President's Letter (June 2009)

Doesn’t time fly when you’re having fun? It has been an interesting year; it has been challenging year; it has been a frustrating year. Most of all it has been an enjoyable year.

I am one of at least three Presidents who, at this crucial time for solicitors, are charged with making the Cardiff and District Society more relevant to solicitors in its constituency. Particularly at a time when those same solicitors have significant concerns over the relevance of Chancery Lane and where in twelve months time or so it will no longer be compulsory to be members of the Law Society.

When I tell you that I have been a member of other Law Societies in England and Wales and that I think Cardiff is one of the more active ones, it is to damn it with faint praise!

Council members

I was concerned about the perception of dwindling attendances at Council in the last two or three years but I warmly thank my colleagues on Council for their good attendances over the course of the year.

Council members will know that I have done my best to try and shake up the meetings of Council. Inevitably one must have an agenda but I have tried to shorten it and use it as a tool to produce more relevant and more interesting meetings.

Following on from Richard Fisher the Past President’s lead these meetings have seen the invitation of external guests including the Law Society’s Director of Membership Services and the Junior Vice President as well as annexing our meetings to other external meetings to ensure the meetings remain vibrant, stimulating and most of all relevant to the issues that concern practitioners.

I have also tried to involve Council members more in the active running of this Society. For example I have renamed and re-appointed the Court Users’ Committee as our Civil Litigation Committee because I think that they must embrace more than simply liaising with the local Courts. That has already resulted in a very encouraging and interesting response to the Law Society Consultation Paper on Contingency Fees and Third Party Funding. I am indebted to the members of that committee for that work.

With considerable leadership from the incoming President, Stuart Hutton, the Council has also put in a response to the Lord Hunt Consultation on Regulation of the Profession.

In both papers the Council’s responses were clever in the way they represented the inevitable divergence of views of the members of Council

 

Membership of Council is voluntary so it is important that members reflect on this and be prepared to do more than simply attend meetings. I would rather have a very small but vibrant and active Council than a large amorphous body which is slower to move and turn than a cruise liner. If I may say so all members must therefore consider carefully their contributions and as I have said in this Column once before, to paraphrase both Barack Obama and John F Kennedy, ask what you can do for your Council. All must share the burdens not just the few.

Chancery Lane

Inevitably we must take our lead from Chancery Lane for good and bad. For my own part I have been of the view for sometime that my favourable impression of Chancery Lane is that of the Executive including in particular Des Hudson the Chief Executive rather than its Council; with the honorable exception of a few members including of course, our own, David Dixon.

I am convinced that this profession needs a focal point and a voice for Government and for the Welsh Assembly and to that end I do think we need to work along the lines of the BMA model.

That being said, Council members will know however of my intense frustration and indeed irritation that the staff at Chancery Lane failed to involve the profession in a consultation with the Department of Business in relation to the proposed extension of the so-called cold calling regulations and then to warn us of the coming in of the Cancellation Regulations . This oversight has meant that significant members of the profession have been involved in potentially illegal contracts with their clients which they now have to repair.

If the Law Society cannot warn us of important practical issues like that then it does leave one with a very large question mark over whether it is a body fit for purpose. The Law Society was frank in its explanation of what arose and I hope it is no more than a blip.

Law Society’s Office in Wales

I wish to express my appreciation for the Law Society Office in Wales led by Lowri Morgan, and her colleagues Geraint Williams, Kay Powell and others. This is a very important office and is very much a focal point both for this Society and the Confederation both from the Welsh Assembly and those looking in on the Principality.

Colleagues on Council

I would like to thank my colleagues on Council for their support, their good humour and most of all their patience with me.

I would also like to thank the members of the Finance & Policy Committee who give up so much of their time to assist in the running of the business of this Society. Especial thanks to Administrator Michael Walters who works so hard in facilitating the good running of the Council.

I must also of course thank my partners at Hugh James for granting me the indulgence of participating in this Council.

Relevance

This Society is relevant and it is active but it has so much more to do. It is responding to consultation papers; it is meeting with the persons currently of influence to the profession; it is making its voice heard both directly in consultations and indirectly. It is well positioned to represent its constituents in the many serious challenges faced by them of whatever specialism or indeed generalism.

In Stuart Hutton as the incoming President, we have a star of the Cardiff profession, whose reputation goes beyond this constituency, indeed beyond the Principality. Stuart brings great humour and wisdom to the post and will be a superb President. Indeed it was brought home to me recently when a member of the Law Society staff commenting upon the forthcoming slate of Stuart, Peter Davies and Michael Imperato (the new Senior and Junior Vice Presidents), said that it was good to see some quality at last. I know my place!

However it has been a singular honour and a great privilege to serve as the President to the Incorporated Society of Cardiff & District.

Diolch

Mark Harvey, CDLS President

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