Monmouthshire LS President's Letter (June 2016)

There is no let up for us lawyers! We still seem to be in the centre of the Government’s crosshairs and this was highlighted at the various conferences I have been attending.

As a personal injury practitioner, I attended the APIL (Association of Personal Injury Lawyers) conference in Birmingham, which contained a number of lively debates as it is a very challenging time for practitioners in this sector and more importantly for innocent accident victims. The theme of this conference was ‘Winning hearts and minds’ to show the public, MPs, press and the judiciary that personal injury lawyers fill a genuinely important and holistic role. Lord Faulks, QC, the Minister of State for Justice spoke and confirmed that the Government plans to plough ahead with their reforms to personal injury claims. He referred to lower value claims as “unnecessary”, much to the annoyance of the audience. He gave the impression that those suffering with those often painful and debilitating injuries should not be allowed to claim damages for their pain and suffering at all. The new APIL President, Neil Sugarman, branded the Government’s plans as ‘baseless’ and ‘frustrating’ and pointed out that their own figures show us that whiplash claims are falling and a whole raft of reforms have already been introduced to reduce costs and help prevent fraud. He also said that Ethelbert the King of Kent recognised the right to payment for bodily injury in the 10th Century so why doesn’t the MOJ in the 21st century! APIL emphasised how important it is that we personal injury lawyers fight back and try to influence our local MPs and get positive stories out in the press about how we use our expertise to make a real difference to people and help to repair shattered lives.

I also attended the recent Presidents and Secretaries Conference at Chancery Lane, for the first time as a speaker, as I jointly presented a seminar on sponsorship for local law societies. Jonathan Smithers, The President of the Law Society gave the opening address and said that we must preserve legal professional privilege, access to justice and the rule of law. Fifty five different local law societies were represented and I picked up some very useful information and good practice from those I met. More of a concern is the ongoing battle to regulate the legal sector. This was discussed in detail and my view is that the Law Society should regulate solicitors’ standards and govern entry into the profession. There was a strong message from the Society; Catherine Dixon, the CEO, said you should only be able to call yourself a lawyer if you are one - and that has to be right. Robert Bourns, the Vice President gave the positive message that solicitors are a vibrant and strong profession the bedrock of local communities.  It is time for us to stand up for our profession as no one else will do it for us. Congratulations to Rhys Jones of Law Society Wales for his efforts in organising such an excellent  conference ….and also for completing the London Marathon last month!

I was very pleased to be invited to the Cardiff and District Law Society Annual dinner at City Hall in Cardiff as an honoured guest. Their president, David Dixon, spoke with great aplomb,  setting  the perfect  tone. The guest speaker Sir Keir Starmer, also gave a very interesting and amusing speech. A well deserved pat on the back to Richard Fisher, for organising such a splendid event.

We held our inaugural Managing Partners Forum at the Celtic Manor Resort in Newport on the 10th May, kindly sponsored by JLT, specialist solicitor’s professional indemnity insurance brokers. It was a great success and attracted very good numbers. We had three excellent speakers. Simon Seaton of Lexsure spoke about “the Future of UK Legal Practice – A Technology Perspective” he gave common sense advice on the likely advances in technology in the legal sector over the next 5 years. He felt that despite the stories in the press about AI and online dispute resolution, no huge change is likely in the next 5 years as the technology within the profession will not have reached that stage, but that compliance is an area where we would see the benefits of technology. He is also suggested firms may wish to consider clubbing together to create their bespoke software at a fraction of the price of going it alone. James Frost of JLT gave us a “Professional Indemnity Insurance Update”, with really interesting insight into how insurers view our applications and the best way to approach them to show our firms in their best light. Viv Williams, CEO of Symphony Legal was our final speaker on “What do the next 12 months have in store for the legal profession?”. Viv, as ever, gave a very thought provoking talk on what we need to do as firms to get ahead of the curve in particular focussing on pricing and being as accessible as possible to clients and also how we convert enquiries into business.  It generated plenty of lively debate and ideas sharing and reminded me of the importance of local law societies in providing a forum for this to happen.  We are planning to hold another Partners Forum in September.

I am also delighted to welcome two great new sponsors Acorn Legal Recruitment and 9 Park Place. Acorn are already a leading recruitment company but have just launched an exciting new legal recruitment division, and we are looking forward to working closely with them. 9 Park Place are a leading barristers chambers based in Cardiff and we intend running  seminars for our members in association with them. We will be sending out further details shortly.

I am delighted that we have secured Eddie Butler, journalist, sports commentator, and former Welsh rugby union player, and Jonathan Smithers, President of the Law Society of England and Wales, as our speakers at the Monmouthshire Law Society Ball. There will be plenty of fun and entertainment and music to end the evening. The Ball is on Friday 24th June 2016 at the Augusta Suite (The Lodge) the Celtic Manor Resort 7pm – 1am Black Tie / Evening Gown. There are still tickets available - Single tickets £40 and tables of ten £400. Contact to reserve your tickets or if you would like to join our Society. So please take advantage of our new corporate rates and new category of “Associate Member”. 


Clive Thomas
President of Monmouthshire Incorporated Law Society

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