My previous report for the November Newsletter was written just before the CILEx Devon branch Autumn Ball and the DASLS Somerset dinner. Both were most enjoyable. It was a pleasure to attend the ball hosted by Devon Branch Chair Gemma Rowe and to meet, amongst other guests, CILEx National President Philip Sherwood, DVP Craig Tickner and immediate past National President Millicent Grant.
Every aspect of the Somerset dinner held on 2nd November went as well as I was hoping it would. Over 100 member and guests attended and everyone I spoke to appeared to be having a good time. Denis Burn was great company and gave an entertaining insight into his role as High Sheriff of Somerset in his after dinner speech.
In mid-November, I was in Leicester for the national Local Law Societies’ Conference. Leicester President is Bushra Ali. When she first expressed an interest in a career in the Law, she was told she had little chance of fulfilling her ambition, being British-Asian and female. Despite that advice, she now runs her own firm specialising in immigration and family law and has twice won the Leicester Law Society Award for Solicitor of the Year. I find this truly inspiring. Bushra and her team put on an excellent event both in terms of the speakers and topics covered at the conference itself, the drinks reception the evening before and the formal dinner afterwards. The whole event was held in the historic centre of Leicester around the cathedral where the remains of Richard III have recently been reinterred. The City has certainly made the most of the discovery of the King’s remains in 2012. The Richard III Centre which hosted the drinks reception is an impressive modern museum incorporating the site of where the remains were unearthed and is a must visit attraction for anyone with an interest in the War of the Roses.
With Leicester being one of the members of our County Societies’ Group, the conference also provided a conveni...
The latest round of The Law Society’s campaign for gender equality came to town in December with a Men’s Roundtable in Exeter chaired by the national Vice-President Simon Davis. The meeting challenged us to consider our behaviour identifying the unconscious bias that can be inherent in business practice. Start by asking yourself does every activity organised in your office genuinely appeal to all genders – entertaining clients at the Rugby and so forth - and you begin to see the issue.
The meeting proved to be far more informative and interesting than I had anticipated.
At the recent DASLS Admissions Ceremony only one of the recently qualified solicitors was male. The national statistics show that 62% of recently admitted solicitors are women who now represent more than 50% of Practice Certificate holders. Change is here and those firms that will succeed in the future will embrace new ways of working that accommodate the greater diversity in their workforce.
Entries for the 2019 DASLS Legal awards has now closed with more nominations having been made than ever before. The Judges meet in January and a shortlist will be published later in the month when tickets will also be on sale. Twitter followers will know that a menu tasting for the Awards event has taken place. It is shaping up to be a truly memorable experience.
The Social Sub-Committee have been busy and the final Challenge Cup event for the 2018/2019 year is the traditional quiz night on 29th January. It was not possible to run the 5-side-football this year. At the time of writing I have not started setting the questions so look out – plenty of time to come up with some tough rounds.
Best wishes to you all for 2019 which promises to be as interesting as the last two; Monique is looking forward to having settled status!
NOVEMBER 2018 CAPTION COMPETITION
Congratulations to John Busby!
Why did you join the Devon & Somerset Law Society?
As Chair of the Devon CILEx branch, it’s important that there is interaction between our local CILEx Branch and DASLS to enable us to provide feedback from our CILEx branch members and to bring together both groups of lawyers.
During 2018, I attended many of the main DASLS Committee meetings as an observer. I have really enjoyed attending those Committee meetings as it has been a great opportunity to find out how much work the DASLS Committee and Sub-Committees are involved in and to meet those Committee members and attend some of their socials events.
What is your dream job?
A racing car driver!
What has been the most embarrassing moment during your professional career?
I passed out at the start of a scar revision surgery seminar after seeing images of scarring in the presence of several Consultants, two of whom I had wanted to meet in person as I was (and still am) instructing them regularly. Despite working in the personal injury department and sitting down at the time, I apparently slid off my seat onto the floor. I was taken out of the room and asked not to return!
Which sort of work gives you the most job satisfaction?
