Our annual thank you e-mail to our members is going out from this week. As part of our work to target our communications, members with less than five years PQE, private client, property, large firm and in house members will receive tailored messages about our member offer.
Here are some highlights from our busy work this week, which included our final Council meeting of 2018.
Influencing on behalf of the profession and promoting the profession
The Law Society’s media profile this week:
Brexit is seen as an opportunity to supplant London as the world’s dispute resolution centre and a no deal Brexit would “inject a huge dollop of uncertainty in the system”, says Law Society vice president and Clifford Chance litigation partner Simon Davis. Report in Monday’s CityAM, page 9.
New SRA rules around price publication by solicitors for selected areas of law came into force this week. The move was foreshadowed in a report in Saturday’s Telegraph Money, p.2, which quoted me saying: “Price is, of course, important, but so are the range and quality of services and the client protections offered by the providers.” Further coverage in the Gazette, Legal Futures & Telegraph (£)
This week’s Gazette carried a piece from me on equality in the legal sector. I wrote: “As the centenary of the Sex Disqualification (Removal) Act approaches in 2019, there remains a long way to go to achieve gender equality in the legal sector.” I’m also quoted in Today’s Wills & Probate talking about diversity. “We have worked with the profession to develop a common set of standards that provide the level of transparency expected by firms’ clients, people and the public.” To give firms a useful benchmark and enable an evidence-based action plan to tackle inequalities, the Law Society supports the addition of partner pay along with employee pay data in gender pay gap reporting.
The Radio Times (p154) reports on the proposed hike in probate fees. The article cites our position “The Law Society, which represents solicitors, has criticised the fees, saying: “The cost to courts for providing a grant of probate does not change whether the size of the estate is £10,000 or £1 million.””
The Civil Justice Council (CJC) has stopped short of recommending a ’presumption’ that parties will agree to alternative dispute resolution (ADR) as a condition for issuing proceedings - but said it is committed to promoting alternatives to litigation. The Law Society warned that imposing a requirement of mandatory ADR would ‘frustrate the principle’ that litigants should have unimpeded access to the courts. Report in the Gazette.
The Law Society is revamping its quality mark for residential conveyancing – CQS - which will include site visits by an independent assessor. Report in the Gazette which also carried an article by head of accreditations Rachel Hawkins. Legal Futures also covered the story.
The Gazette reported on my appearance on a panel at the international forum on online courts organised by the Society for Computers and Law and HM Courts and Tribunals Service. I’m quoted saying: “When it comes to regulating AI, we need a principle-led approach. We need flexibility, but we also need a framework of standards, building in ethics by design and protecting fundamental freedoms.”
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:
On Monday, the Counter-Terrorism and Border Security Bill was considered by the House of Lords at report stage. The Law Society was positively referenced five times, and excerpts from our parliamentary briefing were quoted by Liberal Democrat home affairs spokesperson Baroness Hamwee. The Lords also agreed to an amendment the Law Society supported, removing a power for officials to listen in to confidential legal advice.
The Courts and Tribunals Bill passed its committee stage in the House of Commons this week. It will now progress to report stage.
On Wednesday I hosted a dinner discussion around access to justice and the LASPO post implementation review at the Carey Street. Attendees included senior representative from HM Courts and Tribunals Service and the Ministry of Justice.
Women in Leadership in Law
The lord chancellor attended a male champions roundtable at Chancery Lane on Monday as part of our women in leadership in the law programme.
LawWorks pro bono awards
I was pleased to have the opportunity to welcome the 250 plus guests to the awards also on Monday.
Civil Justice Council
I attended Friday’s gathering where I chaired a breakout session on technology and was part of a panel discussing what the National Pro Bono Centre could/should look like in 2020.
Diversity and Inclusion Celebration
I spoke at our annual diversity and inclusion celebration where I thanked colleagues from our Women Lawyers, Ethnic Minority Lawyers, Lawyers with Disabilities and LGBT+ Lawyers Divisions for their work supporting under-represented groups in the profession and our Social Mobility Ambassadors who help demonstrate that the profession is open to the best people, regardless of their background or challenges.
Our influencing work internationally:
I attended the Paris Bar Opening of the Legal Year last weekend within the context of Brexit, discontent on the streets in Paris and elections to the Paris Bar council and who will be the Bâtonnier in 2020-2021. Our relations with the Paris Bar under the leadership of Marie-Aimée Peyron are strong but Brexit creates a moment of uncertainty for the position of UK solicitors in France and the 50-odd UK and American law firms, many operating as branches of UK LLPs. The French bar authorities will soon let the French government know whether they think it should legislate to ensure LLPs can continue operating in Paris or would need to restructure. Paris is also making a bid to attract legal business to the new International Chamber of the Court of Appeal which will be able to hear cases in the English language and on English law. We are monitoring developments there and elsewhere in Europe very closely.
On 5 December, the Brussels Office as well as Bingham Centre for the Rule of Law and FLINN held an event on ‘Implementing Brexit – A Rule of Law Perspective’. The event took place at the European Parliament and was co-hosted by Molly Scott Cato, Alyn Smith, Catherine Bearder, Sajjad Karim and Clare Moody, UK MEPs. Around 70 people attended the event.
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 as a career companion. All new members will receive a copy in the post. A simple summary of our member offer is also available.
LGBT+ History Month events
In February our LGBT+ Lawyers Division committee is looking to support as many regional events as possible. If your firm or organisation is arranging something for History Month and would like a committee member or Diversity & Inclusion team member to attend or be on a panel, please contact the team.
LGBT+ Lawyers Division essay competition
The LGBT+ Lawyers Division has launched its inaugural essay competition, with a first prize of £750. Closing date is 28 February 2019 and the title is ‘What remaining legal barriers exist for the LGBT+ community in terms of equality, including any issues with the application of the current law?' More information can be found here.
Advocacy and the Vulnerable Training, 28 January 2019, Liverpool - Afternoon session
The Advocacy and the Vulnerable Training was developed in conjunction with the Bar to help solicitor advocates and barristers strike the balance between advancing their client’s case effectively in court whilst ensuring vulnerable witnesses are not subjected to undue stress.
Mitigating risk for in-house lawyers, 31 January 2019 – Leeds
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.
LawWorks Carol concert
The LawWorks Carol concert, held jointly with Advocate, is on 18th December at Temple Church. There will be readings by Stephen Mangan, Lady Hale and Gyles Brandreth and performances by Rob Burton, winner of the woodwind category final of BBC Young Musician 2018 and the Collegium Musicum of London Chamber Choir. There is also an incredibly good raffle. Please do spread the word! Further details can be found here.
Supporting practice excellence
Some of our upcoming events are:
Webinar: Price and Service Transparency: How you can comply
On 6 December 2018 the new SRA Transparency Rules came into force (see Media above). The new rules will require firms to publish certain price, service and regulatory information. In response to this, we developed a practice note to provide firms with key points to consider when implementing the new minimum requirements. Presented by the lead policy advisor for transparency, this webinar will walk you through the practice note.
Data protection in transition: GDPR and DPA compliance for law firms
A year on from the introduction of the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) and Data Protection Act 2018 (DPA), the emerging data protection regime is established but not yet mature. This conference is designed to help law firms identify the right data protection strategies to navigate this difficult transitional period.
As always, please feel free to share this update with your constituents unless otherwise specified.
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