Gosh this year is now galloping by. The clocks went back last month and before long it will be Christmas.
I have certainly had an exciting few months travelling to visit a number of the local law societies.
I had a great time at the Plymouth Law Society (PLS) annual dinner at the beginning of October. It was very enjoyable to go back to the Duke of Cornwall Hotel. Returning to the hotel brought back many happy memories. I had my annual dinner there when I was the PLS President. Long before that, in the early 1970’s, I used to play in the building as a boy. One of my friends' father was the general manager. We would run up and down the stairs, slide down the banisters and have trolley races in the ballroom. Happy days!
I met professional colleagues at the Chartered Institute for Securities & Investment West Country on 10 October. It was interesting to hear that none of the investment managers appeared too phased at Brexit and any risk of leaving the European Union with no deal. I was told… “All the smart money had already been invested in America!” After that I quickly went home to check my pension investments. Oh dear.
I will turn now to happier matters.
It was a pleasure to participate in the DASLS Annual Admissions Ceremony at the Exeter Guildhall on the 14th October. I was proud to see that we have a real wealth of excellent new solicitors coming into our local profession. I wish them all every success for the future wherever they may go. Can I say a special thank you to HHJ Edward Richards and District Judge Griffiths for their attendance.
I would like to congratulate those firms who do invest considerable time and resources into their local training and recruitment processes. Without this continued investment our profession will struggle to recruit and retain talent in the south west. I strongly believe that firms must continue with this not inconsiderable effort to build up their own strong “youth teams of solicitors”. Trainees really are needed to become the partners and fee earners of the future. We are all aware that recruitment and staff retention in the south west is not easy.
We had a piece of exciting news from the ASWLS President Mel Bevan-Evans at the end of September. She has been successful with our joint South Western Law Societies’ bid to host next year's local Law Societies Conference. The date is now provisionally booked for 3rd July 2020 at the Celtic Manor.
Our In-House Lawyers’ Conference on the 17th October was also a great success. A big thank you to our speakers: Juliet Oliver SRA General Counsel, Rav Hothi The Law Society Head of Relationship Management - Midlands & Southwest, Phil Sampson Sampson Hall, Alex Fletcher Normanton Chambers, Kate Gardner Clarke Willmott. Please let us know of any topics that you would wish to be put on the agenda for next year.
Our Joint Profession’s Networking Group meeting in Exeter due to be held on the 19th November for the Bank of England South West Briefing has now been postponed due to the general election of 12 December 2019. I am sure that we are all looking forward to the stabilisation of legal and business matters as we go forward into the New Year.
If I don’t see you before the big day, then can I wish a Merry Christmas to you and yours. I hope your firms and staff have a happy and prosperous 2020.
I look forward to seeing you in the New Year.
With very best wishes,
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The last Newsletter of 2019 and another DASLS year draws to a close. It’s been business as usual at Aston Court with the ebb and flow of events through the year and the highlight of the spectacular Legal Awards at Exeter Cathedral. Plans for the 2020 event are well in hand. Those who attended the soft launch Sneak Peek event recently will have heard how the Awards have impacted on those that have taken part: ““Winning the awards had an obvious and immediate impact on the firm. In an age where we fear to even sit down for a meal without checking the restaurant’s online review, mention of the awards on our website offers new clients the reassurance that we have the DASLS seal of approval.” James McNally, Slee Blackwell, Taunton” and “The publicity has led to more work – more Cafcass’s from Cafcass, people with conflicts were referring to me. Clients referred friends – don’t underestimate the power it has to generate more work for you and your colleagues” Imran Khodabocus The Family Law Company, Exeter The closing date for nominations is 29th November although you do not have to wait until then to get your entries in. We know that solicitors work to deadlines but it really does help us if you submit early – go on, surprise us! Following a discussion at the Torbay & South Devon Managing Partner Forum a new South Devon Property Forum has been formed that has brought conveyancers together. They have agreed a protocol of good working practices that has won the support of most of the solicitors and some of the estate agents in South Devon. It is hoped that this can be replicated elsewhere in the DASLS patch; please let me know if your firm would be interested in taking part. We have had the pleasure of working in partnership with our sponsors through the year and look forward to our continuing association with Alchemy Systems, Barclays, Landmark, PKF Francis Clark, Unoccupied Direct, Webboss and Wessex Searches. We also have a new insurance broker partner Lockton who will be helping us understand the always changing professional indemnity market. Recent visitors to DASLS office may have met our wellbeing officer Sasha. Sasha joined us earlier in the year and spends her day greeting visitors, ensuring the general calm in DASLS office and napping. It’s a dog’s life! Tony Steiner DASLS Executive Director firstname.lastname@example.org DASLS Christmas / New Year hours We will be closed on 24 December and reopening at 9.00 a.m. on 2 January 2020. Wishing our members a lovely Christmas and New Year! ...
