Guy Goodman’s letter on the Recognised Groups Agreement (RGA) and Solicitors in Local Government (SLG) demonstrates a misunderstanding of the basis on which the Society is setting up the new divisions.
The RGA was set up 10 years ago when the Society had a dual function both to regulate and represent. At that time it was thought that the representative voice for demographic sectors of: women solicitors; in-house and local government lawyers; sole practitioners; and black solicitors could be delegated to external group committees.
These group committees are to be congratulated on the significant contribution they have made to supporting members. What we are now seeking to do is develop a new model for direct member engagement – and we have invited the SLG and all the other external group committees to get on board with us to deliver that. There is no intention to end member involvement in the development of these divisions.
The Law Society recognises the importance of supporting its members in their daily professional lives and aims to facilitate this even further with the launch of four new divisions to replace the groups. Indeed, we tested this with research last year – and in-house solicitors were among those most positive about our new direct approach.
The new divisions will enable the Society to invest directly in supporting in-house and local government members rather than funding an external body to do this. This will also reduce administrative costs, so that resources are focused directly on engaging with and serving members who will have free access to the division. We will also be able to create products and services, training and continuing professional development to support members in their professional lives.
The in-house division will be an ‘umbrella’ division for all those working in the employed sector who, for the first time, will have a dedicated website and portal, providing direct access, and information and guidance tailored to their sector. The website was launched this week and will create a virtual community for this sector on the Law Society’s site.
We have invited all the RGA committees, including the SLG, to come in-house and work with us as the new internal advisory forum to shape the new division. We fully acknowledge the dedicated support they have provided for members and wish to build on that work and expertise, with an open invitation to participate. This is a model that was started when we launched the Junior Lawyers Division and the Lawyers with Disabilities Division, both formerly recognised groups.
We welcome, value and recognise the continuing involvement of members in the new divisions and have set up steering groups to work with us to launch them. We are pleased that the SLG is represented and are encouraging their ongoing involvement once the RGA ends on 28 February. We are also pleased that the SLG has already contributed to content for the new in-house website.
The proposed merger of the SLG and the Association of Council Secretaries and Solicitors next spring will effectively end the current SLG in its present form, so it is very timely that the new division is being launched to ensure continued free access for all local government lawyers to information and services they need.
We are also very keen to engage with the newly merged organisation, Lawyers in Local Government, at the earliest opportunity, so that we can ensure that we align the support provided through the division to meet their wider needs. We hope the SLG committee will accept our invitation to be part of the new division, so that it can keep its voice at the table and work with us to secure the future for solicitors in local government.
Nigel Spencer is chief of commercial affairs at the Law Society