The profession is changing and we need to support it.

At the Law Society we are taking a hard look at how we will support, promote and represent solicitors.

We know the legal market is changing. Funding cuts, regulation and technology are just some of the issues we’re grappling with, and representing and supporting the profession on. A glance through the Gazette paints a picture of this rapid change reaching every aspect of the legal profession.

We also know our members want us to be clearer about what we can do for them, their practice and the profession. Some of this is about focusing, grouping and rationalising our support, products and services in ways which make sense to all our members, some is about more proactive and relevant communication and engagement from us.

This is why we are launching our Law Society 2020 discussion. This is a chance for current and future members to tell us how we can best support your practice and the profession. We want to put our members at the heart of what we do. We can only get this right if we know what you want from your Society and, of course, if we respond to meet your needs.

From April to June we will be having wide and open conversations about our future role. This will include meeting members at our events and discussions on social media. We began our discussions last week with Council members who represent your interests. Now we are seeking wider input from the people whose views are of crucial importance to our future direction:  our members.

As a solicitor, and having worked in private practice and in-house in the private, public and charity sectors, I know the Society has a lot to do to play an effective role in the working lives of a diverse profession. We are not pretending to know everything about professional life or every aspect of the law, but our communities, based on areas of legal practice and reflecting our diverse membership, will be a great help, and so will your input. If you feel your interests or areas of practice are not represented, tell us. We are committed to meeting our profession’s diverse needs wherever we can.  

All of this information will help shape our thinking on six themes we think will help shape our future.

  • Defining our members’ interests. What do our members want from us? How can we continue to be relevant to a diverse profession. What are the principles which bind us together – for example, ethics, trust, access to justice and supporting the rule of law. Are there new ways we can provide such support?
  • Future of legal services. How will our members’ interests change? What are the opportunities and challenges in a changing market?
  • Solicitor brand. What does the title ‘solicitor’ mean to our members and how can the Law Society help promote it to the profession, clients and the public?
  • Legal education and standards. What is our role in supporting legal education? How can we raise and support professional standards? How can we support members to differentiate themselves based on excellence?
  • Regulatory position. What does good regulation look like? How can solicitors use regulation (if at all) to differentiate themselves from unregulated services?
  • External relations. What role do our members want us to play in influencing and lobbying stakeholders. How do we continue to promote England and Wales as the international jurisdiction of choice?

These are significant themes which will affect solicitors and the type of organisation you want the Society to be. We will think about these themes over the next three months and then develop a new strategy for your Law Society over the summer. We will present it to the Law Society Council in October. It will shape the future role the Society plays. Your views will help to shape your Society, your profession and your professional life. Please visit the website.

Catherine Dixon is chief executive of the Law Society