I act for the injured party in the personal injury department at Ashfords Solicitors, seeking to recover compensation on their behalf. I am always thrilled when I have been able to achieve a good result for the client. Some of my clients have suffered severe accident related injuries, with their effects being lifelong. Whilst compensation is never going to put them physically in the position they were in prior to their accident, the purpose of the compensation is to enable them to have access to the private treatment and care they require and make sure they are financially secure by having funds that will cover all of their past and future financial loss needs.
What gets you up in the morning?
My alarm clock… Unfortunately I am not really an early mo...
In 2018, the trustees revisited the criteria of the award to keep pace with the ever changing process of how candidates qualify to be solicitors. Traditionally and in the case of larger firms, individuals still qualify through university degree and training contract as well as the LPC and PSC from the SRA. It is increasingly common with smaller firms and Local Authorities that people qualify as solicitors through a more vocational route. For example qualification through conversion from CILEX meaning that while individuals have no law degree and did not undertake a training contract in the traditional sense, they have nonetheless undertaken an academic training and received very considerable practical experience in the law such as to satisfy the exacting standards of the SRA in qualifying as a solicitor. In addition, in future years there will be solicitors who qualify through the apprenticeship route. Often such potential candidates will have achieved solicitor status while combining study with work and families and deserve recognition.
Given the original charitable purposes of these trusts, the Trustees want to ake sure they do not overlook such candidates, some of whom may come from backgrounds where they might have needed to work from school rather than pursue academia.
Candidates for this year’s Prize must have been admitted to the Roll during the 12 month period ending on 31 May 2019 and nominated no later than 30th June 2019.
The definition of Somerset for the purposes of the prize, includes Sherborne and the local government administrative areas of Bath and NE Somerset, North Somerset and, of course, Somerset.
Please give full details of the person whom you are nominating and confirm that they are content for their details to be publicised by DASLS including photographs, should they be successful.
Please submit your name and work contact details, title and why you are nominating this person.
It is again the time of year when we invite members of the Society to help DASLS by seeking to join the main Committee and help with the Committee’s work.
The main Committee is at the heart of the work and decision making of the Society 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”.
In order to continue the effective work of the Committee new members are needed, and therefore nominations are requested.
If you would like any further information please do not hesitate to contact the Honorary Secretary Chris Hart.
If you would like to either be nominated or nominate someone for election please complete the form below. This form should please be returned to the Honorary Secretary Chris Hart by no later than 5.30pm on 31 January 2019. The election will take place at the 30th April 2019 AGM at the Exeter Golf & Country Club.
TO: Chris Hart
DASLS Honorary Secretary
Aston Court, Pynes Hill, Exeter EX2 5AZ [DX 8361 Exeter]
I wish to nominate
Full name ……………………………………………………………………………………..
for election to the main Committee and I confirm that the nominee is willing for his/her name to go forward.
Year of Admission of Nominee ………………………..
It took me a long time to stop describing the SRA Handbook, when it was launched in 2011, as the new Handbook and sometimes it is hard to believe that we are now on the 21st incarnation of this rule book, and that is despite the fact that it is not actually a book nor are we talking exclusively about rules. Be that as it may, we are all expected to be familiar with this work but also be ready for change. The SRA would be critical of a firm which was still working with version 1 of the Handbook.
This year – and I sincerely hope that I do not come to regret writing the following words given that the SRA is a notoriously bad timekeeper - we will be expected to ditch the current Handbook and work with the SRA Standards and Regulations instead.
At the time of writing, the official launch date has not been announced. We are told that it is likely to be somewhere between April and July 2019.
Notwithstanding this vagueness, the fact that there will be a new regulatory toolkit means that we must be ready to refresh our ideas, processes and protocols, and even our compliance language, to accommodate the regulatory changes which will be thrust upon us. Have you started to plan for the changes? As a bare minimum, it will be necessary to change the language of internal policies and processes and consider training needs. More deeply, traditional law firms will be working alongside freelance solicitors and solicitors providing legal services in unauthorised businesses. It would be sensible to understand how the firm will work alongside these new types of practices.
