CEO Paul Tennant writes on developments at last week’s Law Society AGM and October’s meeting of the Council

October is a particularly busy month at Chancery Lane – the tail end of the party conference season, the return of the UK parliament after the summer, the opening of the legal year and then a series of key meetings: of our council, our AGM, the inauguration of office holders and the arrival and departure of council members following elections.

This year 31 council members left – some of whom had chalked up nearly as many years in service to the profession on the Law Society’s governing body. We pay tribute to each and every one of them, thanking them for their commitment.

Paul Tennant

Law Society CEO Paul Tennant

Source: Michael Cross

At the last AGM the membership voted to bring in a council term limit of 12 years and in future each year around a third of members will be elected to the 100-strong body. A welcome was extended to all those new to council.

This year the AGM voted to express the disquiet of the membership over the possible closure of the Solicitors Indemnity Fund (SIF).

This followed a motion in which the council said the Law Society remained committed to working with the Solicitors Regulation Authority to facilitate the extension of SIF, arguing it is in the interests of the profession and the wider public that insurance protection is kept in place beyond the mandatory six-year period of run-off.

One of the key moments of the October council meeting is the passing of the Law Society budget – like any organisation, in the wake of Covid and in the face of the effects of Brexit, there will tightening of purse strings in the coming months.

We’ve been acutely aware of the pressure on firms and members so we’ve worked hard to keep our members’ practising certificate fee (PC fee) low – this includes four years of flat fees and a £3m reduction in our income in the latest round so we could deliver a PC fee reduction for our members.

Outgoing CEO Paul Tennant meanwhile gave his report reminding council that as part of our business plan for the year we focused on three core themes:

Promoting a modern, diverse and inclusive profession; promoting access to justice; and supporting members through these challenging, unpredictable times.

Key to promoting a diverse profession is good data and a taskforce meeting took place where it was agreed this would be a focus to help drive social mobility. Targets are also being considered by some of the larger firms including in the City.

Meanwhile Paul was able to tell council that when it had come to the international practice of law, we’ve had an extremely active nine months. We launched the second phase of the Global Legal Centre campaign and held a virtual roundtable to discuss promotion of the UK as a legal centre. We have also produced a paper on the alternative steps to secure the future of UK-EU legal services, in the event the UK is blocked from Lugano.

On rule of law, the main highlights included the promotion of measures to enhance judicial diversity and influencing a more strategic approach to public legal education from policy-makers, as well as the reform of Mental Health and Capacity Law.

As to regulation and anti-money laundering (AML), we have continued to provide members with guidance on risk and compliance including ethics masterclasses and preparations for the AML conference are underway.

Our diversity and inclusion (D&I) work, was the subject of a separate report to council which detailed some of the activities around LGBT+ history month when we launched a survey to gain insight into the experiences of LGBT+ solicitors and their allies.

We also co-organised a virtual diversity and inclusion conference with Leeds Law Society – the second such event.

In another partnership, this time with Cardiff Business School and the Legally Disabled project, we published guidance on the basic requirements of the reasonable adjustment duty and good practice on how to implement adjustments.

Throughout Black History Month we are sharing a range of member content and communications.

Council also discussed climate change and agreed to develop a formal resolution setting out its position ahead of COP26.

Following elections earlier this year our office holder line-up was officially inaugurated. I. Stephanie Boyce as president, Lubna Shuja as vice-president and Nick Emmerson as deputy vice president. We look forward to the coming 12 months.