The year is nearly half way through and I have already had a very busy time.
The Committee is planning for future events and we have already booked the Exeter Cathedral again for our Awards Ceremony and Annual Dinner. I am going to try to persuade the Dean to sing this year after his memorable Grace the last time. I hope he takes requests.
Thanks once again to Grow Marketing Limited for their continued support with the organisation of this event. There will be more about the dinner later in the year.
As you can imagine I have been involved on the Society’s behalf in attending various events. I attended our annual Criminal Law Update in May. I am sad to report that Anthony Edwards is retiring this year as he has hit 3 score years and 10. I have attended his courses for over 20 years and I understand he has been delivering them in one form or another for some 40 years. He has been a true asset to those in need of legal representation and an inspirational role model to young lawyers. As well as being a family man, he set up a thriving law firm, was a court and police station duty solicitor and higher court criminal advocate. On top of that he was a king pin at the national Law Society and he kept the profession and the law makers updated with his views and interpretation of all areas of criminal legislation. Tony on behalf of DASLS I salute you and I wish you every happiness for the future. Goodness knows what his wife will do as he has literally been in court / down the police station for the past 40 years……
Staying on the criminal law theme, I would like to thank all those who attended The Law Society Criminal Roadshow that came to Exeter in May. Views were expressed in an honest and forthright way about the dire state of the criminal justice system. Like Lord Neuberger’s recent comments, there was a clear solidarity expressed by those who attended that if there is not a root and branch review of fees and services then inevitably wholl...
The County Societies Group (CSG) met prior to the recent Presidents’ & Secretaries’ Conference in Chancery Lane and were joined by The Law Society’s Chief Executive Paul Tennant OBE and members of his Regional Management Team (RMT). Paul spoke about his plans to make the national Law Society less London centric and more strident and ambitious in its representation of solicitors. He said the solicitors’ profession was very successful contributing more than £24 Billion to the UK economy including £4 Billion in exports. He saw three main activities for The Law Society: to be the voice of the profession; to support excellence; safeguarding the Rule of Law.
For those not familiar with the CSG the group is made up of Cheshire & North Wales, DASLS, Kent, Leicestershire, Newcastle and Surrey Law societies. We meet three times a year to share ideas and practice and where appropriate to make shared representation to The Law Society, SRA and other bodies.
County Societies Group 14.6.19.
Back Row: L-R- Jon Pitt KLS, Rav Hothi RMT, Christl Hughes LLS, Beth Quinn RMT, Chris Hughill NLS, James Shepherd RMT, Nigel Lyons DASLS, Amy Norman CNWLS, Osian Lloyd-Roberts CNWLS, Deborah Hatton KLS,
Front Row: Paul Tenant OBE, Tony Steiner DASLS, Victoria Clarke SLS.
Due to the very wet start to the summer the Exeter Legal Walk was postponed from 13th June to 20th June when the sun finally decided to make an appearance and teams from DASLS members, CILEx, the voluntary sector and Exeter University made the annual 10k trek around the high spots of Exeter city centre, the banks of the river Exe and the University campus. I was pleased to stand in as lead walker and Sasha (my dog) and I enjoyed a pleasant evening with the other walkers. Over £3,000 was raised towards the South West Legal Support Trust. It is not too late to make a donation: http://www.swlst.org.uk/exeter-legal-walk.html
We are in the process of finalising details for our In-Ho...
Representing DASLS, Lucy Ferrat (Trainee solicitor at Stephens Scown LLP) and Benjamin Thomson (Solicitor at OTB Eveling) attended the International Twin Bars’ Meeting hosted by the Rennes Bar Association on 7-8 June 2019. The conference also welcomed lawyers from Erlangen, Gdańsk, Bilbao, Verona and Leuven. It was an opportunity for the participants to make new acquaintances and to renew relationships built over the last 30 years since the Twin Bars’ Association began in 1989.
The conference related to the comparison of how our profession is regulated across the participating Bars, relying on a case study in two parts to bring the topic to life. Part one of the case study, presented by Benjamin, focused on SRA regulations surrounding registered offices and the use of co-working spaces. Part two, presented by Lucy, explored how the profession’s use of publicity and advertising is regulated. It was a good opportunity for all concerned to practise their French!
