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.
DASLS Admissions Ceremony on 14 October 2019, Exeter Guildhall
Photograph courtesy of Bridget Batchelor Photography - bridgetbatchelor.com
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 a...
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 al...
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.
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. W...
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?
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 promoti...
In this article Jason Mitchell considers one of the most controversial changes within the new SRA Accounts Rules 2019 coming into force on the 25th November 2019 relating to clients’ own bank accounts operated from within the law firm.
So what are the requirements of the new rule 10.1 surrounding client’s own bank accounts?
Under the new rules the definition of client money includes money held or received as a trustee or as the holder of a specified office or appointment, such as donee of a power of attorney, Court of Protection deputy or trustee of an occupational pension scheme.
Rule 10 .1 states the main body of the new accounts rules do not apply for clients’ own accounts except for rules 8.2 to 8.4 covering the accounting records and states:
8.2) You obtain, at least every five weeks, statements from banks, building societies and other financial institutions for all client accounts and business accounts held or operated by you.
8.3) You complete at least every five weeks, for all client accounts held or operated by you, a reconciliation of the bank or building society statement balance with the cash book balance and the client ledger total, a record of which must be signed off by the COFA or a manager of the firm. You should promptly investigate and resolve any differences shown by the reconciliation.
8.4) You keep readily accessible a central record of all bills or other written notifications of costs given by you.
So what is the issue with the changes?
You will notice from the above that rules 8.2 and 8.3 covers the three-way reconciliations requirements which firms and their COFAs should already be fully converse with as part of their duties. Within this process this will now require the inclusion of clients’ own bank accounts.
To be able to include the client’s own account within the three way client account reconciliation process, this would need to be fully integrated into the client accounting record...
As the year draws to a close it seemed like a good time to reflect on some of the issues discussed at our Professional Services Conference at the end of last year – topics that continue to preoccupy all the professions.
Responding to the shift in client demands
There’s no doubt the environment in which professional services firms operate is rapidly evolving.
John Cleland, Managing Director of law firm Pinsent Masons, told our conference he believes change isn’t just linked to market-disrupting technology, but also the changing demands of clients.
This shift in clients’ expectations – towards technology-enabled, more responsive services – was a key theme at the conference. While professional services firms may sometimes be uncomfortable with the sheer pace of change, the needs of clients must come first.
Responding to that challenge should begin with understanding how change is affecting your clients. Given that they are also having to embrace new technology, it’s essential firms understand these emerging technologies, the way they interlink and, crucially, their impact on clients’ businesses and advisory needs.
As a major buyer of professional services, Barclays can provide some useful insights on this. For example, at Barclays we feel that as clients become more sophisticated and demanding, the balance of power is shifting from the law firm to the client and, in particular, away from the ‘magic circle’ and larger firms. “We don’t just want a law firm, we want a solution provider.”
That may be a challenging concept for some – but it also opens up huge opportunities for smaller, agile and progressive niche firms.
One of the ways that some firms are responding to change in today’s increasingly complex commercial environment is by developing an ‘innovative culture’ to capitalise on disruptive technology.
This should start from the top. John Cleland believes that senior...
by Chris Loaring, Managing Director, Landmark Information (Legal)
As the sustainability agenda becomes more deep-rooted in our political, regulatory, social and environmental consciousness, brownfield land development continues to take a more prominent role in the UK’s redevelopment plans.
With Housing Minister, Esther McVey, recently welcoming more brownfield land development as a way of Government meeting its housing pledge, the Campaign to Protect Rural England (CPRE) has estimated that around 1.8 million new homes are viable, on approximately 35,000 hectares of brownfield land across England and Wales.
Given the Government’s commitment to deliver 300,000 new homes per year, and the challenges identified in doing so raised by the Letwin Review of 2018, brownfield redevelopment is a viable option, which is of course good news for the country’s greenbelt.
While there are many positives around brownfield redevelopment, there are inherent risks that need careful and well considered management to ensure homeowners, or those purchasing properties, are not exposed to significant land remediation costs should historical contaminants be present.
