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:
New rules which clearly limit the influence the Law Society can have on the Solicitors Regulation Authority (SRA), and the Bar Council on the Bar Standards Board (BSB), have been published. Full report in Legal Futures
At Toynbee Hall Legal Advice Centre in Tower Hamlets, an experiment is taking place. It is the result of collaboration between a number of people from many corners of the legal profession and represents a prime example of how commercial law can play a part in access to justice beyond offering simple pro bono advice. And it’s the brainchild, at least partially, of the mental health and human rights lawyer and former Law Society president Lucy Scott-Moncrieff. Feature in The Lawyer (£).
The latest MoJ data shows that 297 cases reached crown courts in Devon and Cornwall, between April and June, down from 440 over the same period in 2014. Crown courts deal with the most serious crimes, such as murder, robbery and sexual offences. Magistrates’ courts can only hand out a maximum sentence of six months’ imprisonment, so crimes which require longer jail terms go to trial at crown court. Ian Kelcey, co-chair of the Law Society’s criminal law committee, said: "The problem is that police forces do not have the manpower to put together the information the CPS wants and I suspect a lot of cases have just not been pursued because it is too much trouble for them.” Report in the Crediton Courier
The Law Society is calling on its members to provide feedback for a consultation exercise that could make life easier for leaseholds. The Law Commission is seeking views on provisional proposals for a new, single enfranchisement regime designed to benefit leaseholders of both houses and flats. “The closing date for responses is January 7, 2019.” Full report in Yorkshire Post, p.4
The Legal Services Board approved SRA plans to liberalise the market, after 90 days of deliberation. In effect, solicitors can now offer paid-for legal services through any business, outside the remit of SRA regulation. I branded the LSB's decision 'a serious error' adding: “The regulators have sacrificed the best interests of the public they exist to protect. This ill-conceived scheme creates an overly complex marketplace for legal services, jeopardising the public interest and the rule of law under the guise of driving access to justice. Yet there is no evidence deregulation will achieve this. On the contrary, the most vulnerable are the most likely to fall foul of a less-shackled marketplace for legal services.” Coverage in the Gazette, Legal Futures & Times (£). Further reaction in Legal Futures, New Law Journal, Legal Business & Today’s Conveyancer.
The Law Society is recommending that all law firms, including those with fewer than 250 employees, should publish their gender pay gap statistics in the current reporting period. I said: “Law firms can get ahead of the curve by assessing and tackling the range of pay gaps that may exist in their organisation. Inequalities can be compounded by the intersection of protected characteristics like gender and ethnicity, so identifying these dynamics will help firms to create far more effective, sustainable equality action plans.” Reports in the Gazette, Legal Business, Legal Week & Legal Cheek.
The lack of diversity within senior law firm roles is contributing to fewer women applying to become a judge, the lord chancellor has warned. The government is also working with the Law Society, which will host a roundtable for senior partners and law firms ‘to explore what support is needed to encourage more solicitors to apply for judicial office’. He also paid tribute to the emphasis I’ve placed on this issue during my presidency saying: “Where [Christina Blacklaws] is making women in leadership in law a key theme of her tenure. That drive for change should inspire others to follow suit”. Coverage in the Gazette, Times (£) & Legal Futures.
Deputy vice president David Greene appeared on Ian King Live on Sky News on Wednesday to discuss the impact of Brexit on both the legal sector and people’s lives. A short part of his appearance is available here.
The proposed new ‘super-exam’ for aspiring solicitors will cost between £3,000 and £4,500, according to tentative predictions from the Solicitors Regulation Authority (SRA), as it finally revealed more details about the proposed overhaul to qualification. Adele Edwin-Lamerton, chair of the JLD, told the Gazette it has concerns about the exam’s affordability. Report in the Gazette. Meanwhile Legal Futures reports two academics have said the SQE will increase inequality in the profession.
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:
We have met with the Ministry of Justice to discuss our response to the AGFS consultation.
Justice Week launched on 29 October and ran until 2 November. This was a new initiative – a week of events organised by the Law Society, Bar Council & CILEX, to boost the profile of justice and the rule of law. More information on the week is available here. The week also included a photography exhibition in the main foyer at Chancery Lane – ‘Justice in Focus’ – highlighting the importance of access to the justice system for those with difficult legal issues and celebrates the tenacity and resilience of people in times of crisis and the lawyers and advisors who help them. More information and examples of some of the photos in the exhibition are available here. We hosted an ethics event during Justice Week consisting of a panel discussion on the ethical obligations of lawyers during major incidents.
Government economic crime strategy
We participated in a high-level discussion between the private sector (accountancy, banking, estate agents, legal sector) and Home Office and HM Treasury officials to discuss the launch of the National Economic Crime Centre and the development of the government’s economic crime strategy. The emphasis was on improved collaboration with the private sector.
Seminar on appeals to the Court of Appeal Criminal Division
We hosted a well-attended and well-received seminar for criminal law practitioners on new procedures for submitting appeals to the CACD.