One concept that was new in the SRA Handbook 2011, but which has survived the latest regulatory navel-gazing, is the role of the compliance officers and the compliance function in authorised law firms. Do you remember where you were when you first heard about the revolutionary idea of compliance officers? The idea that there would be an authorisation condition stipulating that certain members of th...
DASLS Land Registry Update annual spring event is being held afternoon of 13th March 2019 at Exeter Racecourse.
Representatives from Produce Development and the Customer Division at HM Land Registry will be in attendance to present some news about Digital Mortgage and steps we are taking to improve interactions with customers.
Digital Mortgage is an innovative new approach to how charges are handled and processed. At the presentation, members will hear about the steps taken to date by HM Land Registry in developing this system, and how it’s planned this will be rolled out over time – and the benefits it’s hoped will be delivered by Digital Mortgage, both in terms of ease of use and reduction of fraud.
Members will all be aware about the changes being made to the way HM Land Registry interacts with its customers. You may have heard about our Business Strategy to be “brilliant at the basics”. We’ll be telling you about how we are streamlining our processes to make it easier for you to do business with us. We also want to tell you about the steps that are being taken to reduce the frequency and volume of requisitions. We know these are a costly burden to our customers and prevent HM Land Registry from devoting time to processing applications more quickly - which is vital to you, our customers.
We’ll share information about some of the steps we have been taking to work with our customers to reduce requisitions, though webinars and active customer management. A key element of being brilliant at the basics and making it easier for our customers to use our services is the radical overhaul of our application forms. We’ll tell you about the work that’s being done to create interactive, intelligent e-forms. With the drive to reduce requisitions and the publication of data around requisition rates on Gov.UK, HM Land Registry recognises that many efficiencies in this area can be delivered through up front improvements. We’re currently wor...
By Ian Walker, Mediation Panel Member
We all know that in principle mediation is a good idea. We all know that we have good mediators practising in Devon and Somerset including DASLS civil mediation panel.
However, the flow of good mediation referrals is seldom as good as it should be. As lawyers, we often finding excuses not to refer to mediation. The primary excuse is that if mediation fails, the costs of the mediation will have been wasted. Sometimes there are issues of principle – which need to be determined before serious negotiation can commence.
My own perspective on mediation is that I was trained as a family mediator in 1996 by Henry Brown (co-author of Brown and Marriott – ADR: Principles and practice; perhaps the leading text on the principles of dispute resolution – both civil and family). I was subsequently trained by Henry as a civil mediator. I am also a child law arbitrator – being a member of the CIArb. As a family law solicitor I am the Chair of the Devon region of Resolution (formerly SFLA).
I am currently a member of a working party of the Resolution’s national Dispute Resolution Committee where we are tasked with amending Resolution’s mediation contract – The Agreement to Mediate to incorporate/normalise the combination of mediation with arbitration. Whilst the DASLS mediation panel only deals with civil mediation, the benefits of combining mediation with arbitration are the same.
Combining mediation with arbitration means that if the mediation becomes stuck then the mediation can move seamlessly to arbitration where an arbitrator will make a legally binding decision (the legal basis of arbitration is set out in the Arbitration Act 1996).
We have looked at different models of and have rejected the model of Med-Arb where the mediator becomes the arbitrator. There are good reasons for this but not enough space here.
To combine mediation with arbitration simply requires the parties to sign the arbitr...
Somerset Legal Service 2019
The Legal Service for those connected with the Administration of Justice in Somerset will be held in Wells Cathedral at 11.30 a.m. on Sunday 24th March. During the Service, Mr Johnnie Halliday will be sworn in as High Sheriff, in succession to Mr Denis Burn.
This is an impressive occasion with attendance by the Lord Lieutenant, High Court Judges, Barristers, Solicitors, Mayors, Magistrates, senior members of the Police Force and other dignitaries. Barristers and Solicitors who practise in Somerset are invited to participate in the procession at the start and end of the service.
Those wishing to attend the Legal Service should contact Mr Justin Fudge (JRFudge@somerset.gov.uk) who will be able to provide further information and issue tickets.