The regulatory and health risks associated with contaminated land are a critical consideration for any brownfield project of the future, and also for those existing residential properties that find themselves located on land associated with our vast industrial heritage.
Some of the largest and most recent brownfield redevelopment projects attest to the magnitude of these risks, with the Avenue Coking Works in Chesterfield providing a compelling example. This facility operated from the 1950s, producing at its peak three million pounds of coke and 27 million cubic feet of gas per day. This benefited the economy however the impact on the underlying ground was a legacy of contamination.
Remediation and clean up began in the late 1990s and is estimated to have co...
Please help shape the future of your local Law Society.
The main Committee is at the heart of the work and decision making of DASLS and also helps to co-ordinate the important work of the many Sub-Committees. As a result membership of the main Committee can make a real difference to the Society and to the working life of solicitors across our two counties.
The Committee is made up of the Officers of the Society together with (see Articles §7.1.5) “not less than 10 or more than 40 elected members”.
If you would like any further information please contact the Honorary Secretary Chris Hart. - email@example.com
Elections will take place at the 28 April 2020 AGM at the Exeter Golf & Country Club.
Contact DASLS office on 01392 366333 or email firstname.lastname@example.org if you would like further information. Click below for the nomination form which must be completed and returned by 31 January 2020.
2nd October 2019 marked my 30-year work anniversary! I thought I would take this opportunity, as I’m often asked, to explain what I do. My partner is under the impression that I just open the odd letter between meetings and posh meals out!
My role is mostly admin, hence my title. I look after DASLS Officers, service the main Committee and a number of Sub-Committees (Executive, Vice President, Contentious Business, International Relations and Non-Contentious Business) as well as the Legal Awards Working Group since 2014. I also maintain the membership database and process the annual membership renewal, organise a number of social functions, deal with the AGM reports, Newsletters and more. There is a full job description that I can email if any member is interested.
2020 promises to be an exciting year. Firstly, the Legal Awards Ceremony & Dinner returning to Exeter Cathedral on 30 April.
Then on 4-7 June DASLS will be hosting the Twin/International Bars meeting culminating with the Legal Sunday Service on 7 June – mark these dates in your diary.
I have had the fortune to have been involved in this valuable aspect of DASLS work since 1990 and assisted the various working groups preparing all the meetings hosted by the Society in 1992, 1996, 2000, 2004, 2008 and with Gdańsk, Verona and Bilbao joining the initial twinned core group of the bars of Erlangen, Leuven and Rennes, the rotation became 2013 and 2020. Cross border issues have been and will continue to impact on lawyers’ work. I receive requests for international contacts regularly and DASLS current network is a valuable tool. We are currently updating DASLS International Business Database to market DASLS members with not only our Twin Bars but more widely throughout Europe. If any members would like to be included, email me with contact details (bear in mind all will be public on DASLS website) with area(s) of practice and language(s) spoken.
The job created back in 1989 was t...
Like any effective Management Consulting Firm we love a good problem and in this article we want to look beyond the more common benefits of professional levels of management practices (cost & quality control, risk mitigation, effective use of resources, employee emotional health, etc. etc.) and explore how important customer satisfaction is for the success of a firm.
Failure in delivering customer satisfaction is the single biggest issue why clients leave their law firm. One study found that as many as 67% simply leave because of an attitude of indifference from their lawyer and law firm staff. Furthermore, customer satisfaction is, at its core, the most effective factor in a successful professional services growth strategy. Not only will well-served clients return with further business opportunities but more importantly they will share their experiences within their social circles. Particularly in the legal sector where clients typically choose their legal support by reputation, specialism and price (in that order) the impact of “word of mouth” is not to be underestimated.
To underline this point, research shows that the cost of winning a new client tends to be 10 times greater than the cost of retaining an existing customer and that the chances of selling to existing customers is 3.5 - 12 times higher than to new customers.