Our congratulations to Bartons Marine Department and Ian Walker of Family Law and Mediation Ltd for being Highly Commended in Excellence in Client Service and Practice Manager of the Year respectively. Lee Hassall Bartons Marine Department Ian Walker with Law Society President Simon Davis ...
The remodelled regulatory toolkit from the SRA is to be launched on 25 November 2019. Called the SRA Standards and Regulations, (or STARs for short), its tone is transitional and evolutionary as opposed to revolutionary. However, it does provide some very strong messages about what is expected from us. Compliance professionals employed in SRA-authorised firms should be making preparations to support their colleagues make a safe and appropriate switch to this new regulatory toolkit. The STARs signify phase two of the SRA’s regulatory relationship with us. Phase 1 was introduced by the SRA in 2011 with the SRA Handbook. This was a revolutionary document with its unfamiliar concepts such as outcomes-focused regulation, compliance officers, regulatory interest in our internal governance and far more self-reporting than perhaps we were comfortable with. In other words, the regulator was creating the expectation that compliance would be a central service in law firms and that openness and accountability should be in evidence. With phase 2, the SRA is building on these foundation stones and making sure that compliance is embedded as an effective and firm wide function. In fact, in well-run, forward-thinking entities, this is now the norm and compliance is no longer a backroom function. Compliance skills are now recognised as professional skills and many firms are hiring compliance professionals and/or upskilling their employees to facilitate this function. The key features of the STARs build on this starting point and add further ingredients into the mix. Changes which cannot be ignored include: Ethical behaviour being more explicitly referenced. Of course, there has always been the need for individuals to deliver legal services in an ethical way, but the SRA Handbook language focused less on this and more on regulatory compliance requirements. The emphasis is shifting again. The realignment is clearly in evidence with the SRA Principles 2019. Whereas the SRA Handbook introduced us to 10 Principles which included some which related more to our regulatory relationships and regulatory expectations, the 2019 version is pure ethics Professional behaviours in the two Codes of Conduct continuing this message. The SRA Code of Conduct for those individuals with a direct regulatory relationship (solicitors, registered European lawyers and registered foreign lawyers) explains personal expectations in unambiguous language. Again, this is nothing particularly new but just re-emphasised so that, for example, individuals are clearly reminded that they remain personally accountable for those they supervise, and they must ensure that this supervision is effective The SRA Code of Conduct for Firms delivering the message that being able to demonstrate compliance in practice. We are told, for example, that all managers are responsible for compliance and that there must be evidence of firm wide standards to support the delivery of good quality, ethical services The SRA Accounts Rules having finally been dragged into the twenty-first century with less focus on prescriptive timekeeping but continued emphasis on the protection of client money The SRA expects us to demonstrate business as usual on 25 November, and this will happen in an environment where a solid compliance function operates as the engine room of the firm thereby enabling ethical behaviour and the delivery of good quality legal services. We will be expected to ensure that there is a seamless adaptation to the new toolkit. Suggestions for compliance professionals grappling with this task include the need to consider: Effective communication with colleagues – who needs to know about the changes and why? For example, if managers are expected to have collective responsibility for compliance what do they need to be told about the SRA and the STARs? What agreement needs to be sought from these individuals to support the compliance function? ...
