President's Letter (August 2016)

I am honoured to be writing my first President’s Letter having taken over the role of President of Cardiff and District Law Society from David Dixon in May.

I would like to take this opportunity to thank David for his fantastic year as President and for his huge contribution to the Society. David was an excellent President. He was an effective chair of Council Meetings which he did with considerable humour and panache. In addition to chairing the Council meetings, he of course continued to contribute his regular reports from Chancery Lane in his own inimitable style. It was a great year which culminated in a very enjoyable and successful dinner. He will be a hard act to follow.

I would also like to acknowledge and recognise all the hard work of the members of Council who continue to be so generous with their time and commitment to the Society.  Thank you. I would in particular like to thank the Members of F&P Committee, those Members of Council with specific portfolios and Richard Fisher and Michael Walters all of whom have contributed so much to the success of the Society over recent years.

It is just over two years since Tom Danter first approached me to become junior vice president and ultimately to take on the position of President of this august body. Time has really flown since that initial contact. I am extremely grateful for the invitation from Council as I have thoroughly enjoyed my re-engagement with the Society so far. I had last been involved with the Society more than 15 years previously, back in the 1990s so this approach was completely unexpected but very welcome.

My impression is that the Society I re-joined in 2014 is a completely different animal to the Society of the 1990s. There are far more services and benefits available for members now including the excellent discount scheme represented by the platinum membership card. Also the society is far more engaged in the local business community and in representing the interests of its members and the legal profession on important issues affecting us including responding to consultations from Chancery Lane and the Government. I would like to build on this legacy.

So what can be expected from my year in office? I have set myself some ambitious goals. I hasten to add that in setting these goals I recognise the excellent work and contribution made by my predecessors and by Council over the years. I see these as building on the existing successes of the Society. Ultimately the overall aim is to ensure that the Society and our Members continue to thrive in a challenging legal, regulatory and business environment.

The following are my key objectives:

  • To add to the existing services and benefits we provide to members and ensure that members and our other stake holders receive full value for their investment in the Society

  • To improve the overall profile of the Society and thereby the profession within the business and wider community. We have had a bad press for some time, being unfairly categorised as “fat-cat” lawyers. The Society has a key role to play in correcting this impression in the minds of the general public.

  • To improve if possible on our already effective communication with our members through greater use of social media, our regular e-newsletters to Members, Legal News and of course our website.

  • To improve on the Society’s financial position and provide greater transparency in relation to our finances generally. The Society is in a reasonably healthy financial position. However, we are working to improve on the financial information available to Council and the wider membership with a view to assisting in the decision making process and with the aim of securing the long term financial sustainability of the Society,

  • To reach out to and build a stronger relationship with the JLD, who will be the source of future membership for the Society, and

  • To explore the possibility of establishing a permanent home for the Society. This is my most ambitious objective and I recognise may not be achievable in my year of office. However, I was struck at the recent President’s and Secretaries’ Conference that I attended at Chancery Lane as to how many other local Law Societies had some form of permanent base. I would like our Society to have a similar base but this must not be at the risk of the future financial viability of the Society.

I have plenty of ideas about how we might achieve these objectives and we are already engaged in taking many of these forward. We are developing an exciting programme of events and activities for the Society over the year which will include:

Finding out what our members want from the Society through a survey of the membership

Building our contacts and profile through:

  • A Managing Partners’ and Directors’ Lunch. This took place at the offices of Geldards LLP on 29 June. It was hugely successful with over 30 attendees. Thanks to Lloyds Bank and Aon who sponsored the lunch and contributed presentations on the current banking and insurance markets for the profession.

  • Hosting a reception for local politicians (AMs and MPs) so that we can build a positive relationship with them now for when we need to discuss issues of importance to the profession in the future

  • Liaising with our colleagues from the other professions in the Cardiff and District business community (such as the accountants, bankers, patent attorneys and surveyors). I have already been in touch with the President of the South Wales Chartered Accountants who is keen to progress this initiative.

  • Developing our contacts with the local media including the Western Mail, Insider Magazine, BBC, ITV and S4C

Building on the excellent CPD and training provision already offered by the Society to our Members. The Society recognises the need to modernise its education and training role (now streamlined to Professional Development) and to reflect the changes being introduced by the SRA. We are in the process of developing a programme which will not just offer traditional legal skills training, but those other skills needed to be an effective lawyer and to run a successful legal practice in the modern legal world. The aim is to assist members with their professional development at all stages and at all levels throughout their legal careers.

Engaging with our younger members and the JLD by, for example:

  • Organising a joint quiz and curry night. I am hoping that this will take place in October.

  • Setting up a bursary and/or award scheme to be presented at the Annual Dinner

  • Recognising the achievement of qualifying as a solicitor with a celebratory reception for newly qualifieds

  • Assisting them with developing their contacts and networking skills

  • Introducing a mentoring scheme

I have already met with the JLD Committee and they are also enthusiastic about developing the relationship further and working with us over the next year or so on these and other initiatives.

Catering for our more active members by:

  • Arranging a fitness event in conjunction with Eazy Gym. This is likely to take place in early September.

  • Setting up a five-a-side football competition and

  • Organising a golf day

Reaching out to the wider community via:

  • A dedicated CSR commitment. I am delighted that the Society will be supporting two charities for my year in office - Velindre Cancer Care (with whom I have a personal connection through the support they have provided previously to members of my family) and Stay Strong for Ows (which supports Owen Williams following the life changing injury he received whilst playing for Cardiff Blues in Singapore)

  • Setting up an access to justice forum involving the local judiciary and local politicians

  • Exploring possible schemes to provide assistance for Litigants in Person and to promote and publicise the fantastic pro-bono work undertaken by the profession within the area generally

  • Speaking to schools, colleges and the community about pathways to the profession and how to become a solicitor and what it means to be one

  • Hosting a flagship event for example on Human Rights and the Rule of Law

Engaging with our sponsors through producing a sponsors’ pack providing comprehensive information on what the Society can offer sponsors including information on demographics and organising a reception for our sponsors

I would also like to build on our already varied social programme, including the annual dinner and the very popular children’s event at Christmas, with a couple of additional attractive social events over the year including a possible Past President’s event to tap in to their expertise and experience and a rugby related event in connection with the Lions Tour of New Zealand in 2017.

Finally, we will continue to engage with the Law Society of England and Wales and other local societies within the region (through the Confederation of South Wales Law Societies) and participate in consultations issued from Government, the SRA and Chancery Lane on issues of importance to our Members.

I am always open to any ideas and suggestions from the membership to improve our services and engagement. Please do not hesitate to contact me at paul.hopkins@geldards.com if you have any ideas or proposals or would otherwise like to contribute in any way to the Society.

I am expecting a busy year ahead but if we can achieve a fraction of my plans in my year of office then in my view the year will have been a success and we will have effectively engaged with our Members, stakeholders and the wider Community. I am looking forward to the challenges ahead. n

 

Paul Hopkins
paul.hopkins@geldards.com

 

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