Exeter Legal Service 2019
Join us to attend this most important celebration of the legal year in Devon on Sunday 16 June at
Please contact Monique at DASLS office to reserve your ticket.
Email: firstname.lastname@example.org or call on 01392 366333....
There are, undoubtedly, lessons to be learned from Solicitors Regulation Authority (SRA) and Solicitors Disciplinary Tribunal (SDT) decisions but, before considering some of the decisions in detail, we’ll look at recent SRA’s statistics as they’re useful in showing an overview of regulatory trends.
There are 143,702 practising solicitors, the vast majority of whom are hard-working and conscientious, keen to provide the best possible service for their clients. However, when it comes to compliance, it is easy to take your eye off the ball, particularly if your firm can’t afford its own risk and compliance team.
The SRA reports that, in the 2016/2017 year, it received 10,112 reports about solicitors or law firms, 6,045 of which were investigated by its supervision team. One-third of issues related to incompetent or negligent client care and delay. Worryingly, 410 reports concerned the failure to hold qualifying indemnity insurance. Those matters where no action was taken, including many self-reported material breaches, will be kept on file in case a pattern emerges.
The most serious issues are those involving dishonesty and misuse of client funds which were responsible for some 15% of the reports. The SRA took regulatory action in 400 cases, with 117 of the most serious cases being referred to the SDT. Fifty-nine solicitors were struck off and a further eighteen suspended.
During the same year, the SRA intervened into fifty firms with the top three reasons being (unspecified) rule breaches, suspected dishonesty and Accounts Rule breaches. This is the highest it has been for three years but is still less than at the height of the last recession when it reached eighty-nine.
The SRA has not yet produced its report on the 2017/2018 year but analysis of decisions published on its website reveals that regulatory decisions appear to be on the increase. In the twelve months to July 2018, the SRA published 621 decisions alt...
Two words that many of us will remember as the buzzwords from the SRA in 2007 to 2009; the time at which the last recession started to bite in many law firms. Whilst it is true to say that the financial performance of the legal sector today remains buoyant compared with that period we have seen some early signs of instability creeping back into the sector with some more potential challenges on the horizon.
In this article we briefly consider some of the sources of this instability and direct firms to some early actions they might consider taking to reduce the scope for problems developing.
1) Increased partner retirement rates
Challenge: Demographics and to some extent less appetite from individuals to join law firms as equity partners is slowly producing a net outflow of cash. The momentum for this is growing because many partners delayed their retirements after the 2008 recession so there has been more “bunching” of retirements in many firms.
Earlier planning of partner retirement and appointments
Capital funding model to give advance notice to partners of increased capital requirements
Communication with external funders of overall business funding model
Maintaining reliable management information to provide confidence to funding providers and partners of underlying profitability and sustainability.
2) Higher volumes of CFA based work
Challenge: A wider range of work now operates with some degree of conditional fee compared with 2008. This is a trend which is likely to gain further momentum. This has a negative impact on cash flow in the business even if sometimes it can be positive from a profit margin viewpoint.
Controlling the mix of CFA work types with other cash generative work types in the firm
Strong financial information to assess success rates and profitability of CFA matters
Consideration of trading structure to finance lock up
Early review of long term mix of balanc...
Migrating to the cloud has real value for any business
looking to achieve more flexibility, agility and improve cost efficiency. Cloud storage systems also have significant advantages over traditional IT infrastructure when it comes to the safety and security of business IT.
Here are just some of the reasons why your business is safer with the cloud.
Reason 1 - Future proofing your business’ scalability
Swift scalability is essential in today’s fast-changing markets. However, traditional IT systems tend to limit a business to the physical assets available on-site.
When those assets run out, the only option is to install more, which can be costly and time- consuming. By contrast, in the cloud unlimited storage space is available and more server resources can be called upon as and when required — and in a matter of minutes. Cloud servers can scale up or down in response to business change, providing genuine flexibility and a way of controlling the IT infrastructure in place to safely support growth.