What made you want to serve on The Law Society Council? I am a Criminal Law defence Solicitor Advocate and from early in my career I took exception to the way respective Governments undervalued our Justice system and used it as an easy target to reduce the budget afforded to it. I initially became involved in local action including a sit in at our local Magistrates Court. I thereafter attended the infamous vote of no confidence at The Law Society. My Council Member at that time quite properly said that I would achieve nothing by shouting from the side lines and if I wished to make a difference I would have to get on the pitch and get involved. I have since 2015 become involved in The Law Society specialist committees and it was a natural progression to then apply for a Council seat when the current Member term came to an end. I believe apathy is one of the greatest threats to our profession. I appreciate that we are all very busy in our day jobs, but unless we stand up for the profession as a whole we will continue to see our reputation and standards reduced. What are the key concerns you have at the moment for the legal profession in the South West? I think the brand “Solicitor” is something we should be proud of. We are professionals and have clients not customers. We no longer share the prestige that other professions receive and that is something we should be fighting for. I believe we are facing a dumbing down of the profession with the introduction of the Solicitors Qualifying Exam. We have unregulated sectors introducing legal services as well. We have also had the SRA reduce the burden of proof that applies to the SDT and it will be interesting to see how matters are dealt with as more regulations apply to our practices. Austerity is also affecting the profession with budget cuts biting hard across the board. What has been the most embarrassing moment during your professional career? Appearing before a High Court Judge in jeans and flip flops as an improvised advocate. When I stepped into the front bench of the Inner London Crown Court a QC who was present pointed me towards the dock! Which sort of work gives you the most job satisfaction? I enjoy advocacy and still get butterflies at the start of a trial. I think nerves are a good thing and show that you still have a passion. I believe that most of the best advocates are passionate about what they do. The trick is not to let your passion overrule your sense of professionalism. What do you do in your spare time? My wife and two daughters are my focus in my spare time. In amongst various activities involving them I do enjoy playing golf and reluctantly using the gym to stave off the advances of middle age. Where is your favourite holiday destination? Anna Maria Island. It’s on the Gulf Coast of Florida. My wife and I enjoy it so much we got married on the beach there in 2006. What is your dream job? My Haemophilia meant I would never grace the pitch at Anfield so gave up on that pretty early on. However, I always had an infinity with the sea and still do. I was a pretty good swimmer as a youngster and dabbled as a surfer for few years. In fact, my University shortlist was ranked on beaches rather than academic prowess. I love being on and in the sea and wanted to be a marine biologist. However I was never much good at science in school so had to look elsewhere in terms of a career. Visit The Law Society website for details of all the Council Constituencies https://www.lawsociety.org.uk/about-us/our-council/council-constituencies/ ...
Dear All, This year really is flying by. I have just had my birthday. After updating you previously on the excellent catch up I had with the Law Society CEO Paul Tennant on his visit to the south west last November, I had not expected to be back in touch with him quite so soon. Sadly, this time it was in less happy circumstances. I was, like many of you, shocked and saddened in January to hear the news and see the pictures of the substantial fire at Chancery Lane in London. I have emailed Paul Tennant and James Shepherd, our Law Society Relationship Management Executive, to send our best wishes and we are hoping that the building will be back to full use very soon. As I write this report, preparations are in full swing for the 2020 DASLS Legal Awards & Dinner. As you know the Annual Dinner is being held again this year at Exeter Cathedral. The event is to take place on the 30th April 2020. After the success of last year, we are hoping that once again the event is sold out which would mean we will have around 480 people attending. If you have not done so already, please contact Llew Nicholls and the team at our Awards partners ‘Grow Marketing’ who have worked very hard alongside our very own Tony and Monique to achieve full sponsorship of this event. You can contact Llew to book the remaining places by emailing Llew directly at Llew@growmarketinguk.com. There have been more nominations than ever before with more entries making the short list. Please do not miss this dazzling occasion. You will all have received DASLS latest 2020 training courses programme. Tony Steiner and the team have worked hard to arrange these events. You will see that as members you get preferential rates and if appropriate reduced rates for multiple attendees from your firms. Please take advantage of these services as a proportion of the monies do go to support our Society’s broad continuing education offering. If I do not see you individually before I look forward to catching up with you at the 2020 DASLS Legal Awards and Annual Dinner in April. With very best wishes Nigel Lyons President 2019-2020...
