Regular update for local law society members from TLS President

18 February 2019

 

Dear colleague,

 

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 last week.

 

Influencing on behalf of the profession and promoting the profession

 

The Law Society’s media profile this week:

 

The government’s proposed increases to probate fees will see estates of £2m pay £6,000 the Financial Times (£) reported. I’m quoted saying: “The cost to the courts for granting probate does not change whether the estate is worth £50,000 or £2m. It is unfair to expect the bereaved to find or subsidise other parts of the courts and tribunal services, particularly in circumstances where they have no other options but to use the probate service.” Further coverage in the Sunday Times (£) and the Gazette.

Melinda Giles, a council member and member of the wills and equity committee also appeared on Talk Radio to discuss probate fees. You can listen to the broadcast here. The interview runs from 08:00.

The Times (£) reported ministers faced a backlash over the MoJ’s recent review of the Legal Aid, Sentencing and Punishment of Offenders act. The government was accused of kicking legal aid issues down the road. I called on ministers to “give urgent attention to amending the means test thresholds because the current levels are preventing families in poverty from accessing justice”. Further coverage in the Gazette, Family Law Week, the Justice Gap and Legal Futures.

Ranjit Thaliwal, a Midlands-based mental health law solicitor talked to BBC Radio Nottingham about the legalities of sectioning for Time to Talk mental health day. You can listen to the broadcast here. Ranjit’s interview starts from 1:12:00.

There is little wrong with the 30-year-old Children Act. But years of austerity too often compromise the legal process, challenging the ability of courts and social services to prioritise the interests of the vulnerable. Jerry Bull, chair of the Law Society’s children law sub-committee, points to ways in which overworked family judges in a stretched judicial system are adding to the pressure on lawyers. “There are far more proceedings and courts are expecting more of us each time, because they don’t have the resources to back up the judges.” Full report in the Gazette.

Nominations are now being accepted for this year’s Law Society Excellence Awards, which will recognise the outstanding achievements of solicitors working in all areas of law across England and Wales.“Every day solicitors across this country demonstrate their commitment to their clients, their community, and to the rule of law,” I said. “The Excellence Awards celebrate the very best – the winners highlight not just the values of the profession, but the vital role solicitors play in the administration of justice every day.” Coverage in the Gazette.

The Northern Echo carries the first of a new, weekly ‘Legal Expert’ column in conjunction with the Law Society. This week’s topic is no-fault divorce. Law Society position on no-fault divorce is here.

 

Law Society access to justice committee member June Venters QC writes in The Times about her experience of offering legal advice pro bono from her local GP’s surgery over the last decade. This follows a proposal by the justice minister Lucy Frazer last week that funded legal advice be offered from GP surgeries.

 

The Times (£) also reports that British fashion designers risk losing design right protections in the event of a no-deal Brexit. I said: “The law governing intellectual property is largely harmonised across the EU. Much of the legislation and case law stems directly from EU level law.” Further coverage in the Gazette.

 

The BBC reports that new laws are needed to tackle knife crime in London. “The home secretary is right when he says there’s no specific legislation that easily lets you pull down knife crime content from social media,” says Steve Kuncewicz, a member of council and of the technology and the law committee.

 

Law Society immigration committee member Zeena Luchowa answered questions from BBC London audience members worried about their futures.

 

Our Valentine’s Day warning about the myth of common law marriage was cited in the Manchester Evening News and the Daily Mirror as well as Global Legal Post. I said: “The term originates from when it was less socially acceptable for couples to live together and have children outside wedlock.” I also warned of the pitfalls of people relying on long term cohabitation as the basis of their rights.

The controversy about whether 19-year-old Shamima Begum – who left Britain in 2015 with friends in order to live in Isil-controlled Raqqa – should be allowed to return to the UK has received widespread coverage in the media. Ian Kelcey, co-chair of the criminal law committee, is quoted in the Times commenting on her potential legal situation: “On the basis of what we know so far it is likely that Begum would be arrested on return to the UK and probably charged under the Terrorism Act 2006.”

 

Legal Futures covered the launch of the Law Society’s LawTech adoption report which reviews how far the legal sector has come in terms of adopting technology to execute work.

 

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:

 

Probate

Shadow leader of the Commons Valerie Vaz MP quoted Law Society vice president Simon Davis on the subject of probate fees. She noted that the Non-Contentious Probate (Fees) Order 2018 may be ultra vires, and cited the Law Society’s argument that it is a “tax hike through the back door”, mentioning Simon Davis by name.

