Having been appointed as Council Members in July 2019, the first two meetings have already flown by. Council met on the 3rd October 2019 and the 5th December 2019. We hope to bring you up to date with developments over the last few months.
Much of this time has been dominated by the word we shall not mention, beginning with “B” and the General Election. A lot of the usual Law Society work has therefore been on hold awaiting the outcome and strategising so as to be prepared for which Government would be in power.
We now know that we have a Conservative Majority Government and whilst many will be happy about that, this may well make some of the Law Society’s campaigning around Access to Justice and Legal Aid a little harder.
Time will tell…..
Prior to Purdah, the Law Society was continuing to support works on funding inquests for people who are unable to access legal aid. The Policy and Regulatory Affairs Committee had approved a plan designed for restructuring legal aid provision, into Law Society policy. The plan detailed the Society’s intention to reintroduce early legal advice in family law cases, to reintroduce legal aid in all finance cases, and to bring back legal aid for alleged perpetrators of abuse in domestic violence cases. There were 120 MPs lobbying for change to practice direction 12J (on child arrangements and contact orders involving domestic abuse and harm), for there to be legal representation provided to alleged perpetrators of domestic abuse. It was a major issue that more children were being killed in situations where there is unsafe contact. There have been ongoing discussions about the Flexible operating hours and the pilot. An update is expected on that.
The Ministry of Justice (MoJ) allocation includes a 4.9% increase in real terms to the department’s resource budget from 2019-20 to 2020-21, with £55 million bookmarked for use across the Criminal Justice System to “support the work of 20,000 additional police officers and additional funding to support the ongoing reform of the probation system, which will help reduce reoffending and improve the quality of post-custody supervision.”
The Law Society met with the Lord Chancellor and Justice Minister Wendy Morton MP to emphasise that the whole Criminal Justice System, including courts and defence fees, need to be funded for the Government to achieve their aims. We have also raised this with MoJ officials.
The Law Society sent a letter to Chief Secretary to the Treasury, Rishi Sunak MP, following the spending review and the proposed budget (which was then cancelled). With a three-year spending review expected next year and the new Government likely to hold a budget soon after the election, the Law Society will approach the Treasury ministerial team to discuss the funding of the justice system.
The Criminal Legal Aid review is still on-going. The work on the accelerated items is apparently continuing and we are told it will be completed according to the timetable. Any final proposal will need to be approved by the Treasury though. Work is continuing in respect of Criminal Legal Aid Solicitors which has also been affected quite dramatically by CPS recruitment drives.
In Wales, the published recommendations of the Commission on Justice reflect long held frustrations of the Welsh Government and wider civil society that Wales has been historically underfunded and hit harder than England by the deep cuts to justice funding by Westminster Governments over the last decade. Estimated expenditure by the UK government on the justice system in Wales has fallen by a third since 2009-10, although increased funding by the Welsh Government and Welsh local authorities has offset some of these cuts. The Commission on Justice recommendations are wide ranging, and the Wales office is in the process of canvassing members across Wales for their views and opinions on the published recommendations.
The Law Society has submitted a response to the SRA consultation on assuring advocacy standards. The Law Society supported the general approach of not changing advocacy rights, instead relying on the professional obligation not to undertake work beyond your competence. We stressed the need for any proposals to be evidence based, and highlighted areas where we considered that they were not. We emphasised the need to ensure that any requirement for higher standards did not further damage an already fragile market, particularly in areas covered by legal aid. We agreed with the principle that youth courts require separate consideration but did not support the proposal that higher advocacy rights were an appropriate reflection of the skills needed in the youth courts.
Since the SRA began to develop SQE in 2014, the Law Society has responded to all four rounds of consultation and the SRA have met many of our key demands. The inclusion of a degree level qualification and two full working years of qualifying work-experience as requirements were major wins.
In addition to raising concerns with the SRA, the Law Society has been heavily engaged in ensuring the profession is aware of the upcoming change to legal education. Most recently this culminated in an updated SQE overview available on our website. The overview outlines all currently known information on the SQE and is a live document, updated with new information as it become available. Alan East (Chair of Education and Training Committee) has been conducting a podcast series focusing on different elements of the SQE. The most recent of which was recorded with Julie Brannan (Director of Education and Training at the SRA) covering the SQE 1 pilot results. The podcasts are released every 4-6 weeks and aim to provide different perspectives on the SQE’s development. Alongside providing members with key information on the SQE, the Law Society has participated in a range of conferences and roundtables (Legal Cheek, Nottingham University, Coventry, Law Gazette), and consistently provides updates to members through digital communications (social media, professional update, presidents update). We continue to argue for the SQE to be offered in the Welsh language and have meet with key officials to discuss the importance of it. The Wales office recently met with the Welsh Government Counsel General, Jeremy Miles AM, and will continue to follow up with him and his office.
