President’s Weekly Law Society update 26/11/2018
2018-19 business plan
Before our usual weekly update, I would like to share a brief and simple summary of our 2018-19 business plan (attached) with you. It is designed to share with members and will drive our work for them this year.
Hard copies can be requested from email@example.com
Your weekly Law Society update
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 our work this week.
Influencing on behalf of the profession and promoting the profession
The Law Society’s media profile this week:
A “chronic” lack of new duty solicitors may lead to innocent people being found guilty, Law Society head of justice Richard Miller has warned. He described the legal system as “creaking at the seams”. Full coverage from the BBC including on BBC Wales Radio and BBC 1 Wales. You can listen to the radio discussion here from 49:00.
At the same time the Gazette covered the findings of the UN’s special rapporteur on extreme rights and human poverty who has criticised the government’s legal aid cuts for “depriving poor and disabled people of their human rights to remedy”. And ITV covered a “surge in the number of duty solicitors withdrawing from the rota in Scotland.
Gazette journalist Mondipa Fouzder writes an extended article on criminal law. She quotes Sir Brian Leveson, president of the Queen’s Bench Division and head of criminal justice, who told defence solicitors they will “rarely be applauded” by a public “who don’t always understand that it’s not about getting the guilty off … but that you are an essential check and balance within a large uncompromising machine”.
Junior lawyers have said they will be keeping a close eye on the training and education that prospective solicitors receive over the next year and beyond as proposed overhauls to the qualification process begin to take shape. In the past few weeks – after months of uncertainty – the Solicitors Regulation Authority (SRA) finally estimated that the SQE could cost students up to £4,500. The start date for the exam has been delayed by 12 months following feedback from education providers and law firms which indicated a ‘strong preference’ for a 2021 launch as opposed to 2020. Report in the Gazette and in Legal Cheek.
Law enforcement authorities are seeking out ‘enablers’ of money laundering for prosecution, security and economic crime minister Ben Wallace MP told the Law Society’s Anti-Money Laundering and Financial Crime Conference 2018 warning that ‘not just the major criminals’ will be targeted. He was speaking publicly for the first time since revealing a new crackdown on estate agencies, private schools and other organisations suspected of handling dirty money adding up to £90bn a year. Full report in the Gazette.
The Ministry of Justice (MoJ) has downgraded the pilot project to extend court working hours, to the relief of the Law Society. The extended operating hours pilots were originally due to start in May 2017, with HM Courts and Tribunal Service (HMCTS) proposing to roll them out over six months at six different courts across the country. The Law Society and other key stakeholders raised serious concerns over fundamental issues in execution, resource and methodology which caused previous plans to extend court hours to be suspended last September. I commented that “HMCTS’ willingness to listen to the Law Society and address our members’ and other stakeholders’ concerns about trialling extended hours is encouraging”. Details in LawCareers.Net
Consultation responses and parliamentary activity, influencing on behalf of the profession:
Head of justice Richard Miller, attended the Judicial Diversity Forum with me, at which a memorandum of understanding was signed setting out the commitment of various stakeholders to the pre-application judicial education project. This is a scheme designed to help those seeking to apply for judicial office to put together high quality applications, particularly those from under-represented backgrounds. On Friday, Richard attended a workshop at Oxford University, hosted by Professors Abigail Adams and Jeremias Prassl along with Natalie Byrom from the Legal Education Foundation, looking at evaluating the HMCTS reform programme.
We hosted our annual AML conference on 21st November, bringing together policy makers, law enforcement, regulators and industry experts to look at the latest policy and regulatory developments, changes ahead and other hot topics in anti-money laundering and financial crime. Our speakers brought delegates up-to-speed on the latest in AML policy, case law and money laundering typologies, while practical workshops tackled topical compliance challenges.
On Monday, I spoke at the All Party Parliamentary Group (APPG) for Blockchain.
A Westminster Hall debate took place on Wednesday to discuss the effect of Brexit on legal services. The debate was called to discuss the recent report on the same topic by the APPG on Legal and Constitutional Affairs, which we provide the secretariat for. During the debate, the Law Society received repeated favourable mentions.