From a client’s perspective, despite successful outcomes they are often left feeling embittered about their experience due to an eroded level of trust that has been created by a lack of:
Timely notification of significant risks and an agreement on a mitigation and/or fall-back plan
Proactive and regular progress updates
Timely agreements on changed scope and therefore changed time and cost estimations
Clearly demonstrated ownership of their matter and an available path for escalations
A feedback loop where the client’s perspective on performance is actively being requested
So, as I report to you upon my visit to the City of Leuven for the annual Opening of the Bar of Leuven I suspect you are thinking that the title of my report would refer to that ‘B’ word which should not be spoken. Well, you would be wrong, although there was to be many discussions surrounding the ‘B’ word during the weekend the main topic of conversation related to the high probability of one or more of us being run into by the myriad of bicycles being peddled around the city. If, as the song goes there are nine million bicycles in Beijing, then the City of Leuven runs a pretty close second!
Anyway, back to the visit. The Opening Ceremony was due to take place at a converted Monastery about 10km outside of the city. A coach had been arranged to take us to the venue. We were asked what time we would like to catch the coach back to Leuven the options being 1.00 a.m. or 3.00 a.m. As it was now only 4 p.m. you could be forgiven for thinking that this was going to be a long night!
Upon our arrival we were warmly greeted by our hosts and we quickly became acquainted with our fellow guests who had travelled in from Rotterdam, Cologne and Luxembourg. The opening ceremony then got underway and it was at this precise moment that I encountered my first problem of the weekend. Now, my ability to converse in English is not bad and is followed closely behind with my grasp of French but Dutch, I fear not. There followed a two-hour opening ceremony all of which was delivered in Dutch. My survival instincts told me that if I clapped when the audience clapped and laughed when they did I should get through it. After the Ceremony had concluded, I was relieved to hear from several of my fellow guests that they had also gone into the same survival mode.
Following a drinks reception during the course of which attendee numbers grew significantly we were invited to dinner, a formal affair which was held in the Church which formed part of the o...
DASLS Panel of Mediators put on a training event at Exeter University on the 7th October as part of their promotion of Mediation Awareness Week. The training was timed perfectly as the students were preparing for the ICC International Commercial Mediation Competition which is taking place in Paris in February 2020.
John Loram began by having two students undertake a challenge while blindfolded. John placed a pen between them which the students held using one forefinger each. John explained he was merely placing the pen between their fingers, it was up to them what they did with the pen. They both moved around at first quite nervously but soon became quite confident despite their blindfolds. When they dropped the pen John would pick it up, but off they went again until eventually, after they spoke openly between them, they managed to mirror each other's movements to keep the pen moving intact between their fingertips. This put the role of a mediator into perspective – they don’t dictate the conversation, they get the conversation started and during difficult periods get the conversation back on track.
We then watched a video of a mediation Jeremy Ferguson had conducted. This was extremely interesting to watch, particularly as the students (including me!) had never actually seen a real mediation before. It demonstrated how a mediator has to think on their feet, particularly if like Jeremy, they hadn’t had an opportunity to read the paperwork beforehand.
The second half of the seminar saw the students undertake a mock mediation in which I was able to participate. The students were excellent, all but one of the groups managed to reach an agreement where they decided they needed a Judge to assist as they were unable to reach an agreement.
In my particular group, I thought the student mediator did an excellent job of managing our (some would say difficult) characters, and I believe the students are set for success at their up and coming ...
The Personal Support Unit (PSU) will in future be known as Support Through Court.
The new name, coinciding with the charity’s 18th birthday, is designed to convey more effectively the service the charity offers, which is increasingly vital at a time of extensive cuts to legal aid.
The charity has a rebranded service leaflet to pass on to any litigant in person in need of assistance. As noted on the leaflet, we are now able to provide support for LiPs with hearings in Torquay County Court (by appointment).
To request printed copies of the leaflet and for any Support Through Court queries please contact Matt Bass on email@example.com or 01392 415 335.
Click here to see the leaflet....
JLD Update: October 2019
The JLD kicked off October with a fantastic mixed event with DASLS at Sandford Brewery. This event included a tour of the cider works as well as numerous tastings and finally a round of pizzas to soak it all up.
All of the ciders made by Sandford only use apples grown within 30 miles of the press itself. Well known Sandford options which you may have seen at your local include Devon Red and Red Mist.
