President's Review

President's Review

Sue Aggett

Sue Aggett

 

The first few months as your President have flown by and it has been a very busy time. At the beginning of May I attended the Presidents’ and Secretaries’ Conference at Chancery Lane, with our Honorary Secretary, Chris Hart.  This was an extremely timely and useful couple of days and I certainly picked up some practical advice on dealing with the media, sharing learning for promoting local law societies and learning from other professions.  Tony Steiner was part of the line up in a workshop which looked at engaging with in house lawyers.  We will be looking at the learning as part of our ongoing organisational and strategic review. The event launched The Law Society’s “Vision for law and justice” campaign in preparation for whichever political party was returned at the General Election. I’m certain that The Law Society will lose no time in continuing to communicate with the new government the messages around maintaining legal certainty in light of Brexit, ensuring every individual has effective access to justice and safeguarding of human rights.(https://www.lawsociety.org.uk/Support-services/documents/our-vision-for-justice/)

 

 

 

We have since had the opportunity to meet with Robert Bourns at a well-attended round table meeting in Taunton to discuss these themes in more detail. Robert spoke passionately about The Law Society’s vision and the need for continuing strength in the solicitor brand.

 

Also at the beginning of May I was honoured to be a guest of Katharine Jones, President of Dorset Law Society at their annual dinner. The Law Society Vice President, Joe Egan, also attended and we had a very enjoyable evening in Dorchester. 

 

The Federation of European Bars General Assembly in early June was in The Hague with the theme "the lawyer in dialogue with the International Criminal Court" and a day of presentations held at the ICC. It was sobering to hear of challenges facing other European countries as judicial independence and the rule of law is being undermined and brought The Law Society campaign into sharp focus as we seek to protect the rights and freedoms we enjoy in this country. In marked contrast to the glamour of these events, our Honorary Secretary Chris Hart, Executive Director Tony Steiner and I spent a June summer evening in the pouring rain and howling gales doing a 10k walk around Exeter to support the South West Legal Support Trust, a charity which supports vulnerable people threatened with homelessness or destitution, older people, and women and children who have been trafficked to get much needed legal help. Well done and thank you Chris and Tony. If you would like to donate it can be done HERE -https://mydonate.bt.com/fundraisers/devonsomersetlawsociety.

 

The annual Legal Sunday Service also took place on 11 June at which I was represented by Stephen Mahoney, Vice President. Our European colleagues at the FBE were certainly really looking forward to the event. We hosted 20 guests from Bilbao and Logrono, Cork, Erlangen, Gdańsk, The Hague, Leiden, Leuven, Rotterdam and Verona Bar Associations plus Professor Sara Chandler QC (Hon), the President of the Federation of European Bars and her husband José. Six of those attending had not taken part in the Legal Sunday procession and service before, so it was nice to welcome new blood.  

 

After a relaxed and very sociable dinner at Rendez-Vous in Southernhay on Saturday evening, the procession, led by the High Sheriff of Devon, Heleen Lindsay-Fynn, made its way for the first time from Rougemont Castle to Exeter Cathedral. After the service, there was a well attended lunch back at the Castle at which The Honourable Mr. Justice Dingemans spoke formally to welcome our Bar Association guests. It was an indication of the success of the lunch that so many stayed two hours or more to chat as well as eat and drink. It is clear the ceremony and grandeur of Legal Service Sunday is something of a novelty to our European friends and an event they thoroughly enjoy.

Acquaintances with several of those who were in Exeter that weekend were quickly renewed as Bilbao Bar Association hosted the Twin Bars Annual Meeting on Friday 16th June which dovetailed neatly with its Annual Bar Association lunch. Vice President Stephen Mahoney, Chair of the International Relations Sub-Committee, Emma Mitcham, and Law Society Council Member Rod Mole represented DASLS and were the fortunate recipients of some truly memorable hospitality from Ignacio Delgado (Vice President of the International Relations Commission), Nazario de Oleaga (Past President of the Federation of European Bars) and Javier Diago Elorduy (FBE Honorary Secretary General and Member of Bilbao Bar) and their colleagues.

 

On the Friday morning presentations were made by representatives from Verona, Rennes, Erlangen, Leuven, Gdańsk, Bilbao Bar Associations and by Emma and Steve on behalf of DASLS on a case study set by the hosts around the subject of the abolition of roaming charges for mobile phones. The presentations by some of the Bars were impressively thorough on both EU Law and that applicable to their own jurisdictions.

The DASLS presentation was undoubtedly the briefest but seemed to go down well as it got some laughs and escaped any tricky follow-up questions. The Bar Association lunch lasted late into Friday night, to be followed on Saturday morning by a boat trip along the Ria de Bilbao, another leisurely lunch hosted by the Bar Association President Carlos and his wife and then dinner at the Sociedad Bilbaina (a venue based upon an English Gentleman’s Club of the 19th Century) at which Bilbao was formally accepted as a member of the Twin Bars Association. For those with any stamina left around Midnight, Bilbao itself was awash with the White Night Celebrations, commemorating the signing of the municipal Charter in June 1300 which led to the founding of the City. On Sunday, there was time to visit the Catedral de Santiago to watch the post service Corpus Christie procession and a final dose of Basque hospitality with a visit to one of the numerous bars for pintxos and drinks before taxis to the airport.


Closer to home I attended the AGM of the Association of South Western Law Societies (ASWLS) where Anthony Earl was elected as President for the forthcoming year. This provided a further opportunity for exchanging views between local law societies and to have a collective voice when approaching Chancery Lane and Westminster. We also met with Cheshire & North Wales, Kent, Leicestershire, Newcastle and Surrey law societies at the beginning of July to take forward a conversation about joint working with them, another opportunity to strengthen our ties with other local law societies, giving greater national voice on issues of importance and collective learning.

Work has started in earnest in preparing for our annual dinner and legal awards to be held at Sandy Park, Exeter on 1 March 2018. We are very fortunate to continue our partnership with DC Media for another year to provide this spectacular event and an impressive line-up of Judges most of whom are keen to work with us for another year. 

I hope you enjoy a fabulous summer and look forward to updating you further in the September Newsletter.

 

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