I spoke at a committee meeting of the City of London Law Society on Wednesday. I also spoke at the UK Diversity Legal Awards and presented a number of awards.
I spoke at the Bristol Law Society’s Artificial Intelligence conference on AI and ethics on Saturday.
The deputy vice president, David Greene, spoke at our event to celebrate Diwali on Thursday.
On Wednesday, I met with the lord chancellor and justice minister, Lucy Frazer QC, to discuss the Advocate Graduated Fee Scheme (AGFS).
On Thursday I hosted a Future of Law lecture with Julia Salasky, CEO and founder of CrowdJustice who spoke about facilitating justice through technology.
On Friday, I visited the University of West England’s Law Faculty to discuss technology and diversity.
Women in Leadership in the Law
I travelled to Truro, Cornwall to host a women in leadership in law roundtable for around 24 attendees. The vice president, Simon Davis, led another men’s roundtable on Monday with 15 attendees from: Bird & Bird, Bristows, Clifford Chance, Farrer & Co., John Lewis, K&L Gates, Lewis Silkin, Lucy Group, Moore Blatch, Pinsent Masons, RPC, Taylor Wessing and TSB.
Our influencing work internationally:
On 19 November, the Brussels Office organised a dinner hosted by myself, Sir Graham Watson and Katharina Miller, president of the European Women Lawyers Association attended by a number of prominent women to discuss issues concerning women in the law.
On 20 November, EWLA and Brussels office hosted an event which I spoke at and chaired on: Indirect discrimination in access to justice. Around 40 people attended from the legal, policy and academic communities.
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.
Get involved in the 2019 Solicitor Brand Campaign – we need your help!
We’ll be promoting the solicitor profession throughout 2019 to consumers, businesses and managers, raising its profile and endorsing the use of solicitors above other sources of legal advice. Our campaign will develop understanding of the vital role solicitors play and drive more people to the Law Society public pages (to help consumers understand their legal needs) and our Find a Solicitor website (which helps you attract new clients).
Over the last two years our campaign has featured real solicitors. We also want the 2019 campaign to feature contented clients who have positive things to say about their experience of using a solicitor.
We’ll also feature solicitors in some of the photography and in video case studies. The content we create will promote the solicitor profession overall, so won’t include individual solicitor details. However, we can create alternative versions for members who get involved so you can use them in your own marketing materials. Read on, or see Monday’s Gazette if you’re interested in being involved.
To mark the start of LGBT History Month, our LGBT+ Lawyers Division is hosting a speed networking event. As well as receiving tips on networking, there will be the opportunity to put these into practice in both formal and informal sessions.
Supporting practice excellence
2019 will be 100 years since the Sex Disqualification (Removal) Act was passed, which finally paved the way for women to practise 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.
Blockchain is a form of Distributed Ledger Technology (DLT) that has been widely hailed as “game-changing” technology, with a World Economic Forum survey suggesting that 10% of global GDP will be stored on blockchain by 2027. Blockchains can present both a threat and an opportunity for lawyers and law firms. As the technologies become more widely used (or perhaps for these technologies to become more widely used by end clients) lawyers, legislators, regulators and courts will have to address the legal frameworks around them. However, they also offer an ability to innovate the way in which legal services themselves are provided. This webinar will provide participants with the practical steps to overcome this uncertainty through clarification of the fundamental characteristics of distributed ledgers, including blockchain, and how a lawyer might go about using blockchain to provide legal services.
Some of our upcoming events are:
Compliance support forum for in-house lawyers, London
This forum provides an update on the in-house lawyer’s current compliance position with discussions about common conduct and practising conundrums and suggestions for an appropriate and proportionate response. It also includes a review of changes of significance which have been proposed in the SRA’s ‘Looking to the future’ consultation.
These regional seminars are designed to keep you on top of both the soft skills and the case law required to support your elderly and vulnerable clients from a practical care angle, while simultaneously supporting your SRA continuing competency needs and developing your career.