Law Society Council Meeting Summary for July 2019.
Our Sundeep Bhatia is a Law Society Council Member, for the Ethnic Minority Constituency.
Sundeep is also a Committee Member of the Ethnic Minority Lawyer’s Division of the Society.
If you have any questions or queries, then do not hesitate to contact him Sundeep.firstname.lastname@example.org
July’s Council and Annual General Meeting saw the presidency of the Law Society transfer from Christina Blacklaws to Simon Davis. The new officeholder team of president Simon Davis, vice president David Greene and deputy vice president I. Stephanie Boyce took their posts at the AGM.
Council had discussions about several key issues for the profession, as well as hearing about the Law Society’s programme of influencing public policy on areas including access to justice, the role of the profession, and criminal and civil justice. The nature of the Law Society’s relationship with the Solicitors Regulation Authority, and how this might develop in the future, was also discussed.
Influencing for impact
Professor Mayson’s independent review is looking at future regulation of the profession. The review is considering a number of possible regulatory models for the future, including models for the regulation of activity and/or title.
There are advantages and disadvantages associated with the various models proposed and Council agreed it will be important to assess carefully the impact of reform, particularly in relation to areas proposed to be more lightly regulated, bearing in mind the public interest and public protection. We anticipate a report from the review in October. Council remains firmly committed to the principle of regulatory and representational independence from government.
This is a growing area of work for the Law Society and our members. It covers issues such as document automation, use of chatbots, practice management tools, predictive analysis, and knowledge management and research. Barriers to implementation include culture, training, operation and regulation, and the legal sector is still behind the financial sector in the use it makes of technology.
The Law Society’s new lawtech webpage brings together our work in this area. This includes a series of podcasts which begin with an introduction to lawtech. The page had over 2,000 hits in the first two weeks and the podcasts were viewed over 200 times. We are also working with partners such as Legal Geek and Barclays Eagle Labs. Next steps will include developing a digital guide and rolling out events on the topic to regional legal centres.
Promoting the profession
Council was updated on the latest advertising promoting our profession as honest and honourable, approachable and accessible, experts in their field, client-focused, delivering value for money and adding value to society. Materials this year focus on real clients and their stories.
Good practice management enables a firm to focus on delivering for clients. Council heard a presentation on our work to support members with current and future challenges in law management from Ann Harrison, chair of the Law Society’s Law Management Section.
Our work focuses on support and assistance for firms of all sizes in running their firms. We share good practice, thought leadership and innovation. We do this through conferences, magazines, webinars, web content and e-newsletters.
Challenges for the next three years include regulatory change, the impact of technology, and the continuing emergence of alternative legal services providers.
The SRA handbook changes, which are likely to be introduced later this year, will allow for a new category of solicitor – the ‘freelancer’, practising in their own name and not employing any other staff (if they are offering reserved services).
We have been running an information campaign to encourage members to be ready for the changes, but we have also anticipated members’ need for help and guidance for those who want to consider freelancing and for other members about how to work with freelance colleagues – with web resources, a practice note due in August, a blog and articles as well as webinars and e-learning.
Ethnic Minority Lawyers Division (EMLD)
Koser Shaheen, chair of the EMLD, shared the Law Society’s recent work. Statistics for 2017 highlighted the increase in the proportion of BAME solicitors – from 2% of the profession in 1987, to 16.5% now. But more remains to be done. There are still barriers for BAME talent – notably in career progression – and improved dialogue with members is one way of mitigating these. Several issues were identified in discussion with members; for example, BAME solicitors feel there is too much focus on London, so the Law Society has been running events in the regions. There has also been active dialogue about BAME representation in local law societies, and with several UK law firm networks that focus on BAME issues.
Women in Law Pledge
The pledge was launched at our International Symposium in June. We, the Bar Council and CILEx are encouraging our members’ firms to sign up to the pledge, which covers the whole sector. The pledge also encourages firms to consider the Diversity and Inclusion Charter, a new version of which is being piloted this year for launch in 2020.
The Council agreed to keep the proposed Practising Certificate fee at the same level for the third year running. This proposal will go on to the Legal Services Board for approval.
The Audit Committee presented its annual report to Council, having assured the Board that the financial statements for 2017/18 are true and fair. The Law Society’s annual report and accounts are published on the Law Society website.
Council was updated on our evolving business plan for 2019/20, which will include policy themes of access to justice, the role of profession, technology, civil justice, regulation, property and Brexit. We will also be looking at our member offer of events and accreditations, along with our commercial income, insights and data.
Council was updated on the work of its Council Membership Committee, which is considering the representative role of the Council and how it can better reflect the changing make-up of the profession.
Eighteen members, re-elected or newly elected, were welcomed to their seats on Council. New appointments were also made to the Equality, Diversity and Inclusion Committee to bring it up to strength.
Council said goodbye to Colin Ettinger, Charlie Jones, Kayleigh Leonie, Rod Mole, John Perry, Rodney Warren, and Prisca Wharton. Robert Bourns’ term as one of the Council members for the City of London ended, but he will continue to attend Council in his role as the Chair of the Law Society Board.
Next meeting 3 October.