Due to the sustained pressure resulting from the Law Society’s campaign against the increase in probate fees, the Government has now confirmed that it has scrapped its proposals to raise fees charged for a grant of probate. The fee hike had already been put on hold following the prorogation of parliament, but the announcement means that the controversial policy will not be revived. Pressure from the Law Society and opposition from the public and MPs meant the Government never brought the plans to a vote in the House of Commons.
Tax legislation and policy is complex and in occasions unclear and difficult to apply. To address this issue, the Law Society made representations to HM Revenue and Customs (HMRC) and the Treasury (HMT), produced evidence-based policy briefings and lobbied officials and ministers with the following positive outcomes:
Members should be aware that the new Law Society website is now live for testing. Council Members have been sent information on how they can join other members taking part in testing and feeding back on the new site. Six different test periods will run as The Law Society develops the site and the new, simpler MyLawSociety registration process will be at the heart of the drive to personalise the content given to members. It is this that is perhaps the most important development ongoing currently. If our short experience of Council activity has demonstrated anything, it is that the Law Society does a lot of good work on behalf of the profession. However, it does not feed that back to its members properly and this needs to improve. This is at the heart of current Law Society policy and something we heartily endorse. The development of the Website with a more personalised, representational focus should assist the Law Society in providing a service that is seen to be better and in the interests of you, the members.
All that remains to be said, is we hope everyone enjoys a very well deserved break over the Christmas period. We are, as always, your Council Members and should anyone wish to raise any issues with us to take back to Chancery Lane, we look forward to hearing from you.
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Happy new year to you all! I have certainly had a very festive few months. The Taunton Dinner was a great success. Can I say a big thank you to all who attended. We raised an excellent £858.12 with gift aid, for my chosen charity of ‘Step One’. Our guest speaker Chris Robinson brought the history of the south west to life with his after dinner talk. It was a great pleasure to welcome the Law Society CEO Paul Tennant to the south west when he visited Exeter on the 13 November. After Paul attended our committee meeting in the morning it was good to participate in the Law Society Gazette Roundtable ‘South West Discussion’ in Exeter. A cross section of local firms sent members of staff to take part in debating various topics that were relevant to our lawyers and their firms’ development. The hour and half flew by. The debate flowed well and it was clear at the end that everyone felt they had their say and were given an opportunity to express their views. Thank you to Paul Tennant for organising this with Eduardo Reyes the Commissioning and Features Editor of The Law Society Gazette chairing the event. Can I thank those of you who have entered the 2020 DASLS Legal Awards to celebrate and raise the profile of the solicitors’ profession in our area. I must also thank Grow Marketing Group for all their help to enable us to put together an incredible night in celebration of the legal profession and to showcase the achievements and successes within it. Please do not forget to put the DASLS Annual Dinner 2020 at Exeter Cathedral in your diary. The event will take place on the 30th April when we will celebrate and recognise the achievements of those in the legal profession. Don't miss this dazzling occasion. With that in mind I may I wish you all a happy and prosperous 2020. I look forward to seeing you in the New Year. With very best wishes Nigel Lyons DASLS President 2019-2020...
Happy New Year It is the morning after! No not that sort of morning after – as I write it’s the morning after the deadline for nominations to be made for the DASLS Legal Awards and we are delighted to announce that we have had significantly more entries than in previous years. Thank you to everyone who has entered; we look forward to seeing you at Exeter Cathedral on 30th April when the winners will be announced. No doubt there will be another morning after that! Tickets will go on sale once the shortlist has been announced towards the end of January. Our new recruitment advertising service has started well with good support and our work behind the scenes has seen increased levels of activity on our website. The advertising package includes a job posting on the Law Society Gazette Online Job Board ensuring a national presence at a very cost-effective price. The DASLS Job Board is now the place to go to look at vacancies available across our two counties and all the latest positions are advertised on the back of this Newsletter. Go to DASLS website for more details. Looking forward we will be working to improve and refine our provision of training events. The DASLS programme has always been responsive to members’ requests and we would be very pleased to hear about seminars that you would like to see included speakers that we might wish to invite. Look out for new Annual Conferences and masterclass sessions. The County Societies Group will be meeting in February when we will be the guests of the SRA at The Cube. I am sure there will be some interesting discussions about their direction of travel and current operations to report back. Can it really be 20 years since the Millennium? The economic and political landscape has changed greatly in that time and new challenges and opportunities in the provision of legal services have emerged. I hope that DASLS has evolved and adapted to continue to be relevant and fit for purpose in that time. Each year different issues come to the fore; in 2019 The Law Society highlighted the many issues around Legal Aid and the advice deserts across our region and the SRA introduced a new Handbook. DASLS was pleased to co-host an event addressed by Richard Miller from The Law Society for Criminal Defence practitioners and we have offered training events with experts on the SRA changes. New year is a time for looking forward and as we enter the post-Brexit era we continue to review and look to improve. It would be brilliant to get some ongoing feedback; What does DASLS mean to you? Are there things that we can do better or are there services that we might introduce to add value to your DASLS membership? If you can find five minutes to respond then send me an email - email@example.com. Happy New Year from us all at Aston Court. Tony Steiner DASLS Executive Director...
