Local law societies, frivolous marriage, and the welsh language: your letters to the editor

More local heroes

Marialuisa Taddia’s article ‘Local heroes’ (24 June) tracks significant changes in the way that local law societies have transformed themselves into vibrant representative bodies serving their members wherever they practise, whether in-house, rural private practice, or in the larger towns and cities across England and Wales.

The article only scratches the surface of local law society activity, focusing as it does on those societies in the larger metropolitan areas. Local law societies come in all shapes and sizes. While the number of societies has decreased, with some closing, there has also been some overdue consolidation. Mergers between neighbouring societies such as Westminster and Holborn, and Devon and Somerset have brought increased strength and vitality to those organisations.

Some local law societies, such as the Berkshire, Buckinghamshire and Oxfordshire Law Society, have the additional challenge of having members across multiple counties, some of whom must travel significant distances to meetings and events.

The County Societies Group (which was briefly referred to in the article) brings together six of the larger and more active non-metropolitan societies covering large areas of the country in Cheshire & North Wales, Devon and Somerset, Kent, Leicestershire, Newcastle and Surrey. It gives a strong voice to the 550 solicitor firms, in-house lawyers, numerous local authorities and six universities within their collective membership and meets regularly with Chancery Lane officers and staff, and representatives in both houses at Westminster.

Most local law societies have tailored their membership offer to suit their size and region. They work hard to remain close to members by offering training in multiple locations, rotating meetings around the area and hosting social events in different towns. It is likely that more will be offering virtual meetings using Twitter and digital conferencing to connect members across the vast distances that some societies cover.

Remaining relevant is an ongoing challenge, but many smaller societies thrive because of their unique ability to be close to their members. With enough energy and flexibility, it is possible to build, get together and maintain a legal community across one, two or even three counties.

What binds all the 90 or so local law societies is their determination to support the solicitors and other legal professionals in their area. Working through their committees they offer representation nationally and, in some cases, internationally. They raise the profile of solicitors in their own neighbourhoods and provide services such as training and recruitment. Above all, they give members the opportunity to get together to share good practice, reflect on what they do, how they do it and how they can do it better.

We invite Marialuisa to visit some of the so-called ‘next tier down’ of societies to experience first-hand the quality of debate and service that solicitors across the country can enjoy.

Tony Steiner MBA

Executive director, Devon & Somerset Law Society (for the County Societies Group)

Undermining the Welsh language

Darllenais gyda chryn bryder eich erthygl yn rhifyn 20fed o Fai am arholiadau’r SQE yn y Gymraeg. Yn ddiweddar bum yng Nghynhadledd Llywyddion ac Ysgrifenyddion Cymdeithas y Cyfreithwyr. Roedd cyflwyniad yn yr arholiad gan y Corff Awdurdodi Cyfreithwyr (CAC) am yr arholiad SQE. Methodd eto cynrychiolwyr y CAC a chadarnhau y bydd yr arholiad yn cael ei gynnal yn y Gymraeg gan gyfeirio at gost a safonau yng nghyd destun eu hystyriaethau a oedd yn siomedig. Mae nifer fawr o Gymry ifanc sy’n cael eu haddysg yn gyfan gwbl drwy gyfrwng y Gymraeg hyd at Brifysgol (bûm i yn un ohonynt) ac mae risg y bydd y CAC yn tanseilio statws cyfartal y Gymraeg yng Nghymru. Byddwn yn annog fy nghyd gyfreithwyr i ysgrifennu at y CAC i bwyso arnynt i gynnig yr arholiad yn ddwy ieithog.

I read with concern your 20 May article about the Solicitors Qualifying Examination in Welsh. I recently attended the Law Society’s Presidents and Secretaries Conference. The Solicitors Regulation Authority made a presentation about the SQE exam. It was disappointing to note that the SRA representatives could not confirm that the exam will be held in Welsh, referencing cost and standards among their considerations. A number of young Welsh people are educated exclusively in Welsh up to university (I was one). There is a risk that the SRA will undermine the equal status of the Welsh language in Wales. I would encourage my fellow solicitors to write to the SRA and urge them to offer the exam bilingually.

Osian Roberts

Solicitor, Guthrie Jones and Jones, Denbigh

Cuts hit all areas

While it is right that the protection of criminal justice should be in the headlines, it is equally important to bear in mind that the cuts hit all areas of the law.

We have recently been advised that what was an efficient two-week turnaround time for probate applications is now becoming 12 weeks. This is even before we have one centralised probate registry. A process which already takes long enough is now to be extended by a further three months. This, of course, is before we get the new probate tax.

And while our politicians go on about protecting the rights of the elderly, the disabled and the consumer, how are any of them able to exercise those rights in the absence of legal aid? It is surely an axiom that those who most need their rights protecting are unable to enforce them.

Nigel George

Partner, Garner & Hancock, Isleworth, Middlesex

Frivolous marriage

The warning in Sahil Aggarwal’s letter (1 July) about people being surprised that they cannot get divorced within a year of marriage leads one to wonder what on earth they were thinking when they got married. It proves the truth of what G. K. Chesterton wrote: ‘The obvious effect of frivolous divorce will be frivolous marriage. If people can be separated for no reason they will feel it all the easier to be united for no reason.’

Peter F. Bolwell