Reason 2 - Less susceptible to data loss through disaster
Whether it’s a system failure or a cyber-attack, there are many ways in which a disaster could arise that affects access to mission-critical data. A traditional IT system places all the responsibility for disaster prevention, management and recovery on the in-house team and its limited resources. Often this means that businesses reliant on traditional IT are more susceptible to data loss during disaster situations.
The use of cloud storage for data means that everything is automatically being backed up, sometimes as regularly as at 15-minute intervals. As a result, the potential for data loss is small. Via the cloud, data backup and restore can be initiated from anywhere, even if the business premises have been entirely destroyed. With traditional, on-site systems, if the location is brought down by a disaster then so too is the IT.
Reason 3- Security t...
Our insurance is designed so that it’s much easier for solicitors and executors to insure unoccupied properties on behalf of their clients. It’s also suitable for clients to insure their own homes through us directly, when moving into care or back in with family members.
We’re different from many other unoccupied home insurance providers, in that we don’t require any proof of inspections to provide cover for a property. It may seem a bit too good to be true, but we don’t see it as an essential requirement - it can be highly inconvenient to have to return periodically to a property. Plus, as the solicitor with a duty of care, you may not be located near to the property being covered, or have to arrange for someone else to carry out the inspections.
Due to the particularly niche nature of our insurance, we’re aware that our customers do not always know the full extent of the information regarding the property either. As such, we have created our product with ease of use in mind, with just four questions being asked about the property to be covered:
Approximate year of construction
Number of bedrooms
Type of property (closest match)
Many standard home insurance policies will cover the property for around 30 to 60 days before the cover becomes void or reduced. As our product is designed for properties that may be unoccupied for longer periods of time, the cover can last for 3, 6, 9 or 12 months, whichever is most suitable. Plus, we’re aware that circumstances can change unpredictably, so we offer pro-rata returns on all 9 and 12 month policies.
Whilst inconvenient for solicitors, we felt it particularly unnecessary to ask our direct customers to keep checking back to the property - particularly at a time when they’ve got much bigger concerns on their minds, such as moving a beloved family member into care, or waiting for probate to be granted and the estate to be administered to any beneficiaries. Not requiring inspection...
Author: Tony Rollason,
Back in November, an article was published on the Law Society Gazette’s website that looked at conveyancing and how it was once again bearing the brunt of the overall conversation relating to delays in the property transaction process.
What caught my eye was a focus on what was referred to as ‘property logbooks’ and how the government is “anticipated” to “back these” in order to help speed up the process1.
This conversation came from the UK Finance's Annual Mortgage Conference where the Ministry of Housing, Communities & Local Government was invited to participate in a discussion on ‘digitising the home buying process’.
Logbooks were raised as a potential option, and while the detail on what a logbook would include, it was described as “[providing].. more up front information about their property before it goes on the market to make the homebuying process quicker, cheaper and less stressful.”
Of course, this prompted a flurry of industry responses, with many referring to Home Information Packs and a similarity between the two.
Back in 2007 when HIPs were being introduced, I was vocal with my personal view on HIPs as I felt they were responsible for bringing speculative property listings to a standstill.
From a logbook perspective however, there is a benefit of presenting as much ‘static’ information to prospective buyers as early in the process as possible.
For example, the Property Information Questionnaires form and the Fittings & Contents form could be made available upfront, in addition to the property’s official Property Register/ Title from Land Registry. Then, when an offer is accepted by the vendor, all the key documentation is ready for conveyancers to use, saving time or potential delays.
We are already seeing some estate agents utilise this approach, which brings forward a numb...
Your year of support for Devon Air Ambulance is ending soon,
so we want to say a huge thank you for all that you have done and show you what a difference you have made, by sharing the story of one of our younger patients with you.
Five-year-old Paige lives with a rare condition, Dravet Syndrome, which means she regularly experiences life-threatening seizures requiring swift medical intervention. It also causes many other issues such as developmental delays, speech and balance issues and increased risk of sudden unexpected death in epilepsy (SUDEP).
