President's Letter (February 2008)

I have long thought that the medical profession have had an advantage over the legal profession in the structure that exists between the General Medical Council and the British Medical Association. Now that the Law Society has the opportunity to become truly representational, it is interesting to look at the role which the BMA fulfils in this capacity. We were therefore delighted to welcome Andrew Cross, Assistant Secretary and Solicitor for the BMA in Wales, to our January Council meeting. Andrew gave us an instructive talk explaining the BMA’s function and the services that it offers to its members.

In many respects, because the medical profession is differently structured, the BMA plays a role which we might regard as a rather more traditional trade union than perhaps the legal profession needs; for example, the BMA provides representation for employed doctors in personal conduct disciplinaries and grievances with Trusts and similar. It does appear that most of the clinical disciplinary matters are handled by the Medical Defence Union (and other defence bodies) which are, perhaps in some ways closer to our Professional Indemnity Insurers, as the MDU etc. represent doctors in proceedings brought by the GMC. The MDU also has what appears to be a very comprehensive Ethics Helpline which provides the sort of service I would like to see available to Solicitors. Now that the SRA is insisting on its independence from the Law Society (although funded by it!), I see no reason why there should be any conflict of interest and my view is that the Law Society could attract a lot of members by providing a good ethics advisory service and representation, perhaps along the lines of some type of legal expenses insurance.

I will be attending the Law Society’s Conference on 27th February, previously called the Presidents and Secretaries Conference but now rebranded the “Leadership Summit” (pity it could not have been held in Davos!). One of the sessions is entitled ‘Priorities and plans’ and includes representation priorities for 2008 so I am hoping to get my two’penneth in on this particular topic.

Interestingly, 80% of Consultants and 65% of GPs are members of the BMA. Those members happily pay a subscription of £387.00 per year and I think it is time that our profession recognises that a moderate annual subscription is well worth paying to have a properly funded and strong professional body.

Andrew also sits on our Wales Committee and I hope that there will be further cross-fertilisation of ideas. Many thanks to Andrew for his time.

In early December, Mark Harvey hosted a meeting with the Presiding Judge for Wales, Sir Nigel Davis, and members of our Court Users Committee and several representatives of litigation firms in the City. The meeting was most constructive and Sir Nigel is obviously anxious to promote the use of the Welsh Courts and appreciates that there are presently certain deficiencies which may lead firms to issue outside Cardiff. There is every sign that matters will improve. If members come across any particular problems please contact Dylan Evans of Rausa Mumford as a member of our Court Users Committee.

Another reminder about subscriptions; if you have not already renewed, please see Tom Danter’s Membership Section.

Also another reminder for you to ensure that you have put our Annual Dinner on 25th April in your diaries!

Richard Fisher, President

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