The first big social event of the year was the annual DASLS Quiz which is the grand finale of the Challenge Cup. It is an event I thoroughly enjoy and I make no apology for making it a bit challenging. This year did not disappoint there being just ½ point between first and second place and resulting in joint winners of the Challenge Cup. Congratulations to Ashfords and Michelmores both of whom knew that the study of birds’ eggs is Oology. The next Challenge Cup kicks off with the usual Skittles match in Dawlish when the magnificent Skittles Cup will be contested. The latest meeting of the County Societies Group took place in February when we were guests of the SRA in Birmingham. DASLS Deputy Vice-President Adrian Richards and I attended. We were welcomed by their Chief Executive Paul Philip who set out some key messages around SRA activity emphasising their desire for light touch engagement with solicitors and good channels of communication. He said that the SRA was working well with The Law Society and was focused on creating an environment where solicitors could be innovative and use the latest in technology. AML is a key area of activity and following the appointment of the new Chair, Anna Bradley, they are working to provide better customer care. He also explained that until now the SRA had not taken any position on issues such as Access to Justice, Rule of Law and Advice Deserts. They were considering looking at, and taking a position on, one or two of these issues each year. There followed several presentations by senior staff at the SRA dealing with Enforcement Strategy and reporting concerns; Customer information – Transparency Rules and clickable logo.; the SQE and Anti-Money Laundering. Comprehensive slides were produced to accompany each presentation which I will forward together with my notes to any member who wishes to see them. Just email me —email@example.com. There followed an interesting tour of the building. SRA have around 600 staff members with the majority based over three floors at the Cube. The next meeting of the County Societies Group will be in the summer and we also plan a Parliamentary Liaison event at Westminster later in the year. I am pleased to announce that DASLS has two new Partners; Moneypenny who look after your telephone calls when you are not available and Dictate Now who offer Dictation Systems and outsourced document preparation. They join our current Partners: Alchemy; PKF Francis Clark; Landmark; Lockton; Unoccupied Direct; WebBoss and Wessex Searches. We are thankful for the support our partners give us and encourage you to use them where you can. Depending when you read this our joint event with the Legal Sustainability Alliance on 5th March will be about to take place or will have passed. Regular readers will know that the Society has formed a small working party to encourage and identify how firms can improve their sustainability. The main Committee have suggested that this forms a Sub-Committee. We will arrange a meeting of the working party after the event on the 5th March with a view to progressing this. Anyone who is interested in this please let me know. Tony Steiner, Executive Director DASLS....