Whilst most participating Bars adopted a progressive approach to registered offices and co-working spaces, everyone agreed that the England and Wales had the most liberal provisions regarding publicity and marketing. Many lawyers are still not allowed to advertise their services in the other participating jurisdictions, or are strictly restricted.
The delegates also enjoyed a day-trip to l’Ile d’Arz off the coast of Vannes and a meal at Rennes’ La Fontaine au Perles, where gifts were presented to the Rennes Bar Association.
DASLS will have the pleasure of hosting the conference in 2020, to coincide with Legal Sunday. Lucy extended the invitation to the participating Bars on behalf of DASLS during the closing dinner.
Why did you join Devon & Somerset Law Society?
Several years ago, I was asked by a colleague if I could deputise for him at a meeting of the Practice Management Sub-Committee. I duly went along and somewhat to my surprise was invited back.
I soon found that the Society and the Sub-Committee provided an ideal forum for the exchange of ideas and information as well as providing a wider network of colleagues from across the region.
What is your dream job?
There are several on my list but the one at the top has always been that of a professional race driver.
What has been the most embarrassing moment during your professional career?
I am embarrassed to say that there have been several all of which when recalled bring me out in a cold sweat.
Which sort of work gives you the most job satisfaction?
I am very much a project driven person and there is always a sense of satisfaction when the project is concluded.
What gets you up in the morning?
Normally the dog who seems to think it is his mission in life to get me out of bed and having done so and without showing any sign of remorse return to bed himself and fall immediately back to sleep leaving me to contemplate the day ahead. Thanks for that……
What do you do in your spare time?
When I have the time, I look after my race cars and motorbikes and work on the current restoration project.
What is the most recent film you have seen?
‘Oblivion’ - although it was not a film that was particularly successful at the box office it has a fantastic soundtrack.
Where is your favourite holiday destination?
Antibes in the South of France.
What is your favourite pet?
Well, I have mentioned the dog – ‘Monty’ although there are times (usually early mornings) when I do wonder what he actually brings to the party and the word ‘favourite’ is not one that readily springs to mind!
What is your passion?
I have al...
By Chukumeka Maxwell
Founder/CEO of Action to Prevent Suicide CIC and
Fellow of The School for Social Entrepreneurs and HCPC registered Independent Social Worker & BASW Member
Action to Prevent Suicide CIC have teamed up with DASLS to deliver a two-day Mental Health First Aid course for law firms across Devon / Somerset and beyond on 7th and 8th November at Exeter Racecourse.
About the Trainers:
It will be delivered by a national Trainer Nick Brown, a freelance Trainer & Coach specialising in Suicide Prevention & Mental Health. He has been a Trainer, Counsellor and Facilitator for over 20 years. His background includes working for multinational companies BT and Philips Electronics as a Human Resources Professional. He worked for 10 years at Workability, a Community Mental Health project in Brighton where he developed his passion for helping people in their recovery from Mental Health difficulties.
He has delivered Mental Health First courses (including MHFA Lite) to organisations such as Unilever, Ernst & Young, and NHS England, and to a variety of voluntary/community groups. In addition to being a member of the National Training Team for MHFA England he is an International Training Coach for LivingWorks Education who design and distribute highly effective Suicide Prevention Training. He delivers these courses in the UK and overseas.
He also trains new trainers and coaches them during their first few deliveries. He is a Workplace Associate for MHFA England where he is able to use his background in Human Resource Management and CIPD qualification. To relax he loves walking by the sea, live music events and spending time with family and friends.
He will be accompanied by Debbie Williams who is MHFA qualified instructor. After 35 years in the Fire Service in the South West, Debbie has left this behind to concentrate on working to support those affected by mental ill health and suicide. During her time in the b...
While we are awaiting the Law Society’s considered reaction to the HMRC’s position on the VAT debate, the beleaguered law firm is still pondering about what we ought to be doing in the current uncertain climate.
We all would want to be seen to be doing the correct thing. That would appear to be charging VAT to clients on all the monies we spend for them – searches, counsel’s fees, experts’ fees, bank charges, et al – which we cannot properly call ‘disbursements’ in the aftermath of the Brabners’ decision.
