DASLS In-House Lawyers' Conference 2019 by Jon Eyres, Counsel at Pennon Group

For those of us working outside of private practice, DASLS’ annual In-house Lawyers' Conference is an opportunity to attend training targeted towards the business environments in which we operate. More than that, it is a chance for us - a regional body spread across a large geographical area - to come together to discuss the challenges we are encountering in our sector and to share the solutions we have identified, to consolidate those learning outcomes.

 

To that end, it was good to see a cross-section of members from the commercial and public sectors, as well as from charitable organisations, in attendance. The Conference did not disappoint, bringing experts from industry as well as leading private practitioners and barristers, to provide an invaluable look at evolving best practice, key issues surrounding business-partnering and corporate crisis management, and to provide case law updates.

 

In chronological order, highlights from the Conference include:

  • The new SRA Standards & Regulations

The SRA Handbook is due to be replaced with the new SRA Standards & Regulations, the content being substantially reduced in length and prescription. Juliet gave an engaging insight into the work that has been done to ensure that the Standards & Regulations provide as clear guidance to in-house practitioners as it does to those in private practice.

 

Furthermore, on the back of some high profile disciplinary cases in the press of late and this year’s publication of the SRA’s updated Enforcement Strategy, Juliet outlined the changes in the SRA’s approach to disciplinary matters and its focus on building public trust and confidence in solicitors (highlighting the importance of acting with integrity in whatever we do, both inside and outside of the work environment).

  • The Law Society’s ‘In-House’ Division

Rav provided a welcome update on the work that the Division has been undertaking on our behalf, including: its involvement in promoting the interest of the in-house sector (both inside and outside of The Law Society); the various networking events held by the Division, which have been taking place around the country throughout the year; and, the training which is on offer through a mixture of seminars, workshops and webinars.

 

Rav also highlighted the fact that the nominations for the various Law Society’s Excellence Awards 2020 will open early in the New Year, encouraging us to think about teams and colleagues who deserve nomination. Of particular relevance are the ‘Excellence In-House’ team award and the ‘In-House Solicitor of the Year’ individual award.

  • Crisis management

‘Fail to prepare, prepare to fail’. If we take anything away from Phil’s talk on crisis management (and with his evident wealth of knowledge and experience, we would be wise to do so) it is that, unless businesses take the time to consider probable ‘crisis scenarios’ and how to deal with them, those crises are much more likely to become commercially fatal if/ when they occur. In-house lawyers are well placed within their businesses to identify key areas of weakness and, as partners to that business, to instigate contingency plans and to ensure those plans are practised - strategy and practice are crucial in order for the organisation in question to be as best placed as possible to recover.

  • Privilege and disclosure

You may well be aware of the 2003 Court of Appeal decision in Three Rivers (No 5)[1] and, in particular, its restrictive view of who constitutes the client for the purposes of legal advice privilege. If not, it is well worth taking the time to read the commentary around it. Alex also provided his learned advice on the tactical use of ‘Disclosure Orders’ as a strategy for extinguishing frivolous claims at an early stage.

  • Employment law update

Kate’s interactive and practical analyses of recent key cases in the area of employment law covered a range of topics. For example, the extension by the Courts of the ambit of vicarious liability and the mitigation strategies that organisations can put in place, and protective measures they can take, to try to reduce the impact of such claims. Also, the importance for businesses to have clear, comprehensive and (most of all) visible employee policies in place (on matters like the recording by employees of conversations and meetings in the work-place).

 

We are grateful to the Pennon Group for hosting the Conference. In addition, we would like to thank our guest speakers: Juliet Oliver (General Counsel for the Solicitors Regulation Authority); Rav Hothi (Head of Relationship Management (Midlands and South West) for The Law Society); Phil Sampson (Director of Sampson Hall); Alex Fletcher (Barrister at Normanton Chambers); and Kate Gardner (Partner at Clarke Willmott).

 

As ever, should you wish to find out more about DASLS In-House Lawyers’ Group please email Tony Steiner at DASLS office – tony@dasls.com

 

jon-eyres

Jon Eyres

Counsel at Pennon Group

 

[1] Three Rivers District Council & Others -v- The Governor and Company of the Bank of England [2003] EWCA Civ 474

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