You may know that DASLS is fortunate to be twinned with Bilbao, Erlangen, Gdańsk, Leuven, Rennes and Verona. Such twinning arrangements underpin a sense that we belong to one community of values on the basis that these relationships are based on reciprocity. Each year, we meet to discuss and debate important legal issues of the day, whilst discovering the cultures and languages of our partners. 2020 is DASLS turn to host such an event, which will be rounded off with the Sunday Legal Service at Exeter Cathedral on 7 June 2020 and to which DASLS members are cordially invited! The subject of our conference (on 5 June at County Hall in Exeter) will be around the impact of artificial intelligence (AI) in the sphere of human rights. Rather than understanding AI in terms of a terrifying post-apocalyptic vision of a world controlled by robots, AI features in our everyday lives from Alexa and smart home devices to controversial facial recognition technologies and even Uber! AI is built by lines of code called algorithms. Put simply, an algorithm is a step by step method of solving a problem and is commonly used for data processing and calculation. However, the use of automated data processing techniques in public and private sectors, especially by internet platforms and its impact on the exercise of human rights is somewhat of a hot topic. When it comes to AI, there is a focus on the usage of huge datasets. AI bias means when an algorithm produces results that may be prejudiced due to erroneous assumptions in the machine learning process and the data used to train the algorithm by data scientists. Bias runs deep in humans and it can be unconscious in nature. AI systems are created by individuals who have their own unique experiences and blind spots all of which can lead to fundamentally biased systems. This issue is compounded by the fact that those responsible for AI (including its deployment and training) may not be representative of society. Accordingly, unfair treatment of a group can result from the use of an algorithm to support decision making whether that decision relates to criminal sentencing, loan applications or self-driving cars. The language of AI is undoubtedly complex, but it is drastically changing the way we live. Understanding AI and its implications in the context of its growth is important so that we are all better placed to push companies to develop new technologies both ethically and responsibly. If you would like to receive more information once the June 2020 programme is finalised, please contact Monique Bertoni at DASLS office – firstname.lastname@example.org . Emma Mitcham Chair, International Relations Sub-Committee...
New AML Regulations and the pursuit of the beneficial owner. Introduction The new Money Laundering & Terrorist Finance (Amendment) Regulations 2019 which came into force on 10 January have modified a number of aspects of the 2017 AML Regulations, with which we have been complying for some time. However, many firms’ procedures hark back to the earlier days of the 2007 Regulations and have not been modified or updated much over recent years. This article seeks to set out what the new Regulations in fact require, and the steps we should be taking in relevant cases. The Policy It has been true for some time that the ultimate aim of all the regulatory rules is transparency – it has always been the case that the use of artificial structures such as trusts, companies, bearer shares, foundations and charities – whilst perfectly legal – have to some extent also benefitted from the extra anonymity they offer to the true owner and recipient of the funds and services we provide. If we offer services to these types of entity, the Regulations require us to go some way to identifying the individuals who are actually benefitting from our services, and this entails uncovering the true ownership of the organisation. Whilst this would be difficult in many instances – Cayman Island companies with bearer shares, for example – we must nevertheless attempt to get some assurances from the creators of the companies, accountants or registrars as to the ownership of the shares, and have some way of being notified of any change in ownership. We also need to be aware of the PEP and Sanctions status of these individuals. Further, for UK companies, the PSC Regulations 2016 impose an exactly similar obligation on the companies themselves to identify their beneficial owners and notify Companies House of any shareholder with 25% or more of the shares or exercising control over management of the business. The Regulations The Regulations provide that we must, as part of our CDD procedures Identify the client – this means coming to know who they are, by name and some other characteristic, e.g. address, date of birth, date of incorporation Verify that identity – by means of reliable and independent data and documentation Identify the beneficial owner (if the client is an entity) – though not necessarily verifying that identity Identify and verify the identity of the person actually instructing us (if not already done). What this means for us When acting for a COMPANY (that is not a listed company) the Regulations require us to obtain Details of the company as registered (which must be proven by a copy of the register entries available from Companies House or equivalent registry) – name, number, registered office address, principal place of business the law to which it is subject details of its governing documentation (its memorandum) names of the directors. Names of any beneficial owners, and the identity of any individual owners of legal entities which own the client Names and verification of the persons instructing us on behalf of the company, and their authority to do so. Note that we cannot rely on the information provided by the company under the PSC Regulations but we must undertake our own research in order to fulfil our CDD duties. Further, if as part of that research, we discover that the Companies House data on PSC’s is incorrect, then we are now under a further obligation to notify the Registrar of Companies of this fact. We also need to establish that PEPs and Sanctions checks are also undertaken. If genuinely positive entries are revealed in response we should undertake enhanced CDD steps or cease to act, accordingly. Electronic searches are a permissible avenue to use provided the search provider can offer us the necessary assurances that the person actually claiming an identity is IN FACT that person. Check also whether ...
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