President's Letter (October 2016)

I have had a busy but enjoyable first few months in my role as President of Cardiff and District Law Society since taking up office in May. My first major event was a very successful and well attended Managing Partners’ and Directors’ lunch in June sponsored by Lloyds Bank and AON. We discussed some of the key issues affecting the profession and business generally over lunch including Brexit, access to justice, the growth and importance of technology to the profession, uncertainty in relation to the regulatory regime and increased competition. Hopefully everyone who attended enjoyed the lunch and found the discussion of interest.

 

Since then I have had a very productive and positive meeting with the local JLD Committee. If the Society is to thrive in the future we need to engage effectively with our young lawyers as they are the future members, Council Members and Presidents of the Society. I was impressed by the enthusiasm and commitment of the JLD to the profession. We are planning to work together on a number of initiatives including launching a new bursary/award for excellence for young lawyers within the region to be presented at the Annual Dinner in May, a ceremony for newly qualified solicitors in the Autumn to recognise their achievement in qualifying (see page 9) and a young professionals networking event aimed at young professionals from across the region.

 

In early September the Society organised a free fitness open day for members at EazyGym which went down well. I hope that we will be able to repeat the event later in my year – perhaps just after Christmas! I also provided material for an article on the legal profession in Wales which appeared in the August/September edition of Wales Business Insider. I have also held several meetings with sponsors and had a very useful meeting with Leighton Reed, the current President of the South Wales Society of Chartered Accountants to discuss matters of mutual interest to our respective professions in the region.

 

This edition of Legal News may reach you just before our Quiz and Curry night at the BT Sports Cardiff Arms Park on 13 October. The event is being sponsored by compare-ATE and is in aid of my two charities for the year -#staystrongforows and Velindre Cancer Centre. Rick O’Shea is our host for the night. Rick is a fantastic presenter and celebrity speaker and is superbly entertaining. I am sure it will be a lot of fun and hopefully we will raise a considerable amount of money for two great causes. I hope you can make up a Team – details on page 19.

 

On the wider picture, the legal and economic environment continues to be challenging for the profession.  Brexit and its implications will of course dominate the news for the foreseeable future. There remains a considerable amount of uncertainty about how the result of the referendum will be put into practice. The shape of the UK’s relationship with the rest of the world may not become clear for months or years to come, particularly given the necessary secrecy of the negotiations. On current projections the UK will not trigger Article 50 of the Treaty for the Functioning of the European Union until 2017 meaning the Brexit date would not be until 2019 at the earliest. We are therefore in a type of “phony” war at the moment and will be for some considerable time to come. 

 

I recently attended a Law Society Brexit Roundtable Meeting at the Law Society Office in Wales hosted by Robert Bourns, President of the Law Society. The message from the Law Society is that the UK remains open for business, the English common law is still and should be the law of choice in international commerce and England and Wales is the most attractive jurisdiction for the resolution of disputes. The Law Society anticipates that there will be a surge in demand for legal expertise and guidance post the referendum. There may indeed be more advisory work for solicitors in the short to medium term. However, there could potentially be less transactional work particularly as anecdotally many commercial and property transactions have been put on hold for the time being. Uncertainty is never good for business and neither is it for the legal profession.

 

Another pressing issue at the moment is the recent proposal from the SRA on future regulation of the profession. On 1 June the SRA released consultations on Looking to the Future: Flexibility and public protection and Looking to the Future: Accounts Rules Review. The consultations review the regulatory framework for solicitors and firms and make a number of proposals, including that the Solicitors’ Code of Conduct be replaced with two separate, shorter and simplified codes: a code for solicitors and a code for firms. The concern is that these proposals are likely to create consumer confusion and harm, will not address the actual unmet legal needs in the market, nor assist with access to justice. Cardiff and District Law Society has responded to the consultation on behalf of our members. A copy of the response has been placed on the CDLS website in the Members’ Section.

 

Enid Rowlands and other members of the SRA Board will be coming to visit Cardiff on 12 October at the invitation of the Society. This will be an ideal opportunity for members to quiz our Regulator on its proposals for the future of the profession and any other regulatory issues. I am hoping for a good attendance at this event and some vigorous discussion. This event will be held at the Radisson Blu Hotel, Bute Terrace, Cardiff CF10 2FL, from 4.30pm to 7.30pm; please let Michael Walters (michaelwalters1@hotmail.co.uk or 07774 756297) know by 10th October if you would like to attend.

 

Watch out for future events in the pipeline for the Society. This will include our very successful and popular Children’s Christmas Event sponsored by Synergy Costs Limited, a Five-a-side football competition and a programme of seminars/workshops on compliance as part of our new training offering for the membership. As ever if you have any ideas or suggestions on how we can improve our services to our members or if you would like to get actively involved in the Society please do not hesitate to contact me at paul.hopkins@geldards.com. 

 

Paul Hopkins
paul.hopkins@geldards.com

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