President's Letter (June 2012)

I started and finished my presidency of the Cardiff and District Law Society (CDLS) with a round of radio and TV interviews.

This time last year I was talking about the cuts to Legal Aid. Some may say “what does he know about that?” Last month I was discussing issues arising from the Welsh Government (WG) organ donor bill, again a legal subject not daily on my radar.  What was significant was that the CDLS was being asked to comment on important issues and – crucially – that it was able to oblige. Once the media know you are prepared to comment, they will come back for more. I have been on live radio on many occasions and don’t feel particularly nervous about it but live TV remains very scary. I keep thinking I will come out with some batch of profanities, total gibberish or both: that I will pass out or throw up live on air. I don’t know why a camera instead of a microphone should have such an effect. On the organ transplant subject, I was on BBC Wales Today, in the studio with the presenter Lucy Owen and a very nice chap from the Kidney Wales Foundation.  From the outset I was determined not to express any view about the rights and wrongs of an opt- in or opt- out scheme but the Law Society had pointed out some practical problems arising from the legislation which had not been ironed out. For example, who exactly is a resident of Wales? What of Cardiff University students whose parental home is in England? Another issue is the consent of the family of the deceased donor, but what is the definition of “the family”? Lucy Owen pressed me to criticise the Welsh Government for not thinking this through. I tried to dodge that one although some may think it was a good question. The point of the story is though that CDLS must continue to play a high profile in the local media, we should be the “go to!” place for informed legal comment on issues affecting Wales. We must build on the profile we have obtained over the last 12 months.

A few weeks later I found myself sitting in between the First Minister for Wales and the Counsel General for Wales at my Presidential dinner. Many thanks to all those who attended and in particular to Richard Fisher for organising. I tried to do something different with the food and had an Italian theme in honour of my very un- welsh surname. The Caterers said that it wasn’t practical to do pasta or veal which made things a bit tricky, but we came up with a very delicious beef dish in a Frascati sauce which appeared on the menu as ‘Filetto Imperato’ – honestly, it was not my idea! With an antipasta starter and by adding tiramisu as a dessert we had our Italian Menu.  To my relief the meal was very well received. Following the tiramisu, the First Minister gave a very good speech. There was some political content but it mostly focused on amusing stories from his days at the Bar and when  out canvassing when most of the time he is mistaken for Derek the weatherman. From now on I will never be able to look at Carwyn again without feeling he should have a big map of Wales behind him with various weather symbols. Once I got my speech out of the way I very much enjoyed the night.  A big thank you to all our Sponsors and distinguished Top Table guests. 

The American essayist Emerson said that “Power ceases in the instant of repose”, and so I come to the end of my Presidency of CDLS. It is all over so quickly. There have been a couple of notable achievements; I pressed for the opening up of the Society to non- solicitors by way of an associate membership. The result was that all our local barristers’ chambers joined up and at the recent AGM we welcomed two members of chambers to the Council. It was important to widen our net to take in other parts of the legal profession, to be able to take on able people and innovative thinkers from outside the ranks of solicitors. Believe it or not, solicitors do not have all the answers! Wider membership also of course helps revenue and for the first time in several years the CDLS made a healthy trading profit last year. Our new associate members are playing a big role in our members’ forums. These are the monthly training forums we commenced in January and which have proved very popular. I would urge people to come along, even if you are not a member you can attend and sign up thereafter.

I know that some of our neighbouring societies have struggled to remain active, and I would call on them to consider linking up with CDLS. We would welcome new members just as we welcomed our Associate members and we would ensure any such neighbouring societies retained their own identity. The benefits and activities undertaken by CDLS are there to be shared and enjoyed by others if they wish.

Best of luck to the incoming President, Anne-Louise Ferguson. I am sure she will push the CDLS further on to greater things. Her Presidency will culminate in Cardiff hosting the annual meeting of all the local law societies from across the country, so we will be truly at the heart of the profession in 2013 - what the legal landscape will be then is anyone’s to guess. All one can predict is that changes and challenges keep coming. Local law Societies must embrace and meet such challenges if they are to survive and to be relevant, indeed the profession needs proactive and innovative local law societies at this time more than ever. 

 

Michael Imperato
michael.imperato@new-law.co.uk

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