President's Letter (October 2011)

Firstly to the important business; last month I posed a question – what is the largest current Sport’s Stadium in the world? It was my understanding that this is the Indianapolis Raceway, home of the famous Indianapolis 500 motor race in the USA. I should have known better than to raise a question of the legal community as I am now embroiled in heated email correspondence as to whether Indianapolis actually constitutes a stadium or whether, as a raceway, it cannot be included. Would one of the new barrister associate members of the Cardiff & District Law Society (CDLS) be prepared to offer an opinion or to mediate? I think this is a matter which could go all the way to the Supreme Court, watch this space!

Speaking of the CDLS new associate level membership; we wish to encourage membership of non-solicitors and particularly of Barristers, Legal Executives and all those who may play their key role in the legal world in South Wales. Associate members will be entitled to the full range of membership benefits for a joining fee of only half the normal price. We wish for associates to play an active part in the society and we would like them to be considered for membership of our governing committee (known as Council). I am pleased to report that since my last article we now have a number of our local barristers chambers signed up as corporate members and I am very grateful for their support.

In my presidential role I had the opportunity to attend a Buckingham Palace Garden Party in the summer. My observations are in a separate article included in this edition of Legal News. I would like to think that article contains the first ever mention in this august publication of the Sex Pistols! I also chaired a recent meeting of the CDLS litigation sub-committee which is looking at how the MOJ RTA process is progressing. Such sub-committees play an important role and are open to non- members of the Society. Indeed key members of the litigation sub-committee are a representative from Admiral Insurance and, representing the local Judiciary, District Judge North. At our recent meeting it was fascinating to be given an insider’s view as to how the local Court is grappling with cases which reach the Stage 3 level where the Court determines quantum. A surprisingly small number of cases reach that stage, the vast majority settling at Stage 2. A major debate within the profession, and one which was discussed at the sub-committee meeting, was the idea of extending the process to higher value claims and also to other types of claims such as employer’s liability and public liability. In my view there is an attraction to extending the process to other types of personal injury claim where the only issue is quantum. However, it’s important to remember that the MOJ RTA system is specifically designed for RTA cases and that fundamental to its foundation was that in RTA cases, it is relatively easy to directly contact the relevant insurer. In other types of personal injury cases that is not the case. Non-RTA accidents often need more detailed investigation at the outset to fully understand the issues and to understand the application of statutory law and regulations. Our discussions also touched on referral fees and soon after there was the government announcement on the intention to abolish these in personal injury. I would be interested to have members’ feedback on this. One thing is for sure, change never seems to stop in the litigation world.

Recently I have seen a major change for myself as I have moved from Russell Jones & Walker, all of about 200 yards to New Law. I am heading the teams that deal with employer’s liability, disease, occupier’s liability and public liability accidents. It’s quite a shock to the system to leave an office which one actually set up and established and then worked in for 13 years. Starting with New Law was like the first day of term in a new school. It emphasised to me a lesson I soon learnt in managing an office that it’s the little things that make a big difference to people. It’s knowing where to get a cup of coffee, how do work the photocopier, getting used to a new computer system. One can feel very inadequate when surrounded by lawyers half your age who seem to pick up the IT in a matter of minutes, whereas it takes me trial and error over several days. Everybody is very friendly and supportive and it’s invigorating to lead a new team and to face new challenges. In the meantime I wish all the best to all at RJW Cardiff in the future. It is another sign of old age when your leaving present from the secretaries is a pair of slippers!

Talking of IT, one of the main challenges we face at the CDLS now is to make better use of it. We are committed to making our website a useful tool both for information purposes and also to market for the society and its members. If there is anyone out there with an interest in making our website the best thing since sliced bread please feel free to come forward. I would also like to have more regular e-mail contact between members so that we are not confined simply to Legal News. I would urge members to make sure we have e-mail contact addresses. This is going to be one of the Society’s top priorities over the next few months.

Michael Imperato


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