I refer to my Law Society diary for 2012/13 here. I prepare one each year. It lists the Law Society work I have done during the council year, which runs from one year’s AGM to the next. The Law Society’s AGMs take place each July.
The party line from Chancery Lane is that the work of council members is not onerous. Since there are only 6 council meetings each year, this is true if you live and work in London, don’t waste time travelling to Chancery Lane and limit your involvement to attending council meetings. But council members are encouraged (and expected) to join committees and boards, report to their constituents, read the papers that are sent to them, answer e-mails, attend courses that are mandatory for council members and raise issues with the office-holders. Accordingly most council members like me dissent from the party line and assert that membership on the council is hard work.
My diary shows that I will attend 63 meetings and write 7 articles this year, in addition to writing 4 chairman’s reports and 6 papers for the Wales committee. I will have contributed to 2 Law Society responses to consultation papers (one from the Legal Education & Training Review and one from the Silk Commission). I will have been absent from the office at work for 24 working days, in addition to which I have had meetings to attend in the evenings and, on the weekends, I write my articles and read reams of papers for meetings. The Law Society work takes up 35 days a year. I work in the evenings and weekends to make up time I have lost at work on Law Society business.
Of course, I haven’t done everything I should: I don’t prepare written reports for Cardiff council meetings as I should, and no longer attend the Confederation’s meetings which I should - but I’ve chaired the Confederation and attended its meetings faithfully for more than 10 years. I miss many of Cardiff’s finance and policy meetings which I ought to go to, though this is as a result of conflicting commitments. I try to balance the various competing demands on my time and restrict the Law Society work to a (barely) manageable level. My term of office expires in July 2014. I intend to stand for re-election, and if I do, I hope I will not be challenged, but if I am, I would like my fellow contestants to know the amount of work that will be expected of them.
Law Society Council work
I attended every council meeting this year and contributed to debates in all of them. My profile was highest when I stood in the election for deputy vice-president of the Law Society. When doing so I addressed the council for 4 minutes on the subject of Wales - the first time in my 7 years on council that a council member has done this.
Since the New Year I have used twitter to follow legal developments such as the introduction of the Jackson reforms in civil litigation and the No to PCT campaign in criminal litigation. I was the first council member to let the chief executive know about the bad publicity on twitter caused by the Law Society advertising and charging for a course helping firms through the process for bidding for a PCT contract. I was also the person who told the chief executive and the LAPB committee chairs’ meeting last Thursday that Chris Grayling failed to appear at the debate on criminal legal aid in the House of Commons, which I learned from twitter. I have found twitter useful in my role as a council member but it has not been an effective means of communicating with constituents because so few of them follow me (@saldixie).
I have joined the steering group of solicitors in South Wales and Gwent who are fighting PCT and I went to Westminster last month as one of a party of solicitors and barristers from South Wales to lobby Coalition MPs against PCT.
Education and Training committee
I am a member of the Law Society’s education and training committee. The main item of its business for this year was supposed to be dealing with the recommendations of the report of the Legal Education and Training Review. However, as the LETR report was not published until the last week of June, this, and any consultations from the SRA concerning the implementation of its recommendations, will be the focus of the committee’s work in 2013/14.
The other matters on the committee’s agenda were the emergence of legal apprenticeships as a route to qualification and the mysterious disappearance from the SRA’s agenda of work-based learning as an alternative to the training contract.
Since I chair this committee, most of my work has concentrated on it. The committee has a number of achievements this year. We have revised our terms of reference. We lobbied successfully for the Law Society to negotiate a new lease in Capital Tower for its Wales office and not move elsewhere. We persuaded the Law Society to include a “statement of territorial application” on each of its law reform and policy papers which impact on one of the 20 subjects in which Wales has legislative competence. We persuaded the Law Society’s Legal Affairs and Policy Board to reserve a place for a Welsh member on each of its law reform committees which works on one of the 20 subjects in which Wales has legislative competence.
These reforms have been pursued to raise the profile of Wales within the Law Society and give Welsh practitioners opportunities to contribute to the Law Society’s work. Two committees with a high profile - the Civil Justice committee and the Access to Justice committee - have been unable to recruit a member from Wales and have asked me to help them to find a suitable Welsh representative. I am currently working with the Wales Office on this.
I have invited members of the committee’s parent board, the Legal Affairs and Policy Board, to attend Wales committee meetings so that more members of council see the work we do and Capital Tower does not appear isolated from Chancery Lane. I have sought an assurance that the Law Society council will meet in Cardiff in 2014 - the meeting will be held on 2 April - and I will seek to address council during that meeting on the work of the Wales committee.
The most important project during my 3 year term as chair of the Wales committee is the Law Society’s work with the Silk Commission. I was one of the contributors to the Law Society’s response to the Silk Commission’s second call for evidence (in relation to the review of the current devolution settlement). Since then I have attended seminars on devolution on behalf of both the Law Society and Cardiff University. I stood for election as the Society’s deputy vice-president because the victor would become president in 2015, the year when the newly elected Westminster government will consider what to do about the recommendations of the Silk Commission. On a related matter, I wrote the first article to appear in a legal journal on the Supreme Court decision in the Byelaws Bill case.
Finally, I have spent a great deal of time on the two electronic consultations of the membership which the Law Society has conducted on the vexed subject of representation on council for Wales and the current cross-border constituencies. There was a very low response rate to the second consultation and the Council Membership committee is considering the evidence before it recommends to council whether the existing constituencies should continue or be replaced by the alternatives proposed in the paper.
1 July 2013
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