President's Letter (February 2009)

I have met President Obama and indeed, separately, his Vice –President Joe Biden. I suspect they may not remember. It was two years ago and one of those functions in the US where they are fundraising and in that unerring manner of all politicians they know when you are of no use to them and move on rapidly. I was struck by how similar President Obama’s investiture speech was to the famous President Kennedy speech. “Ask not what your country can do for you but what you can do for your country” And so similar to the recurring theme of the Law Society.

However if one pauses to look just at the Chancery Lane website one is struck by just how much they do for us. But it is a two way street. One small way is to respond to the consultation papers that come out. Boring they may seem but one cannot complain about Law Society policy, or an apparent lack of it, when one hasn’t told them one’s views. The Cardiff and District Law Society Council has been (and continues) to look at three important papers: Law Society Council Constituency Boundary changes; the future of litigation funding with emphasis on contingency fees and Lord Hunt’s independent review of legal regulation commissioned by the Law Society.

The first paper invited consideration and submissions to the Planning Committee of whether boundary changes were appropriate. It asked two questions:

  • Does the area of your constituency still remain a viable electoral unit in terms of representing the demographic and professional characteristics of the solicitors practising in the area?
  • What, if any, improvements could be made to the definition of your constituency, by making it more logical in geographical terms or by clarifying the drafting.

The Society has responded highlighting some oddities in surrounding boundaries such as the inclusion of Monmouthshire and other parts of South East Wales such as Newport in a Constituency with Cornwall! It may be a good time for Chancery Lane to re-evaluate the boundaries affecting Wales and indeed to reflect the importance of the Welsh Assembly and its law making powers.

The funding paper is being examined now by the Council’s Civil Litigation sub-committee with a view to submitting responses, whilst the paper on regulation is being considered by the Council members now and at their next meeting in March. At that meeting we will have the pleasure of the company of the Junior Vice-President of the Law Society, Linda Lee attending and giving us her views. I commend to you the article by Peter Davies on this Consultation paper in this issue. The Council intends to submit a response to the paper after a consultation of its own.

We need your input on these last two papers. They are fundamental to the future well being of our practices. Do contingency fees frighten you? Or like me, do you think that an end to transferable costs is what is needed to stop disproportionate costs, the absurdity which is the concept of a Costs Judge, the interminable and artificial Detailed Assessment procedure and the never ending satellite litigation of costs? If you are the Managing Partner of a large commercial practice do you feel that you are entitled to different and more relevant legislation than the sole practitioner? Please let us know or at least ensure that you respond to the paper.

Cardiff Law Society Dinner

A very warm thank you to all of you came to or otherwise supported our recent Dinner. Despite having to make a speech I thoroughly enjoyed it! Once again my apologies to those of you to whom Welsh is your first language. One of my partners present at the Dinner was heard to describe my attempts at siarad Cymraeg, “the Welsh was awful but the effort was superb”. Personally I think as a North Waleian he was simply miffed that I spoke the more formal South Wales version!

Thank you to Richard Fisher for organising such a super night and menu and especial gratitude to our sponsors who made the evening possible, They were Aon, Barclays Commercial Bank, Ellis Grant, Law Costs Consultants, Michael Page Legal, Recruitment Consultants and Park Row, Independent Financial Advisers

Aon the Professional Indemnity Insurers have been particularly helpful in their sponsorship. The Society will be hosting a meeting for practitioners later in the year to consider the particular problems of securing appropriate cover, without which we cannot run our businesses of course.

As we progress through 2009, if any of you have any particular issues you would like Council to consider please do not hesitate to contact me.

Mark Harvey, CDLS President

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