However, in the absence of any clear steer from anyone, many firms are left to decide what to do.
To do nothing risks exacerbating an existing problem of undercharging VAT and the levying of a notice by HMRC requiring us to account for back-VAT which we have not, but should have been, charging.
The other alternative is to simply charge VAT on everything going forward, possibly increasing the VAT liability on the client. This latter option is currently the preference of many firms.
However, simply to charge VAT in the future on something that we have not been charging it on in the past – without more – is tantamount to an admission that what we had been doing before was incorrect – and that we owe HMRC the (uncollected) VAT.
Neither of these solutions is ideal and the HMRC are waiting for someone to admit their past mistakes and are biding their time before pursuing another claim, lest the Tribunal takes a different view from before.
So what should firms do?
Change their terms and conditions.
Then start charging VAT on everything from then on.
A change in the T&Cs should acknowledge the Brabners’ judgement and rectify the position for the future, without compromising the firm’s past activity.
Instead of saying “we will also be incurring disbursements on your behalf, such as searches etc”, instead say “we will also be incurring expenses in connection with your matter, for example in rel...
Mediation is as much an art as a science. The attributes of a good mediator aren’t going to be found in their academic qualifications but in rather less tangible qualities. So what should you be looking out for?
Approachability and credibility – being friendly and professional at the same time is the key. A mediator needs to inspire confidence that they have the professional qualities to get the job done but also convey their concern that they’re working on behalf of your client to get them the outcome they want. Mediators have to be empathic communicators, able to listen actively as well as convey often complex concepts simply and concisely.
Trustworthiness – you and your client have got to trust the mediator at every point of the mediation journey. If you don’t, then you won’t reveal what's really important to you and your client and the mediator just becomes another part of the problem rather than a part of the solution. In civil mediation, your client will not have met the mediator before and so the mediator has limited opportunity to build up that trust; they need to show they are competent, sincere and reliable and above all impartial right from when the initial enquiry comes in.
Tenacity, resilience and patience – there is a moment in most mediations when, even as an experienced mediator, I start doubting this dispute will get resolved. The initial enthusiasm and goodwill at the start of the mediation is met by the reality of their differences. Each party may start to think the other is having a laugh and they begin talking in terms of packing their bags and calling it a day. However, by reminding myself I have been here a hundred times before, I can remain calm on the surface while underneath I will be thinking creatively about how best to use this crisis moment to move things forward.
Flexibility – mediators are sometimes described as “shape-shifters”; they need to keep adapting their approach depending on the diffe...
On the afternoon of Saturday 22nd June I attended my first ‘official’ engagement in my capacity of Deputy Vice President. Deputising for Nigel Lyons I together with my wife Carol attended the High Sherriff of Devon’s Garden Party. Captain Simon Martin took up his role in April of this year since when by his own words his feet have not touched the ground.
Following a week of somewhat unsettled weather the sun duly shone on the event set in absolutely stunning surroundings overlooking Brentor Church. Over 150 guests including seven past High Sheriffs together with two in waiting, the Mayors of Exeter and Plymouth and other dignitaries were in attendance. As we had somewhat anticipated upon our drive across the Moor to the venue, although we recognised a few faces we did not know any of the other invited guests. As we stood in line waiting to be formally introduced we had visions of the scene from Four Weddings and a Funeral when the wedding guest questioned what one should say upon being introduced, thankfully we avoided the words ‘you must be awfully proud’.
Garden overlooking Brentor Church
We elected to take a cautious approach rather than simply launch in to our fellow guests but conversation slowly opened up. Our progress was greatly assisted when it came to light that my wife was distantly related to a fellow guest, the Deputy Chief Constable for Devon and Cornwall, Paul Netherton, so that proved very helpful and opened up several other introductions.
We also spent a good deal of time talking with the High Sheriff's Chaplain, the Reverend Nick Shutt, Arch Deacon of Plymouth. It transpired that Nick had spent his earlier days as a Solicitor practising in Plymouth. The conversation that followed was highly entertaining although on a more serious note he spoke about the challenges that he and the community faced.
