Confederation Report (June 2016)   

Presidential duties have suddenly become more extensive! Like the natural world emerging from the slumber of winter, so the arrival of spring seems to have awakened the legal world as well.

I attended recently the Presidents’ and Secretaries’ conference at the Law Society in London. This is the first time I have attended this event, in the hallowed halls of our august representative body. The event was an eye-opener for a variety or reasons.

Now I will be the first to confess that I am not a regular visitor to Chancery Lane. There are many reasons for this, but I suspect that the principle one is that it is in London. Somewhat distant if one simply wants to pop in for coffee or a light lunch! Add the point that the majority of my work is centred in the South West/South Wales area and the reason for, or opportunities to, visit this establishment diminish rapidly. I may be wrong, but I think that the last time I was actually in the Law Society building was at my admission ceremony. That was about 25 years ago! In short, I have not exactly darkened its doors regularly. It was a pleasant distraction therefore to visit our alma mater after so long an absence, even if it was covered in hoardings and undergoing restoration work.

The nature of the conference is that it is spread over 2 half days, Friday afternoon and Saturday morning. I suppose that this allows those travelling from further afield time to get to London in the morning. On reflection, this is no bad thing. It allowed me a relaxed journey up without having an obscenely early start. The hotel I had booked (quite by chance and a stroke of luck) was both comfortable and within a 60 second walk of Chancery Lane. I did look for the closest I could find with an eye on the journey back after dinner on the Friday night. After all, I was in the company of some seasoned campaigners and my visions of getting stranded in the middle of London in the early hours of Saturday morning, somewhat the worse for wear, led me to play safe!

The conference itself was very well organised and run. The “light lunch” on arrival on the Friday was only surpassed by the dinner on the Friday evening. I should make particular mention of one of the break-out sessions on the Friday, led by none other than our own Clive Thomas, President of Monmouthshire Law Society. I duly attended this session, partly to support Clive and partly out of a genuine interest for his subject of obtaining sponsorship. It was a well organised and thought provoking session. My congratulations to Clive on his presentation.

Throughout the event we were kept well refreshed, even if the “wine and beer tasting” on the Friday evening left a little to be desired as regards volume of the tasting liquors. Many a muttering was to be heard from the Welsh contingent on the volume, or lack of it, on the beer front. “Bring on the SA!” “Call that a pint?” and “Can’t I just have the bottle?” were among the muttered comments from the veterans of a Cardiff Friday evening out present, resplendent in their black tie. The offerings were interesting; there was just not enough of it to get a tidy taste!

Having said all that, we were kept well watered during dinner. Thus I was not disappointed to retire at midnight with thoughts of the following day’s excitement to come!

The Saturday proved somewhat different. The highlight had to be the “debate” (aka confrontation) on the proposed governance changes at the Law Society. This is an area that was new to me. Clearly, from the spectacle that I observed, there is both strong and passionate feeling about these proposals. Whilst I can see the potential threat to the representative nature of Council inherent in the proposals, it was slightly bemusing and therefore disappointing, that such venom had to be exchanged between the protagonists. A civil healthy debate is surely what is required here? My lasting reaction to what I observed was that change, in any form and in any body, is never easy!

I confess to leaving before the final closing session of the event. By 12.30pm on the Saturday I felt I had drunk my fill of shop talk for the week. It was Saturday now, after all. I had plotted to catch the 1.30pm from Paddington, to return home at a respectable 4.30pm or so just in time for the bbq promised by my wife and a spot of R & R. However, I had not bargained with TFL and the Tube! It seemed to me that TFL had conspired to make my journey from Temple to Paddington as difficult as possible, closing lines, not stopping at stations and making a journey that normally required no changes, necessitate 3 and take over an hour! I should have walked, save that I was carrying a heavy bag. I eschewed a taxi. The Confederation cannot afford such luxuries in addition to the cost of attending the event! Thus it was that I missed the 1.30pm train by 5 minutes, spent 50 minutes sitting on Paddington station and caught the 2.30pm (which I had initially intended to catch in my more idealistic frame of mind prior to the event), arriving home shortly before 6pm. Happily, the weather was warm and sunny on my return, the beer was cold and the bbq lit! In all an interesting, if somewhat eventful, trip to Chancery Lane.

As I write this letter, the Pontypridd and Rhondda Law Society dinner is rapidly approaching at the Park Plaza hotel in Cardiff on 13th May. I have been invited and was delighted to be able to accept and support one of our local societies. If last year’s event is anything to go by, the dinner will be another great success.

Future events are already in the diary. Monmouthshire Law Society hosts its dinner at the Celtic Manor resort on 24th June. Last year’s event was an outstanding success, perhaps in part as it followed the Local Law Societies Conference that Monmouthshire hosted. However, I am sure this year will be equally well attended. For those members within the Monmouthshire Law Society area, as well as those further afield, I urge you to attend. You will not regret it!

Finally, the Confederation has its own annual event, this year on 15th July. Given the multiplicity of formal dinners, we have decided to hark back to a formula we used several years ago. We are thus returning to Llandaff Rowing Club in Cardiff, for a more relaxed and informal summer party on the banks of the river. Tickets are very reasonably priced but the capacity of the venue is limited. I urge you to book early as the event will sell out early! I look forward to seeing you there.

The weather is improving, the sun is out as I am writing this piece and the spring has truly sprung. In this spirit of renewal and optimism I have refrained from any invective directed at central government, the SRA or any of the myriad of others representing a threat to our profession, for threatened we remain. More of that in future editions! I’m sure you’d miss it if I didn’t after all! 

Jonathan Hine

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