Normally, solicitors get the luxury of attending the opening of the legal year at Westminster Abbey, digesting all that flows from that and then heading off a few weeks later to the International Bar Association (IBA). Not this year. Having attended the opening of the legal year, lots of solicitors hopped on to a plane over to Dublin for the IBA, which plays a critical part in bringing together the profession from across the globe, including elements who often do not get a chance to talk to each other.
We take the opportunity of inviting the leaders of national law societies and bars from around the world to the ceremony of the opening of the legal year, as it is a wonderful place to advertise the benefits of our legal system and the people who make it work so well. Many of our guests still hold our jurisdiction dear to their hearts, and want to believe that our standards and commitment to the rule of law are as strong as ever they were. I hope that the traditional pomp and pageantry at the Abbey went some way to mitigating the international scepticism that surrounds recent changes to the legal services market.
In Dublin, a much more workmanlike approach prevails. Bar leaders from across different jurisdictions hold private meetings as well as speaking publicly on an enormous range of subjects. The IBA timetable, for example, includes workshops about virtually all specific areas of practice from unconventional hydrocarbons to fashion crimes (copyright and counterfeiting rather than socks with sandals), and there are committees and workshops examining thematic issues thrown up by emerging economies and globalisation.
A large number of our firms with international reach attend the IBA, and it is also a chance for the Law Society team to deepen our engagement with them. The appointment of one of our own, Michael Reynolds of Allen & Overy, as the incoming president of the IBA, is not just a recognition of his personal qualities but also further evidence of the leading role which our global law firms play in the international legal market. It is a prestigious appointment and we wish him every success.
Events such as the opening of the legal year and the IBA conference are a chance for the world-wide profession to come together and reinforce its shared values, as well as sharing problems and solutions that affect us all, one way or another. Our task, at all these events, is to promote the profession here and abroad, and to discuss with international colleagues the issues that we face and the possible ways forward. I came back from North America earlier in my presidency with a myriad of ideas and contacts to use for the benefit of the profession, and Dublin is proving just as useful to my colleagues.
I am also very pleased to be able to announce that the Law Society is shortly going to set up an international internet platform for bar leaders, so that we can use the miracles of modern technology to continue the conversations that we start at these conferences, once we all return home.
Last month, I wrote about the importance of good communication between the Law Society and its members, and some of the measures we were taking to break down existing communication barriers. It may seem rather counter-intuitive, but part of the way in which we hope to improve communication is to end the Podium and replace it with something better.
The Podium has provided an important platform over many years for presidents to write about developments in the legal profession, or to tell you about their activities on behalf of the profession. But in today’s age, with a constantly rolling news cycle, Twitter and the internet, it seems anachronistic to tell you about events up to four weeks after they happen. I have therefore decided to try and become a bit more accessible and a bit more interactive.
From now on I will be using the recently launched Gazette Daily Update, which is proving hugely popular, as a medium through which to ‘blog’ when there is something important to write about or when I have some news to share. If you have not already done so, I hope you will choose to sign up to the update.
In the meantime, I will continue to write a weekly newsletter to the profession which covers much of the ground that the Podium did. ‘From the President’ is a short(ish) weekly newsletter about my week and the issues that are on my mind and desk, and includes contributions from Nick Fluck and Andrew Caplen. I am not going to assume that everyone wants to read it but if you do then please click here to sign up.
I am also keen to encourage conversation between the Law Society and its members, which is why I launched our LinkedIn debate: ‘Good Ideas for Hard Times’ in July. I respond when I can as do colleagues in the organisation, and members’ contributions are shaping our thinking about our role and what we can do for you. Over the last few weeks, I have also been involved in debates with members responding to articles in the Gazette. I am very aware from these debates that a number of you, experiencing a great deal of pain and anger about your current circumstances, blame the Law Society. I wish that I could wave a magic wand and make everything okay for all our members. But I cannot, and neither can the chief executive. However, what we can do, and want to do, is keep the communication going between us.
I do not criticise those who criticise me, Desmond or the Law Society, but I hope that all Law Society members will engage with us constructively (which does not mean expecting you to agree with us), so we can use the resources we have, including the obvious energy and ability of our critics, in the most effective way for the profession.
So please keep in touch.
Lucy Scott-Moncrieff is president of the Law Society