Court professional access scheme
We had an update from HMCTS officials about the professional access pilot. As at the end of October, 787 lawyers were signed up to the pilot, the overwhelming majority of whom were barristers; there had been 2500 court ‘entries’ since 5 September, with 1600 of those at Southwark, because of a large-scale fraud trial there. The pilot is being extended to five other courts from November, but those courts will only accept electronic ID: no paper applications will be accepted.
Mental Capacity (Amendment) Bill
We participated in a roundtable to discuss the Bill at the Department of Health.
We participated in a roundtable to discuss the SARs regime hosted by Linklaters.
On Monday I gave oral evidence to the All-Party Parliamentary Group on Artificial Intelligence. The session was chaired by Conservative MP Stephen Metcalfe and focused on the next practical steps for ensuring that the UK “remains one of the world’s leading AI proponents.” I spoke about the ethical implications of AI, and gave an update on the Law Society’s work on technology more generally – including our Technology and Law Policy Commission and the LawTech Delivery Panel.
Lord Chancellor David Gauke gave his first speech on diversity in the legal profession at the Spark 21 conference. The lord chancellor specifically praised our ‘Women in Leadership in Law: Toolkit’ as an example of leadership on diversity issues and our work on women in leadership more generally (see Media above). He encouraged people within the profession to contact us for a copy. He also thanked us for our support on judicial diversity, including agreeing to chair and host a joint roundtable for senior partners and law firms to explore what support is needed to encourage more solicitors to apply for judicial office.
Our campaigns on early advice, the means test and criminal duty solicitors all received wide coverage in Parliament last week during a debate on legal aid. Conservative and Labour MPs called legal aid for early advice “essential” – including Justice Select Committee chair Bob Neill. The shadow justice minister Gloria de Piero backed our call for a review into the legal aid means test, and a number of MPs highlighted our criminal duty solicitors heat map and called for the government to take action. You can read the full debate here.
The government is preparing its response to feedback it received as part of its review of the Legal Aid, Sentencing and Punishment of Offenders Act 2012 (LASPO). We are encouraging people to write to the lord chancellor encouraging him to bring back legal aid for early advice. Please take two to minutes to write to him via our online portal.
I took part in an in-conversation event at the Spark 21 Annual Conference on “levelling the playing field” on Wednesday.
Deputy vice president David Greene spoke at a University of Michigan event on securities regulation. He is also spoke at the Law Society’s commercial litigation conference.
Chair of the board Robert Bourns spoke at a Westminster Legal Policy Forum event on the impact of changes to the legal training structure.
Our influencing work internationally:
On Wednesday, the Society of European Affairs Professionals (SEAP) and the Brussels office organised a seminar on lobbying and ethics. The event addressed the question of the role of ethics and codes of conduct in the era of increased lobbying regulation. The event was opened by Helena Raulus, head of Brussels office and Wes Himes, SEAP President. Panellists included Vitor Teixeira, Transparency International; Mark Clough QC, Dentons; and Koen Roovers, European Ombudsman.
Yesterday, Helena spoke at the Coram Day Conference in London on potential implications of Brexit on Family Law and legal profession. Other speakers included: Withers Worldwide’s Suzanne Kingston; Mark Twomey QC; Kingsley Napley’s Kim Vowden; and Preiskel & Co’s David Allen Green.
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.
We have published our Practice Note on Price and Service Transparency to support firms preparing for new SRA transparency rules. It is now available on our website
In a new podcast, former president Lucy Scott Moncrieff talks about the International Bar Association’s recently published guide to legal aid principles and how the UK is measuring up against them. You can listen to the podcast here. We have published a guide to what is in the scope of the legal aid to support pro bono clinics. The guide is available here. We have also launched our newly developed webpage which will keep members up to date on the HMCTS court reform programme including relevant events, information and guidance.
Some of our upcoming events are:
Careers: Preparing 2nd year trainee solicitors for qualification - Career planning tips for trainees approaching qualification, 22 November
This event will provide an opportunity for trainee solicitors, mulling their post-training contract options, to gain insight into the newly qualified (NQ) jobs markets from Husnara Begum, a career coach who specialises in offering guidance to final seat trainees who miss out on internal jobs.
Judicial appointments: interview training for solicitors, 23 November
In view of increasing competition for judicial appointments, this course will equip delegates with the skills to help enhance your application and interview performance. This training course has been developed specifically for solicitor applicants.
2019 will be 100 years since the Sex Disqualification (Removal) Act was passed, which paved the way for women to finally practice law – an important milestone in the slow progress towards the rights of women to fulfil their potential and gain ownership over their lives and futures.
The March4Women in London, supported by the Law Society will mark this occasion next March and is seeking sponsors. Please do assist if you can.
Supporting practice excellence
The Technology and Law Policy Commission evidence session, 12 November
Technology in the law is a major force of change. How technology is used in our justice system and its impacts on the Rule of Law and society is a question which is crucial to understand and explore. The Law Society of England and Wales, as part of its flagship programme, will be examining this issue through its Technology and Law Policy Commission and you are invited to participate.
Capital markets in the 21st century, 30 November
The 2018 edition of our popular capital markets event in conjunction with the American Bar Association will provide the latest updates and insight from leading authorities in the capital markets field.
As always, please feel free to share this update with your constituents unless otherwise specified.
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