Confederation Report (April 2016)

“Persistence prevails when all else fails”

On the table beside my desk in my office sits a photograph. The picture is of a single sculler. For those unfamiliar with the sport of rowing, that is one person in a boat with two sculls (oars to the uninitiated! And no we do not have rowlocks, we have gates and swivels!)

At the foot of the picture is the pithy phrase that I have quoted above. This picture has accompanied me throughout my legal career to date, having been purchased in Washington D.C. shortly after I qualified. It has been a source of inspiration and optimism through many difficult cases, situations and experiences since. Though it may gather some dust, it remains as a constant reminder of the power of persistence even when the future may seem black. It is always worth remembering that it is always darkest just before the dawn.

In the recent past our colleagues in the criminal section of the profession must have felt truly that the future was black. However, their persistence in opposing, with tolerance, forbearance, good humour but determination, the absurd changes that central government was intent on imposing on them has, as the maxim above promises, prevailed.

I was driving home from the Celtic Manor hotel after a Newport Business Club meeting when I first heard the news of the climb down by the government on criminal contracting and the other changes they were so keen to impose on our colleagues. I confess that, initially, I was wrong-footed. The change only warranted a 10 second mention on the Radio 4 news at 8.00pm that night. Concentrating primarily on driving at that point, the news barely sunk in. There was no mention on the national television news later that evening at home and nothing on Radio 4 the following morning before I left for work. By the time I got to work the following morning, I assumed I had misheard, misunderstood or had dreamt the whole thing.

Fortunately, I was wrong. The lack of publicity of this truly astonishing volte face only speaks volumes for the indifference that the majority of the public have to these issues. Indifference that is until they need the services of a solicitor when they are in a tight corner. Then the unavailability of a solicitor is the fault of the solicitor, their firm or the profession at large! It is therefore all the more surprising that the Law Society have not made more of this than has been the case to date.

Leaving aside the trite observations on all this, these developments have to be welcomed. I salute those members of our profession who have toiled tirelessly to oppose the proposed reforms, set the record straight time and time again with patience and dignity and who have not buckled despite the full force of the government being levelled against them. It demonstrates admirably what can be achieved with determination and persistence. It shows the power of collective resolve. All those involved in this opposition deserve our thanks and appreciation. But more so, they deserve the thanks and respect of all those people, currently blissfully unaware of how close the independence of the profession came to being decimated, who, when they find themselves in a tight corner, will still have an independent legal profession to turn to for unbiased, independent and sound advice. My congratulations to you all.

Whilst I am aware that not all aspects of the proposed reforms have been scrapped, with some just being delayed, nevertheless this represents an astounding result and one of which our profession should be justifiably proud. Unfortunately, attacks on the profession and the rule of law continue unabated. Court fee increases are now being proposed in the probate arena. An issue that has become commonplace to the contentious side of the profession now threatens to engulf our non-contentious brethren. I wonder whether this will be the catalyst to a greater professional unity and even greater achievements with determination and persistence? Only time will tell.

Away from the coalface, spring is in the air. I was honoured to be re-elected as President of the Confederation for a second year at our AGM in February. Though there was only a small turnout, what it lacked in numbers it made up for in enthusiasm and enjoyment. A good meal was had at the Parkhouse Club in Cardiff thereafter, with attendees benefitting from excellent cuisine at reasonable prices.

With the advent of spring have come invitations to various constituent law society events. I have been honoured with an invitation from Pontypridd, Rhondda and District Law Society to their dinner in May at the Park Plaza hotel in Cardiff that I was pleased to be able to accept. I am hoping to be able to attend the Cardiff and District Law Society Dinner in April as well as the Monmouthshire Law Society dinner in June. Additionally, there is a threat that I may be invited to the national President’s and Secretaries’ conference in London in early May. Watch this space. With his reputation preceding him, the prospect of attending this event with our Administrator, Mr. Mike Walters, fills me with trepidation! Thank goodness there will still be some criminal lawyers around in the early hours of a Saturday morning! All in all the next few months promise to be busy but entertaining.

As for the Confederation, at our recent AGM we agreed that we need to raise the profile of the Confederation, as well as become more noticeable at a national level. To this end work is under way to create an annual event in South Wales at which the attendance of prominent members of the national Law Society will be secured to allow the profession in South Wales a forum for meaningful debate with the Society in London. Wales can, unless one is determined, appear remote from Chancery Lane. We need to dispel that myth and remind those in London that the profession is more than the City and those inside the M25. Interesting times indeed! (Note the use of the exclamation marks throughout this piece, despite and in protest at the DoE in England proposing to outlaw their use!! Twice for good measure!).

The phrase often attributed to an ancient Chinese curse, “may you live in interesting times”, appears apt at this point. However, with objective consideration I am sure we would all prefer to live in interesting times rather than boring ones. Perhaps a more appropriate quote to finish might be “Live long and prosper!”. In the light of all that is happening now, I sincerely, hope you all will do on both counts! n


Jonathan Hine

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