A firm favourite tasting for the group was the General. This being their finest vintage cider which is aged in their mighty 100 year old oak vat nicknamed ‘The General,’ pictured here.
It was a fantastic evening and we would recommend that anyone who gets the chance visits Crediton to see the cider works in action.
Members of the JLD who had recently qualified as Solicitors and been proudly admitted to the Roll, as well as those who were due to do so in the coming weeks, were honoured at the DASLS Admissions Ceremony on 14 October. The ceremony took place at Exeter Guildhall, with speeches from DASLS President Nigel Lyons and His Honour Judge Edward Richards. Members were presented with certificates congratulating them on their qualification, and celebrated the occasion with friends and family.
On 24 October, the JLD Charity Quiz was a roaring success with teams from a number of local firms battling it out to win as well as help raise the final pennies for our charity of the year, The Wave Project. A fantastic £1,049.40 was raised over this year for The Wave Project and their quiz team were presented the cheque for this sum on the night.
A big congratulations to Alara, Hazel, Amy, Dave and John from Stephens Scown for taking the JLD 2019 Quiz throne.
Coming up! The JLD will be hosting its AGM and Elections evening at Oddfellows Bar, Exeter, on Thursday 7 November from 6:00pm. If you would be interesting in running for election to the JLD Committee for 2019/20, please co...
Many of us will take time off over Christmas but it can be very difficult to switch off, especially when technology has made it so easy for us to stay connected. Here are our tips to make your break as relaxing as possible.
Discuss your workload with colleagues; if the office is open whilst you are off find out who will be covering your work - it might be best to pass your work over to several people. Let clients know as early as possible that you are taking some time off and who they should ask for in your absence.
Use the last day or two before your holiday to clear the decks, put ongoing work into a holding pattern, and update clients on the progress of their matter. Let people know whether you can be contacted, and under what circumstances - don’t say you will be checking email if you don’t want to, or will be unable to. We suggest leaving your work phone and laptop in a drawer at home so the temptation isn’t there. It’s not a break if you are mentally still in the office, and you will be better at your job if you return to work refreshed and well rested.
If you must check email whilst on annual leave, disable email notifications so you don’t pick up your phone every few minutes, and don’t carry your work phone around with you. You could ask a colleague to forward anything really urgent to your personal email address so you don’t need to look at all the other emails, or set certain times aside to check your inbox. If you are going away for Christmas remember there may not be Wi-Fi or 4G where you are going, and different time zones may make it difficult replying to emails.
Out of office
Set an out of office and voicemail while you are on holiday – if you are worried about an avalanche of emails on your return ask for important emails to be resent after you get back, or you might want to say you will be back a day or two later than you actually are to give you t...
“Step One Charity launches its Thriving Workplace project to help employers support mental health and wellbeing”
2019 has been as busy as ever for Step One Charity, and as we head towards the end of the year we are excited to launch our “Thriving Workplace” project.
As a leading regional charity promoting Mental Health and Wellbeing we are now looking to help employers create a positive culture within workplaces where we can all talk freely about mental health and seek support when we need it.
Did you know?
- Approximately 15.4million working days were lost in 2017/2018 due to work related stress, depression and anxiety (Health and Safety Executive 2018). Many professionals are, in the words of the 2017 Stevenson Farmer Review of mental health and employers, ‘surviving not thriving’.
The most recent ‘Mental Health at Work 2019 Report’ suggests that progress is being made to improve mental health in the workplace, with evidence of increased awareness and positive action – key findings include:
Two in five (39%) of UK workers report experiencing poor mental health symptoms related to work in the last year.
More than six in ten (62%) managers said that they have had to put organisational interests above staff wellbeing.
52% of those who experience mental health problems related to work say this is due to pressure such as too many priorities or targets.
The Thriving Workplace project aims to equip people with the skills they need to support their own and others’ wellbeing at work. For organisations considering training staff in Mental Health Awareness, or appointing qualified Mental Health First Aid ‘champions’, Step One can help. We now offer a range of courses and activities to suit time constraints and different requirements. With 80 years’ experience delivering mental health and employability services, and trainers who have lived experience of poor mental health - our training provides ...