President's Letter (December 2007)

I had not been to the Millennium Stadium for some time, but watching the South African game, I noticed that one of the pitch-side hoardings read “It is an offence to go on to the pitch”. I am not sure if this was directed at the Welsh team, but I did wonder what the authority for making this a criminal offence was. It occurred to me that this may perhaps have been one of the first measures from the Welsh Assembly Government to deal specifically with pressing problems of crowd violence at the Millennium Stadium! However, you will see from the articles on pages 10 and 11 that the first measure from the WAG is likely to be the NHS Redress (Wales) measure, which could have a considerable impact on Welsh practitioners, as will indeed the future measures coming from the Bay - for better or for worse!

Some of you (I hesitate to say all) may have read the article on page 3 of the Law Society Gazette of 15 November, quoting Bridget Prentice as saying that the use of the term “client” by some lawyers and “consumer” by the government was an indication of “the great divide between us”. This is the first time - and very probably the last time – that I have found myself agreeing with a Minister of the present Government.

We should take pride, as a profession, that we do have “clients”. We are not just suppliers doling out canned goods to consumers. We provide a professional service on complex matters to our clients, who can often be vulnerable at the time we are giving advice. The public should be proud to think of themselves as our clients, not merely as consumers, and our services should be given the proper respect, not put on the same level as supermarkets. To keep our pride and status as a profession, we do need to have a strong national Law Society, which will hopefully now be able to operate as a professional body more effectively than previously.

The Law Society is having, to some extent, to reinvent itself and this is going to lead to a much smaller number of national Council Members and probably larger Constituency areas. I personally do not think this is a good thing, but it does mean that local representation may also become more important for the profession. Accordingly, I would ask all of you to ensure that you renew your membership in January. Renewal notices will be going out soon. Tom Danter’s article later in the magazine shows the growing number of benefits which we are now able to offer members. I would also urge all of you who are not members to join by contacting our administrator, Mike Walters, for an application form.

Some good news! I see that the Co-Op are now offering to do wills “from just £100”. It doesn’t seem a particular bargain to me, but it does mean probably that most solicitors can now increase their fees for making wills!

I was pleased to be able to attend the Rhymney Valley Law Society’s dinner at Caerphilly C Castle. Thanks to Hugh Price and his members for their hospitality. I was also pleased to be at the Bridgend & District Law Society Dinner at the Royal Porthcawl Golf Club on 9 November. Their President, Jonathan Chubb, and their guest speaker, Milwyn Jarman QC, have known each other since their days at Aberystwyth University and so each of them was able to regale us with tales of the other’s exploits in their student days! Having known Milwyn for over 20 years, it was a great delight to be at the first public function he was able to announce his appointment as the Chancery Judge for Wales. My only regret is that, in his elevated position, I will no longer be able to give him a quick ring for informal advice off the top of his head!

For those of you who are waiting with bated breath, I would mention that our Annual Dinner will be held on 25 April 2008, rather than in January as in recent years. More details to follow soon, but put the date in your diary now.

I am also pleased to be able to inform you that at our November Council Meeting, it was agreed to make a donation of £250 to the Law Society’s Zimbabwe Appeal (see page 3 of The Gazette of 1 November). Whilst we are being trodden on by our government, it is important that we should support lawyers in other countries who are being treated in a much more horrendous way, as in Zimbabwe and Pakistan.

I wish you all a very Happy Christmas - not a lot of point wishing you a prosperous New Year!

Richard Fisher, President

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