You will all be aware that the result of the Scottish Referendum was a vote to retain their 307 year union and not break up the United Kingdom. It brought relief to some and despair to others. The vote was 45% for and 55% against. The referendum does however herald a time of Constitutional change with greater devolved powers to be allocated to both Wales and Scotland.
Indeed plans for huge investment in the train services of Wales and to electrify the Valley Lines were recently reported, this with a view to boosting the ailing welsh economy. Prime Minister David Cameron has announced that the UK will cover the costs of electrifying the Great Western mainline to Swansea and devolve the Wales and Borders rail franchise. The Welsh Assembly government will then devolve the new franchise in 2018.
Do we need all that electrification, isn’t it dangerous? It is promised to deliver a faster service for commuters to Cardiff at, hopefully, little extra cost. Hopefully it will also see an end to waiting around on cold platforms at rush hour and being informed, without apology or explanation, that the train has been delayed or even cancelled. These are 2 excellent things.
I have to say that my experience when using the Valley lines is very good. The trains are usually on time and run quite frequently. However my use is generally confined to off peak times when travelling to court from Caerphilly and may not be a representative view.
Development of the Valley Train service will also bring work to the area including commercial legal work. Whilst the valley commuters may benefit from the development it is unlikely that valley legal firms will do so. Let us hope then that welsh commercial lawyers will derive some benefit from these proposals and I am sure that they will soon be advised to ‘get your competitive tender in’ .if they want to ensure a slice of that cake.
The cry of ‘all change’ is equally valid to the legal profession. Solicitor’s regulation has seen enormous changes in recent times with the SRA having adopted many of the roles previously undertaken by the law society. The reforms continue, as from 1st November 2016 it will no longer be necessary to accrue 16 hours continuing education points (CPD) to ensure your practising certificate is renewed. Indeed a new approach to ensure that solicitors remain competent to practice is to be implemented . The way forward is not yet approved but information will be available in the spring of 2015. Inevitably it involves a great deal of self- regulation. The requirement that solicitors’ firms must have their client account reviewed by an independent accountant and submit an annual accountants report to the SRA is to be removed. The aim of such deregulation is to reduce the cost of management and, possibly, to provide a more even playing field with other businesses in the marketplace. However is that what the legal practitioner is there to offer or is that a change too far? The role of the solicitor as a provider to access to justice a defender of basic rights and freedoms appears to be ever diminishing.
As a bit of social history , I recall that when I then Miss Gaynor Jones was about to marry my first husband Mr Anthony McCann at St Mary of the Angels Church in the district of Paddington London I was employed as a statistical clerk by the Imperial life Insurance Co of Canada at Victoria. It was late 1966 and I was 17 going on 18. You would have thought they were enlightened times but this was not the case. Your employer could terminate a female employee’s employment upon marriage as I was informed. My employment was not terminated but it could have been so. Things are very different today with both sexes enjoying greater rights in all spheres of their lives. It is due to Union intervention in the work place and employment lawyers providing access to justice that this is the case. This can be applied of course to other areas of the law including housing, welfare benefits, and crime and family matters. If a solicitor’s practice had been viewed primarily as a business would this have been the case? But then this was in the days of legal aid .
It cannot be denied that legal practitioners deserve to be paid and practices have to be economically viable; perhaps the move to deregulation will assist. We are, after all, supposed to be a trustworthy profession and capable of regulating ourselves.
One of the measures implemented as a result of the Jackson reforms is one way costs shifting. This gives protection to PI and clinical negligence claimants who proceed to Court action. I am sure that you are all aware that no order for costs will be made against the claimant except in very specific circumstances. Theses involve fraud or unreasonable behaviour. Accordingly the honest claimant can pursue a court action without the fear of a costs order being made against them. Increasingly practitioners must look at alternative funding arrangements if they are to represent their clients in a Court Proceedings and provide a remedy for their clients whilst remaining commercially viable as any successful business must.
We held a very successful Summer Soiree at the Swalec Stadium, which proved a great new venue. Many thanks to our sponsors, cpm21, Phoenix Legal Services, 30 Park Place, M&M Fixings and Arthur J Gallagher for their generous support, and particular thanks to John Myers, of M&M Fixings, for donating the Gareth Bale signed shirt which raised a magnificent £500. Thanks also to Arthur J Gallagher and Bistro des Amis (4 Washington Buildings, Penarth, 029 20709600, thebistropenarth.co.uk) for their donations for the Prize Draw. Thanks also to the amazing magician, Bryan Gunton (07450 421950, bryangunton.co.uk) for donating his services as part of his support of Marie Curie Cancer Care – watch out, Dynamo! I am delighted that the evening raised £650 for Marie Curie Cancer Care.
Wishing you all a Very Merry Christmas.
Gaynor McCann Davies
President of the Confederation
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