What made you want to serve on The Law Society Family Law Committee? I was impressed by The Law Society’s campaigning over Legal Aid and felt this was an area in which they really stood up for lawyers such as me, working in a strongly Legal Aid practice. I looked at the kind of work done by the Family Law Committee and saw that it was very interesting; I thought it would be stimulating, and it is. What are the key concerns you have at the moment for the legal profession in the South West? They are the same concerns as I have about the national picture: people not having access to justice because of the assault on Legal Aid; chaos in the court system; the unknown impact of Brexit. I know for many firms in the South West there will be a direct impact from Brexit; but for all of us, the threat of recession and increased poverty accompanied by its familiar problems is alarming. What is your dream job? If I had not been a lawyer, I’d have enjoyed being a psychiatrist or a private detective – I’m very curious (or nosy) about people. If I was embarking on a new career now, I’d be a gardener or a chef. Which sort of work gives you the most job satisfaction? I’m motivated by fairness. My job gives me the opportunity to try to achieve a bit more of it. What gets you up in the morning? Optimism. What do you do in your spare time? Gardening, food, reading, films, travel, learning Italian, swimming, my family. I’m very interested in language, generally. What book are you reading at the moment? Naomi Klein – This Changes Everything Before that, Elmore Leonard – Gold Coast Next, I will be reading Margaret Atwood’s sequel to The Handmaid’s Tale, The Testaments. What is the most recent film you have seen? Amazing Grace – a documentary about Aretha Franklin In the Loop – (again; it never gets stale) What are your favourite food / restaurant? I honestly love food and am happy to go anywhere at all. The Hourglass is a great pub in Exeter; I also like the Dinosaur Cafe Where is your favourite holiday destination? Italy New York...
DASLS is twinned with a number of local law societies across Europe, and the group fosters and maintains DASLS’ relationships with its Twin Bars. The Sub-Committee represents DASLS abroad by attending international conferences, but also serves as the first point of contact for any enquiries from international lawyers looking for local legal advice. On occasion, they host foreign lawyers who attend the Exeter Legal Sunday Service and provide funding to send representatives abroad. Lucy Ferrat, Solicitor with Stephens Scown, attended the Twin Bars annual meetings hosted by Leuven in 2018 and by Rennes in 2019. These conferences are topical and aim to compare legal systems in order to learn from other jurisdictions. For the last two years, the conferences have focused on questions relating to professional regulation. Lucy explains the benefits derived from her involvement with DASLS International Relations Sub-Committee. “Building our worldwide network Attending these conferences is an important part of my professional development – the skills acquired are good for business and good for international relations. Last year, I met fellow IP practitioners from Italy. They explained that they have seen increased demand for advice about accessing the UK market post-Brexit, and were happy to meet someone who they could refer work to if/when the need arises. In turn, I have had the opportunity to refer work abroad with confidence in the person receiving our instructions. This is an essential part of our international practice. I have found that there is immense value in developing friendships, as well as professional relationships, with the foreign lawyers we meet as part of our work. Repeat attendance has meant I have been able to consolidate relationships forged with other junior lawyers from across the EU – our interests and concerns are markedly similar. We stay in touch throughout the year and it is enriching to hear their (often different) perspective on law, qualification, professional ethics and current affairs. “Beyond the office From a personal development perspective, participating in the Sub-Committee has allowed me to travel, meet lawyers in different jurisdictions and engage in comparative law debates (which I enjoy!). I am currently invited to attend the Sub Committee’s meetings as an observer, and have volunteered to assist with the preparation of the June 2020Twin Bars meeting which will be hosted by DASLS to coincide with next year’s Legal Sunday Service.“ SAVE THE DATES Thursday 4 to Sunday 7 June 2020 DASLS will be hosting the meeting of the Twin/International Bars from Thursday 4 to Sunday 7 June which is the date of the annual Legal Service to be held at Exeter Cathedral. Events are being planned to which all DASLS members are welcome to take part. Watch this space! If you would like to receive regular updates from the June 2020 Working Group, contact Monique at DASLS office on 01392 366333 or firstname.lastname@example.org ...
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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