Time marches on and the 2011/2012 Presidential Year for the Law Societies within the Confederation of South Wales Lawyers draws to a close. I for my part have attended at my first official engagement as President of the Confederation as a Guest of President (probably past President now) of the Cardiff and District Law Society, Mr Michael Imperato.
The Guest Speaker at such Dinner was First Minister for the Welsh Assembly. Carwyn Jones. Whilst addressing Members and Guests of the Cardiff & District Law Society he raised the very topical question as to now that Devolution is firmly entrenched in Wales should the Legal Profession consider the possibility of a separate Jurisdiction to deal with matters relating to Welsh Law, its interpretation and as to conflict with the prevailing system.
However, the question must be posed, is this really necessary, taking into account the dearth of Legislation which has emerged from the Assembly since its inception. It is difficult to envisage that such a need exists and perhaps it could be considered that a separate Jurisdiction is a step much too far.
Surely any of the above issues pertaining to Welsh Law are being dealt with by way of Preliminary Hearings and by integration with the current Legal System prevailing in England and Wales?
This is, of course, only a view but it may well be that many Practitioners would prefer to remain part of the larger, more encompassing Legal System which presently prevails. Big can, after all, be very beautiful indeed.
It has been indicated that a separate Jurisdiction would result in additional opportunities and an increased instruction and workloads for Welsh Lawyers. Can this really be viable bearing in mind the opportunities that access to a wider population affords?
Although not a Family Lawyer I have noted that the number of Care Proceedings in England exceeded 10,000 for the first time in 2011 as reported in the press.
It should be remembered that the population of England in 2012 was estimated to be in the region of 53,000,000 people whilst the population of Wales crossed the 3,000,000 for the first time in June 2010 (3,006,400 people). The disparity in population, and in my view, the opportunities access to such population presents is apparent.
Welsh Lawyers are as able as their English counterparts. Maybe they just need to believe that this is the case. It is difficult to see what increased opportunities a separate Jurisdiction affords for the accompanying access to a diminished population base that presents with it.
In any event there remains a large section of the Welsh population who wish to remain an integral part of something larger than Wales on its own and to be incorporated within the Legal framework which prevails. However, there must be concerns as to developments within the Legal System. There has, of course, been a Claim Production Centre (CPC) since 1997 with the power to issue and serve Claims via Information Technology. These Claims were issued through the CPC in the name of the County Court in the same way as Claims issued in the traditional manner, however, it seems that now all money Claims must be issued out of CPC at Salford.
In addition there are emerging differences between the law applicable in England and Wales particularly in the area of housing, planning and education but in my view these are minimal and not sufficient to warrant separate Jurisdiction. In any event experience has taught that there are difficulties in obtaining the necessary standard stationary forms to encompass demands and variances of Welsh Law. It seems that the stationers such as Oyez and Peapod do not believe that it is economically viable to incorporate variances in standard products.
It is unlikely that separate Welsh Jurisdiction will allow Welsh Lawyers the exclusive access to such Jurisdiction whilst retaining free access to the English System. Indeed, it may well be a further move toward the creation of barriers epitomised by the historic Offa’s Dyke and may well appear to be self-protectionist in this difficult economic time.
The Welsh Assembly has suffered severe criticism on the basis that it epitomises ‘a jobs for the boys’ philosophy’.
Unfortunately there are fewer jobs for the boys and the girls and it is unlikely, in my view, the move to a separate Jurisdiction would alleviate the underlying difficulty of economic decline and the resulting funding changes which have prevailed.
Needless to say Legal Practitioners continue to suffer hard times, with cutbacks across the board. PI Lawyers seem to have been expected to cope with more changes than other branches of the Profession, or at least it seems that way. There cannot be a PI Practitioner who is not aware of the current Consultations regarding the extension of the Porthole Claims System for RTA’s up to £10,000 to be extended to include Claims up to £25,000 and to increase the scope of the Portal Claims Systems to include other areas of Law including Employers’ Liability Claims.
At a recent APIL meeting held at the Copthorne Hotel held on 15 May 2012, Members were encouraged to make their views known as to the difficulties of pursuing such Claims through the Portal System. If the Consultation is not to become an imposition then PI Lawyers should make their views known. Information is available on the Apil Website.
If the use of the Portal Claims System is to be imposed upon Practitioners in relation to these Claims then every effort must be made to ensure that the Costs allowed are realistic and reflect the work undertaken.
Also it was recently noted at a meeting of the Association of District Judges that Parties in PI Claims do not get together to agree Joint Directions. Indeed, quite often, District Judges have noted that they will receive nearly identical sets of Draft Directions, faxed or e-mailed to the Court, on the day of the Application for each party. It seems that the Judges are at a loss to understand why such Directions (and other Orders) cannot be agreed in advance. If you have any views please contact the Legal Affairs Administrative Assistant at APIL.
For the meanwhile I look forward to further attendances at a new crop of Dinners which the new Presidential year will afford (subject to Invitation of course).
The Confederation of South Wales Lawyers comprises of the following Law Societies:
Aberdare Law Society, Cardiff & District Law Society, Pontypridd and Rhondda Law Society, The Rhymney Valley Law Society and the Bridgend Law Society.
It should be noted that Cardiff & District Law Society is hosting the Local Law Societies National Conference which will be held in Cardiff on 19 April 2013. Michael Walters , Administrator of Cardiff & District Law Society is keen to stress the importance of all local Societies attending the Conference no matter how small that Law Society is. Indeed he has indicated he attended at this year’s Conference at Nottingham and it proved to be a very useful and informative event. In addition as the event is going to be held in the locality the cost issue is likely to be minimal. Further information will be provided in due course.
Finally it should be remembered in these difficult times that “man does not live by bread alone”. Even though I was brought up in the Rhondda Valley mainly Ynyshir in the Rhondda Fach, where there wasn’t much bread at all, I was presented with the opportunity to attend at the prestigious Porth County Grammar School for Girls and the Larkfield Grammar School Chepstow.
During this period I developed a love of literature. It delights me that for a comparatively small city there is an abundance of Theatres in the capital city of Cardiff. This to be applauded and attendances recommended. In fact the efforts of the New Theatre to continue entertaining visitors and inhabitants of the city are admirable, despite severe competition from the St David’s Hall, the newly refurbished Sherman Theatre and also of course the Millennium Centre. A recent production of Henry V performed by the travelling Globe Theatre was very enjoyable with full use of the Theatre being made by the Cast epitomising and capturing the spirit which would have prevailed at the Globe in Shakespearian times (as I imagine). The production was not particularly well attended and perhaps we as Lawyers should spend less time trying to make a little dough and a little more time feeding the soul. It may well be that this would lead to a more healthy profession!
Gaynor McCann Davies
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