 

More than 2,000 people have now written to their MP regarding the proposed changes to probate fees using our online tool.

 

Brexit

No deal guidance – we published new no deal guidance on VAT and intellectual property – this will feature in our professional update this week and in a number of our other newsletters.

 

Concerns on no deal raised with the lord chancellor – the CEO wrote to the lord chancellor to raise our concerns around no deal and the decrease in legal services exports from 2016 to 2017.  

 

No deal concerns raised in Parliament – we briefed shadow justice ministers in the Commons and Lords five times on key secondary legislation around legal services, recognition of professional qualifications and civil justice co-operation – the Law Society was mentioned in the debates 19 times and our concerns around no deal were mentioned throughout.

 

Increased awareness of with Lords justice spokespeople on Brexit – we met with the Labour’s Lords adviser on justice to increase his understanding of the Law Society’s Brexit priorities.

 

Brexit conference – We hosted a joint conference on Brexit with City and Financial. Both the vice president and deputy vice president spoke at conference, along with:

  • Justice minister, Lucy Frazer QC MP
  • Shadow justice minister, Yasmin Qureshi MP
  • Former lord chief justice, Lord Thomas
  • Former attorney general, Dominic Grieve QC MP
  • Chair of the justice select committee, Bob Neill MP.

 

Speeches

I spoke at an “in conversation” event with Lady Arden at Clyde & Co. I also spoke about the women in leadership in law programme at a Network for Knowledge event on Wednesday.

 

The vice president and deputy vice president spoke at a joint Law Society and City and financial conference on Brexit and legal services.

 

Resilience and Wellbeing Survey 2019

For the third year running, the Junior Lawyers Division’s (JLD) is undertaking a resilience and wellbeing survey of its membership. The survey can be accessed here.

 

Access to justice

LASPO

The MoJ published the Post Implementation Review this week. We immediately put out a press release and provided a summary for members online and via a Legal Aid Update.

 

Courts modernisation

The Gazette hosted a roundtable regarding court reforms, self-representation and the prospect of a more inquisitorial system.

15 guests took part, including myself, Law Society head of justice Richard Miller, and Susan Acland-Hood (CEO of HMCTS).

 

The justice select committee have launched a new inquiry into the access to justice implications of the HMCTS court modernisation programme, including on the increasing use of digital and video technology and of court closures.

 

Court closures
On 7 February we attended the Westminster Legal Policy Forum on Civil Justice reform in England and Wales which discussed court modernisation, litigation costs and priorities for implementation of the Civil Liability Act. The event was chaired by Lord Faulks QC.

On 8 February I met with Professor Abi Adams to discuss the court modernisation programme and access to justice. It was agreed that it is essential to have the relevant data to analyse in order to evaluate the programme effectively.

Public Accounts Committee Hearing

HMCTS has now responded to five of the recommendations that came out of the June 2018 Public Accounts Committee Hearing. The recommendations can be found here.

 

Flexible Operating Hours Pilots

HMCTS intends to pilot flexible operating hours for civil and family matters in Manchester and Brentford from April. We attended the first meeting of the Evaluation Advisory Group which will consider how the pilot is evaluated. HMCTS took on board a number of our concerns about methodology.

 

Role of the profession

The Flag It Up campaign, of which the Law Society is a core partner, filmed two videos on compliance on 6 February, one of which is with Amy Bell, former chair of our MLTF, in our offices.

 

Technology

Technology and Law Policy Commission Evidence Session – algorithms in the justice system

The Law Society’s Technology and Law Policy Commission hosted its final evidence session on Thursday 14 February in London. The commission, led by me alongside co-commissioners Sofia Olhede (UCL) and Sylvie Delacroix (University of Birmingham), examined 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.

 

Witnesses at the London session included Richard Susskind, Jamie Susskind, Hannah Knox of UCL, David Powell of Hampshire Police and Judith Jones of the ICO. We were also joined by guest commissioner Madhumita Murgia.

 

Lawtech adoption research

I spoke at the launch of this new Law Society report which shows a rise in the number of lawtech companies in recent years.

However, this increase is not reflected in the rate of lawtech adoption among legal practitioners. Our research explores what types of lawtech providers are gaining traction in different sectors of the profession and the drivers behind this, with a view to how adoption rates might impact the future shape of legal process and delivery.

