Confederation Report (October 2013)

I was delighted to join Cardiff & District Law Society at their Day at the Races on 6th September - much more fun than an afternoon at the office which is where I usually spend Friday afternoons. The venue was the Racecourse at Chepstow with 6 races, on the flat. There was much to consider when placing a bet. What odds were being given? The look of the horse and the racing colours of the jockey were taken into account. In the end it was a guess as to where to place my bet, with limited success.

It was the grey mare who brought me luck with a £50.00 win. But other bets that day were placed with limited success and I cannot say that I returned home quids in but I did have a very enjoyable time. The occasion was well supported mainly by Lawyers but it was also attended by those who provide much needed ancillary services to the profession. The John Hayes, Costs Partnership were represented as were Forensic Business Limited which provides expertise in the authentication of hand writing, useful in connection with Probate and Contract Disputes I would have thought (and also criminal matters). The event was not attended by Members of the Cardiff Bar and if any were present and I missed you apologies. I found this surprising as traditionally they are considered to be the risk takers amongst the profession and more akin to the professional gambling fraternity than their fellow Solicitors!

However with the advent of the Conditional Fee we have all become professional gamblers to a certain extent.

When I entered this profession relatively late in life I came with the hope that it would provide financial security and certainly that I would get paid. Indeed I did so in the early days. These days I have to carry out a risk assessment whenever I agree to undertake a case on a Conditional Fee basis, not unlike placing a bet at the Chepstow Races I am afraid.

I do hope that my professional expertise increases my chances of picking a winner considerably. My track record indicates that I win substantially more than I lose and very often with considerable profitability. However a misplaced bet can be very costly indeed but that is the risk of the game unfortunately. Indeed the vagaries and uncertainties which accompany a civil litigator’s life these days resulted in one former colleague resigning from the profession completely.

To many the racing world, like the legal profession can appear to be very glamorous indeed with high rollers at every corner. However it will come as no surprise to our readers the racing world can be a world that is rather seedy. Attempts to fix odds and reduce risk can increase the chance of a win. However very often, in the racing world these measures are often achieved by very dubious methods.

Let us hope that the Professional Ethics and Guidance which regulate both branches of what continues to be a divided profession can prevent the Legal Profession from sinking into that particular abyss. Those John Grisham fans amongst us will already be aware of the dangers that accompany a no win no fee system of funding...

Fortunately, because of the dedication of our criminal law colleagues, the clients that they serve daily have less of a chance of an unjust sentence being imposed upon them. Trial by jury is less of the gamble because access to legal services and the right to choice of a lawyer have been retained; also proposals to introduce price competitive tendering (PCT) have been abandoned to a large extent. This after very strong protest was made regarding the provisions of LASPO by criminal practitioners. However the proposals to slash £350 million from the annual legal aid budget of £2billoin remain...

Legal Aid also remains available to fund Child Care Proceedings, and rightly so! Those who are vulnerable, unprotected and exposed to a seedy side of life at an early stage deserve to be protected. Funding should be and is available to ensure that this is the case and that care proceedings can be brought and fought as appropriate...

Disappointment has been expressed by many members of the profession that the cutbacks will remain in relation to civil litigation. In particular family lawyers have been greatly affected by the reduction in availability of legal aid for divorce and ancillary financial matters. The ability to give advice is restricted in housing matters with reduced rates applied immigration lawyers are severely affected and the criminal legal aid sector still faces substantial challenges due to financial constraints.

Legal Aid celebrated a 64th Birthday this year .this as reported in the Law Society Gazette (July 2013). It was noted that its continuation is imperative to avoid the obvious social injustice of “one law for the rich and another one for the poor”. Unfortunately it is becoming increasingly difficult to obtain access to justice if you are poor. Unfortunately it seems that increasingly this will become the case.

We are pleased to report that the Confederation of South Wales Law Societies annual programme of CPD events continued this autumn. To all those COLP and COFA’s out there we can say no more than where were you? Other programs proved to more successful. The Civil Law update was very well attended and covered a wide range of topics relevant to civil litigators in the locality. Over the years we have been fortunate to have the support of the local judiciary for the Confederation courses and this year was no exception. We thank them together with all the other speakers who gave their time and considerable expertise freely to ensure that our program was a success. We hoped you liked the new venue used for both the Civil and Criminal Law updates. It was of course The Chairman’s Boardroom at Cardiff City Football club. We were hoping that their recent success would rub off on ourselves. Same place next Year!

We are pleased that the Annual Summer Party of the Confederation of South Wales Law Societies “Casino Royale” did proceed at the New House Hotel on the 20th September 2013. It was a very enjoyable evening, the food was excellent and, despite reduced numbers ”.the show did go on” and considerable fun was had by all with the evening developing a distinctly Greek theme. The casino table proved to be popular with Mr Michael Walters repeating his Gambling success of the races. If you want to be a success when placing a bet, I suggest you ask his good self for a tip... The event was kindly sponsored by both Lextox Drugs and Alcohol Testing and Wesleyan for Lawyers. We thank them for their support. And hope they enjoyed the evening.

We are also pleased to report that the Monmouthshire Incorporated Law Society have experienced a very successful revival and we wish the current President Mr. Keith Evans a very successful year. We understand that the Celtic Manor Hotel was at bursting point .I also recall the days when I attended at the now Celtic Manor Hotel formerly the Lydia Baynon hospital when I was at bursting point, this when giving birth to my 2 eldest children (not at the same time) in, what was then the delivery room upstairs. After such experience you have great difficulty in viewing the Celtic Manor hotel as a social venue.

In the meanwhile we hope that Lawyers in South Wales can continue to support events organised by their respective societies and The Confederation of South Wales Law Societies.

Gaynor McCann Davies
President of the Confederation

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