April 2009

His Honour Judge Terrence John

I had the pleasure of attending the welcoming of His Honour Judge Terrence John to the Circuit Bench in the Cardiff Civil Justice Centre. He will be familiar to many of you both from the District Bench where he has served since 1994 but also of course as a solicitor in private practice for many years before that. As we have seen Wales’ first non-solicitor Designated Circuit Judge appointed last year it is very pleasing to see another former solicitor appointed to the Circuit Bench to fill the gap so to speak.

Consultations and responses

In my attempts to maintain a relevancy to our practices both of the Law Society and the local Law Society I have been encouraging the Council and its constituents to respond to important recent consultation papers. As a result we have submitted a response to the Law Society’s consultation paper on the funding of litigation. Inevitably we knew we could never reach a consensus on the interesting subjects of contingency fees and third party funding. Inevitable I say because of the different interest of our members and the clients they represent. Nevertheless the paper we submitted presents an interesting representation of the views of a cross-section of litigators. Those more used to representing claimants in litigation had a cautious welcome for contingency fees but with many caveats whilst those more used to defending actions were much less happy with that suggestion. Let us be in no doubt that these features are very much being examined now, not only by the Law Society but also the Civil Justice Council on which I serve and Lord Justice Rupert Jackson’s review of the costs of litigation. May I suggest that we need to be considering all options now and making our views known?

As I write this the Council will be debating its response to Lord Hunt’s Independent review of Regulation which had to be submitted by 9th April. His consultation paper is a lengthy and almost impenetrable document which reminds of the complexity of regulation of a very diverse profession. As part of his review Nick Smedley on Lord Hunt’s behalf has produced a paper following a short review of corporate practices and decided that the Solicitors Regulation Authority is not up to the job of regulating corporate law firms and needs to be fundamentally restructured to equip it for the task.

Regulation is vital to all our practices. As a partner in a large law firm employing several hundred lawyers and non lawyers working in commercial partnerships with other organisations I am concerned that regulation aimed primarily at the sole practitioner for example should not hidebound my attempts to run my business, to enter joint ventures with other commercial organisations or to service my clients. I am equally sure that the same sole practitioner does not want binding in red tape aimed at a firm of my size and interest. Hunt talks of proportionality of regulation. At the same time the Legal Services Board has made its position clear by proposing draft rules which would strip the Law Society of virtually all of its remaining powers over the SRA. Again I urge all to read and better still respond to the Legal Services Board’s consultation paper.

We are very fortunate in Cardiff that we have the two lead protagonists of these reviews coming to see us in June. Sir Rupert comes to see an invited audience on 19 June whilst Lord Hunt hosts an open meeting of practitioners at the Law Society offices on 14 May.

These are our practices; these are our livelihoods; this is our future. Please respond to these consultations and please come to Lord Hunt’s meeting.

Mark Harvey, CDLS President

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