Civil

Environment

We attended a roundtable at DEFRA hosted by Environment Secretary Michael Gove to discuss environmental targets.

 

Our influencing work internationally:

On 11 February, Helena Raulus, head of the Brussels office, chaired the British Chamber of Commerce event on the EU, third countries and Brexit – managing secure data flows across borders. It was also attended by legal secondee Betty Ann Morain and speakers included Heather Anson.

 

On 13 February, Betty Ann Morain attended an event organised by the European Commission: Civil Society Dialogue on WTO negotiations on e-commerce. The same day, EU policy adviser Rita Giannini met Nicola Wisdahl from the Scottish Government to discuss justice and home affairs matters.

 

Along with Lizzette Robleto de Howarth, international programmes manager, I attended the Festivity of Sant Raimon de Penyafort, an annual event organised by the Barcelona Bar Association. On 15 February, I spoke at the ‘Trobades de Barcelona – Jacques Henry Memorial’ of the European Bars Federation – an event where international representatives of the legal profession come together in Barcelona to discuss issues of interest to the legal profession. This year’s focus was on gender equality, and I took part in a panel on the challenges, opportunities, and benefits of empowering female leadership in the legal profession.

 

Solicitor brand campaign

We’re looking for business or consumer clients who would like to be photographed as part of our campaign to promote the value of solicitors. More details can be found here.

 

Supporting members at every stage of their career

 

International Women’s Day seminar – Friday 8 March

Join us for our flagship event to celebrate International Women’s Day 2019. The theme of the event is inspiration and action in the workplace.

 

To celebrate international women’s day and 100 years of women in the law, we are also supporting March4Women – on Sunday 3 March

#March4Women: https://www.careinternational.org.uk/march4women

Tickets are just £5. You can book here: https://www.eventbrite.com/e/march4women-2019-event-tickets-54751304626?aff=lawfirms (Short link: https://careint.uk/2G1s5EJ)

 

Judicial appointments: interview training for solicitors – 15 March – London

In view of increasing competition for judicial appointments, this course will equip delegates with the skills to help enhance their application and interview performance. (Also running on 16 March – book here.)

 

In-house Division: Communicating law to non-lawyers – 20 March – Manchester

This seminar will offer practical examples and guidance to help strategically align in-house lawyers with their business.

 

Law Society team in half marathon for LawWorks

On Sunday March 10th Tom Fothergill, Chief Operating Officer, Sophie Brooks, Operational Director of strategy and planning and Kerry Jenkins, Head of Finance will be running as a representative Law Society Team at the Vitality Big Half Marathon here in London & we are aiming to raise money for LawWorks which, as many will know, is a charity supported by the Law Society which focuses efforts on connecting those in need of legal advice who can’t afford to pay for it with volunteer pro bono solicitors.

 

Sponsoring them couldn’t be simpler – just follow this link http://uk.virginmoneygiving.com/fund/lawworksbighalf to their fundraising page.

 

Supporting practice excellence

Some of our upcoming events are:
Risk and Compliance annual conference 2019: preparing for change in shifting times – 15 March

This full-day programme features a mix of plenary sessions and a choice of workshops to help you achieve best practice in compliance.

 

Property Section seminar: Risk and negligence in property transactions – 28 March – Manchester

Join John de Waal QC and other contributors to the recently published Risk and Negligence in Property Transactions for an interactive and practical seminar.

 

Keeping members up to date

 

We have a number of newsletters for members. Below is a list, along with links for signing up to them.

 

Newsletter Sign-up method
Advocacy Update Update My Law Society preferences
Anti-money Laundering Update Law Society newsletter page
City Update Contact the City relationship management team
Diversity & Inclusion Update Update My Law Society preferences
In-house Forum Update My Law Society preferences
International Update Law Society newsletter page
Junior Lawyers Update Law Society newsletter page
JLD sign-up page
Legal Aid Update Law Society newsletter page
Professional Update Law Society newsletter page
Regional Update Contact your regional relationship management team
Risk & Compliance Update Join the Risk and Compliance Service
Small Firms Focus Contact the Small Firms Division
Solicitor Judges Update Join the Solicitor Judges Division

 

You can also register for the Gazette daily update here.

 

As always, please feel free to share this update with your members unless otherwise specified.

 

Kind regards,

 

Christina

 

Christina Blacklaws

President

The Law Society, 113 Chancery Lane, London. WC2A 1PL

 

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