President's Letter (June 2015)

When I took office, I said that the theme of my presidential year would be: “Engaging for the Future – Maintaining Pride in the Profession”.

I am proud that – with the assistance of a dedicated team – I have fulfilled my objectives and that this Society has achieved several ‘firsts’ this year, putting in place some new initiatives.

The Society’s first Children’s Christmas Party was a great success. The Society is organising a Summer event for members’ children (again kindly sponsored by Synergy Costs) at Mountain View Ranch in Caerphilly on Saturday 4th July 2015 at 5.00pm. Further details can be found elsewhere in this edition.

For the first time in its history, membership of the Society reached the 1,000 mark, with almost 1,500 members already joining/re-joining so far this year.

The Society organised its first trilogy of Member Forums on Welsh Devolution from a Legal Perspective, sponsored by AON and Wesleyan. With the prospect of more devolved powers on the post-election agenda, it is inevitable that this will become an increasingly important subject in the months and years ahead.

Education and training for the future is of paramount importance and I am pleased that Kaplan Altior became the Society’s new preferred supplier of legal training this year, just as Yolk had already become the Society’s preferred recruitment agency.

I was delighted by the positive response to the Society’s first ‘Managing Partners and Directors Lunch’, which was kindly sponsored by Emma Waddingham, KTS Owens Thomas, Kaplan Altior and Lloyds Bank. The promotion of Cardiff as a Centre of Legal Excellence was just one of the subjects discussed at the lunch. As a direct result, Chris Nott (Chair, Financial and Professional Services Advisory Panel) recently addressed members of the Society at an event (kindly sponsored by Dolmans Solicitors), where he spoke of the work undertaken by the panel. Again, I was very pleased by the positive response to this event, which attracted attendances from many Senior and Managing Partners from a variety of firms.

The Managing Partners’ and Directors’ Lunch and the subsequent address by Chris Nott will hopefully ‘plant the seed’ for increased engagement with this Society in the future development of legal services locally and – hopefully – the promotion one day of Cardiff as a Centre of Legal Excellence.

I made use of The Law Society’s template letter when I wrote to several local MPs earlier this year, expressing this Society’s concerns regarding the (then) proposed increase in Court fees. This led to my meeting with one local MP and to a written response from the Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State in the Ministry of Justice. I have since written again to local MPs, referring them to The Law Society’s Manifesto for Justice.

It is important that members’ voices are heard in Parliament and I hope that my recent communications with local MPs will help to pave the way for increased dialogue in the future between this Society and those who are elected to govern us.

I am delighted therefore that the Society has indeed ‘engaged for the future’ during my year in office. I am also encouraged by the ‘pride in the profession’ that has been displayed during the past year.

It was refreshing to read the headline in a recent on-line version of The Law Society Gazette that the solicitor brand is “still irresistible”. The article emphasises that the new breed of professionals still want the kudos and prestige (and rarely – if ever - the money) that comes with the title of solicitor. It is a brand – says the article - that has been undermined by politicians, wounded by an increasing complaints culture and criticised by those seeking to enter the market. Yet, there are still many talented young people who are desperate to qualify into the profession. Indeed, I heard similar views when attending the recent Presidents’ and Secretaries’ Conference in Chancery Lane.

Pride in the Profession was certainly evident at the Pontypridd Rhondda & District Law Society Dinner that I attended on 15th May 2015, at which that Society’s President (Paul Morgan) spoke about the importance of access to justice.

This was also the theme of the speech given by Andrew Caplen (President of The Law Society of England and Wales) at the Cardiff & District Law Society’s Annual Dinner at City Hall on 24th April 2015. I am pleased to say that the Dinner was a great success, with 250 people in attendance. I have since received messages from many saying how much they enjoyed the night – including the After Party at The Vanilla Rooms (another first), which The Park House Restaurant kindly agreed to open for the Society’s exclusive use.

Wynne Evans (aka Gio Compario – TV advertising star) was very entertaining. Wynne is a Patron of the Society’s nominated Charity for the night, Welsh Hearts. Thanks to the generosity of those attending, the Charity raised over £1,500.00 on the night.

The inaugural Simon Mumford Memorial Award was presented to Lisa Morgan (of Hugh James) at the Annual Dinner. The Society’s Nominations Committee received several nominations for the Award, but was unanimous in choosing Lisa Morgan as its first recipient. It is evident that Lisa’s commitment to the niche area in which she practices is unparalleled and the amount of pro bono work that she undertakes is outstanding. These qualities alone make her a very worthy winner of this award.

I would again like to thank those who sponsored the Society’s Annual Dinner: AON, Lloyds Bank, Phoenix Legal Services, Yolk, Frenkel Topping, Emma Waddingham and Kaplan Altior.

The interaction, engagement and camaraderie between colleagues at the Society’s Annual Dinner indicates why this Society and all local Law Societies throughout the country are so important. They bring people together. Indeed, the fact that so many gathered at City Hall on 24th April 2015 as colleagues and friends is evidence (if any were needed) that there is still indeed ‘pride in our profession’.

At the beginning of my presidential year, I stated that the success of this Society is very much a team effort and I could not wished for a better team as I began my presidential year. Those sentiments remain true today and I wish to thank everyone (too many to name individually) who has supported me during my year in office.

I also again wish to thank all those (from a variety of local practices, chambers and other organisations) who give up their time freely for the benefit of the Society, not forgetting the Partners, Directors and others from those practices (including of course Dolmans and particularly Adrian Oliver for his support and encouragement), chambers and other organisations who have the foresight to recognise the importance of participation in their Local Law Society and encourage ‘Corporate Social Responsibility’.

On that note, I hand over the reins to my successor, David Dixon and wish him well in the year ahead. David has of course been a committed member of this Society for many years. The Society will certainly be in safe hands under David’s tenure.

As David will soon learn, it is a great – and unforgettable - honour to serve as this Society’s President.

Tom Danter

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