free to share this update with your members unless otherwise specified.
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