Because of this, her family and teachers must always be alert to her condition as seizures can strike without warning and, when they do, require urgent medical care to ensure her airway remains open.
In early December 2018, when many school children are counting down the days to Christmas, young Paige had another seizure that brought back harrowing memories for her mother Sam.
Here is her account:
"It brought back so many flashbacks and terrifying memories. Paige had a seizure at school, which quite quickly turned bad when she stopped breathing and needed help with her airway. Two incredible teachers kept her airway open and ventilated her with a bag and mask and oxygen until the Air Ambulance could land and take over.
I never know which way these seizures will go and how much damage the lack of oxygen will do to her brain. I worry that every seizure could be the one that takes her life. Luckily the seizure stopped, and I convinced the crews to let me take her home.
It was five years ago that our lives changed forever, and I remember every detail: who was there and what I was doing, the smells, the voices, the beeping of machines... I remember feeling like I was being suffocated. The room was spinning, and I felt my whole world being ripped apart in front of my eyes.
I watched helplessly as a huge team of doctors and nurses battled for hours to save my little Paige: performing CPR and putting tub...
As 2018 drew to a close, a new year for the Junior Lawyers' Division got off to a festive start following November's AGM and elections.
November saw the election of the new JLD committee; made up of 15 representatives from 7 different law firms based across Devon & Somerset. The elections were held during the JLD AGM, hosted this year at The Monkey Suit in Exeter, which was a well-attended and enjoyable evening. Whilst a small number of committee members return from last year's committee, it is promising to see a high number of new committee members. You can find out more information on this year's committee on the DASLS website.
At the first meeting of the new JLD committee, the JLD's charity of the year for 2018-2019 was unanimously decided. The JLD are very proud to announce that over the course of the next year we will be supporting The Wave Project; a UK-based charity which aims to help young people become more resilient and fulfil their potential through surf therapy and beach schools. You can find out more about The Wave Project at their website.
The new JLD committee hosted their first event in mid-December; a Christmas social event held at the Oddfellows Mulled Wine Tent at Exeter Christmas Market.
There was an excellent turn-out to the event; over thirty junior lawyers came along to socialise and sample a variety of mulled wines and mince pies in a classically wintery atmosphere, complete with saxophonist and fire pit.
The committee meet again in January to begin preparations for a series of social, sporting, educational and charitable events; including the annual 'Approaching Qualification' seminar to be held in in March. Details of upcoming events will be circulated to JLD members in the New Year.
Hannah Porter and Ben Butterworth (Co-Chairs)...
Do you replay scenarios over and over again in your mind?
Do you dream about your client matters and their outcomes?
Do you endlessly go over and over old cases, what you did yesterday, last week, even ten years ago?
Do you find yourself saying ‘If only I had’… ‘I wish I had thought of’… ‘I am sure there is something else I could have done?’
At LawCare we often get calls from lawyers who struggle with overthinking, unable to sleep properly because they go over and over their work in their head. They often ask ‘Am I the only one who does this?’
If this is familiar, know that you are not alone, what you are doing is known as ruminating. Rumination refers to the tendency to repetitively think about the causes, situational factors and consequences of one’s negative emotional experience. Excessive rumination is a form of anxiety that can if left unchecked prove very damaging to mental and physical health.
Lawyers by their very nature strive for perfection; they are superb at looking at all the outcomes, negative and positive. The profession demands an obsession with details and there is no room for mistakes. Combine this with a heavy workload, long hours and a questioning mind and there is a perfect storm for natural overthinkers.
To tackle rumination and overthinking try the following:
Do whatever you like as long as you get moving. Exercise makes it difficult to overthink as you need to concentrate on the physical activity itself and the melatonin, serotonin and endorphin boost will help to combat negative thoughts.
Schedule in time to think
Allow yourself a set amount of time to think about work and then follow it with some time to think positively, daydream or practice some mindfulness. Try the Headspace app.
Interrupt negative thoughts
If you find yourself in a spiral of negative thoughts try to interrupt your thinking with a positive question – ask yourself ‘What if it ...