Influencing and promoting internationally

Council was updated on the work done by the Law Society since its last meeting to influence on behalf of and to promote the profession. This included Society input into government groups such as the Brexit Law Committee and our regular meetings with government officials. We were mentioned five times in the Lords EU select committees in December. Our recent publication and lobbying of the Ministry of Justice and others to explain the risks of a Canadian-style arrangement to the legal profession was highlighted. We have also been lobbying in Brussels through our joint Brussels office with the law societies of Scotland, Ireland and Northern Ireland.

We have continued our Global Legal Centre campaign with a range of promotional videos. We have piloted the promotion of these videos in target countries. Our short video was watched by more than 19,000 people on Facebook and our long video by over 24,000. The videos performed particularly well in Australia, Brazil, Nigeria, United Arab Emirates, South Korea and Mexico, as well as at home in the UK. Our domestic ‘Solicitors – here to help’ campaign also continues on social media and another burst of bus and railway advertising is planned.

Council also discussed the Society’s International Rule of Law programme to:

  • open up markets/ keep markets open for our members (for example, the EU, South Korea, India and Russia);
  • promote our qualification, our law and our jurisdiction and provide international business development opportunities for our members. We hold ‘law’ days, publish ‘doing legal business’ guides in many countries, run trade missions and inward visits;
  • represent the interests of the Law Society and its members to foreign bars and governments, international organisations (EU, W TO) and at key international legal events and organisations (IBA, CCBE and so on);
  • manage the relationship with our 6,000+ members based overseas; and
  • promote the rule of law and human rights internationally.

Lawyers are gatekeepers of the rule of law and as such at the sharp end of the legal system. Our Lawyers at Risk programme writes intervention letters to heads of state where human rights abuses are identified. Recent examples include Turkey, where lawyers have been arrested and imprisoned for simply carrying out their duties.

As an example of this work, in December, following dialogue with his family, we wrote a letter to authorities in Guatemala about a lawyer who had been threatened, had their phone tapped and had received threats to their family. Two days later, the human rights ombudsman in Guatemala responded and put measures in place.


Brexit Law Committee: Law Society contribution

The International Women and the Law programme was also discussed – developing domestically and internationally to achieve gender equality in the profession and internationally.

Influencing and promoting at home

Council was updated on the Society’s response to the Legal Services Board’s consultation on the Internal Governance Rules, which focused on the need for greater clarity to help approved regulators and frontline regulators carry out their respective duties effectively and make it easier for the public to understand what they do.

The Society’s response to a Solicitors Regulation Authority consultation on price and service transparency included consumer research which suggested that simply making more information available was unlikely to improve client choice. On the consultation on the SRA’s handbook reform, the Society is maintaining its position that flexibility for practitioners should not come at the expense of clients.

Where necessary we also take legal action to protect member and public interest. Our judicial review of the litigators graduated fee scheme is a prime example.

Supporting excellence

A number of issues are on the horizon for which members need to be prepared.

The General Data Protection Regulation is a major issue for all businesses, but specifically for the profession. Council was updated on the work being undertaken to support members. A dedicated web page now has all of our latest information and support ahead of the May implementation of GDPR.

We are also considering guidance on pooled client accounts to mitigate the chance of banks moving this risk to the profession.

Council has acknowledged the importance of technology in the evolution of the profession and the law. It has agreed to establish a Technology and the Law Committee. A reference group has been working on this important area and Council has now agreed to make this a committee, helping members embrace and own the change.

Your career companion

Our Professional Development Centre (PDC) offers a wide range of training to help members progress in their careers. Members were updated on the latest numbers of visitors to the PDC and informed about the upcoming anti-money-laundering training which will be available through the PDC website.

Our admission ceremonies are proving increasingly popular, with all ceremonies fully booked until May. We have added two more to cope with demand. Please see our website for details.

Your informed source

Professional Update, our weekly update on our work to support and advise members, continues to be well read. The most viewed item was on fraud by email and phone.

New arrangements

Changes in how the Society works were further cemented at the meeting by the agreement of the appointment of new members of the Law Society Board. The new non-solicitor and non-Council members were appointed to work with elected Council members and Robert Bourns as chair. The board will have its first meeting in February, replacing the four existing boards which will have their final meetings in February and March to allow a smooth handover to the new arrangements. The chair and Council offered thanks to all of the former boards and their chairs.

New arrangements for Council also include a strategic planning event in April to take a longer-term view of the way the Society works to support members.

You can see more about the role of the new board and its members on our website.

Council membership committee reported on its continuing work to consider how a future Council might look. Ensuring Council is representative of the diverse profession and strengthening the relationship with our members is an integral part of these considerations. The committee has continued to seek the views of the Law Society’s divisions and other groups in order to generate proposals. Progress will be reported to future Council meetings.

The next Council meeting will take place in March in Manchester.