This is a challenging time for solicitors at home and abroad. With an increasingly competitive environment and regulatory change, it is essential that the Law Society is in good shape and confident it is representing and promoting the profession as effectively as possible.
The Society delivers day after day, promoting a dynamic and diverse profession that has established a network of offices across England, Wales and the world to provide clients of all types with access to advice.
The Society responds to consultations, intervenes in cases to clarify important issues and supports a range of initiatives to promote social mobility, diversity, public legal education and access to justice. In addition, since 23 June our programme to promote the jurisdiction has become all the more important – as has our work to inform government of issues that need to be dealt with during negotiations to leave the EU. In short, the Society – via the collaborative efforts of its staff and the profession, delivers great work in the interests of the public and the profession.
Our new Law Society Review looks back over our work last year. We represented the profession, giving evidence to parliamentary committees resulting in 160 Hansard references, and we responded to 125 consultations with notable success. We promoted the profession with more than 33 million opportunities to view our ‘solicitors, here to help’ campaign and 226,000 views of the videos and animations which are part of it. We supported the profession – our anti-money laundering practice note was viewed nearly 200,000 times and we had 99% satisfaction from more than 26,000 callers to our practice advice service. These are just a few examples of our work. You can see more in the review on our website and on social media.
While our work continues, we know that we can do more to serve our members efficiently and share the work we do more effectively.
I have written before about our ongoing governance review. Council is determined that its decision-making processes should continue to be fit for purpose; therefore it is reviewing its governance arrangements. Progress is being made, particularly in looking at the relationship between Council and its executive.
The inner workings of the Society can seem a long way from day-to-day practice, but I want your Law Society to be in the best possible position to represent, promote and support members, ensuring we are focused on the things you want from us, and are able to take decisions quickly and effectively. We have the opportunity to put arrangements in place that make a real and lasting difference.
Last October, Council decided on the introduction of a main board with non-Council solicitor and lay membership. Its first task would be to review the other board and committee arrangements.
We have done further work and are now supported by the Good Governance Institute, which is working closely with Council, staff and – when appropriate – a small working group which includes local law society expertise to consider how we take this forward. The governance review was a significant part of our Council agenda in March. Council members had the opportunity to discuss their view of the role of Council and its relationship with the main board and the executive. Further discussion will take place in May, so watch this space. We are considering the timing of implementation of agreed changes as well as Council’s wider role so that it is confident in its representative role.
The decisions taken have been around how we manage ourselves internally. As we move toward more detailed consideration of the representative role of Council, we will share proposals more widely for members’ views. The email address firstname.lastname@example.org remains open for your thoughts.
Robert Bourns is president of the Law Society