Overall an enjoyable afternoon and the first real insight into my next three years.
My thanks to t...
AS THE COFA / PRINCIPAL COULD YOU FULLY EXPLAIN THE CLIENT RECONCILIATION REVIEW PROCESS?
We often see bank reconciliations where the COFA has diligently signed and dated the bottom of the reconciliation to evidence they have reviewed the reconciliation. When completing this sign off our experience tells us that it would be useful if the reviewer considered the following points:
If the SRA asked what I have done to review this reconciliation what would I say?
If the SRA asked me to explain the reconciliation to them would I be able to?
Have I done enough to discharge my obligations as a Manager and / or COFA in the firm?
The following is not exhaustive but may be a useful ‘work programme’ and checklist to help COFA’s or Principals in their work to review bank reconciliations and to ensure they are more comfortable in answering the above questions.
1. Is the client reconciliation a complete 3 way reconciliation
Is there part of the reconciliation which compares the total of client ledger balances from a report generated by the practice management system(1) which is compared with the bank reconciliation balance i.e. the bank statement less outstanding items and lodgements (2) which is finally compared with the trial balance figure for the client account (3).
Many reconciliations only compare items (1) and (2) but ignore item (3) meaning the process is not fully compliant.
2. Review of outstanding payments for cheques older than 3 months
Outstanding cheques over 3 months can be an indication of a number of problem areas including fraud, teeming and lading of client funds as well as instances where client money is incorrectly being held on the office account.
Reviewing old outstanding payments to investigate the reason why the amount has not cleared is an important task for someone reviewing a reconciliation. Often the outcome will identify a breach of the rules which can be corrected or prompt a fee earner to follow up t...
Microsoft’s Power BI can offer your company business intelligence beyond what you might have thought was possible; it is a very powerful tool for the modern business.
The computer systems within your business inevitably hold large amounts of data built up over time, and there are sure to be all sorts of valuable insights and information contained within it.
But unless you are able to analyse it properly, this data is often of very little value.
Huge business potential
However, if you can manipulate this data in such a way that it offers up meaningful information and allows you to spot key trends in your business, then the potential of this data becomes huge.
One problem people often face when trying to draw business intelligence from their data is their systems don’t always give them the information they need. In a lot of cases, reports tend to be static – that is, there is little or no ability to drill down into figures and see alternative views of the data. This means the facts can be difficult to interpret.
Microsoft’s latest range of business analytics tools – called Power BI – has changed all this for the better.
The software produces beautiful looking reports that also offer valuable insights into a business. It gives users reports and graphs on the same page that are easy to understand and can be shared with people across the company.
What’s more, you can add slicers and filters to the information you draw out, so it becomes straightforward to see, for example, how last year’s figures compared to this year, or how one region is performing against another.
On a single screen view, you can see not only the total value of orders, but also the number of orders, and the average value. The tool also allows you to take this information and, for instance, plot the orders on a map, which offers a helpful visual tool for viewing how different geographical areas have performed.
Exeter Legal Walk 2019! – Worth the Wait!
On the 20th June 2019 the South West Legal Support Trust hosted their annual Exeter Legal Walk.
This year, around 60 participants showed their support by taking part in this fundraising event. Unfortunately due to horrid weather conditions the walk had to be postponed for a week but it was well worth the wait. The proceeds of this fundraiser go a long way towards helping the vulnerable gain access to justice.
I was delighted to have been asked to be of one of the lead Walkers for the Exeter Legal Walk to help promote awareness of the SWLST and to raise money for local advice services. It was a really fun walk and also a great opportunity to network and bring together local law firms, citizen advice centres and barristers chambers” – Gemma Rowe Chair CILEx Devon Branch
The Exeter Legal Walk, an after work sponsored 10 km walk, is one of 40 Legal Walks across the country. The Legal Walks aim to bring thousands of justice supporters together to raise funds for local legal advice charities.
Each walker was greeted with a drink provided by Magdalen Chambers
at the University of Exeter Law School
The South West Legal Support Trust forms part of a network of 9 Legal Support Trusts, working in partnership with the Access to Justice Foundation (ATJF), which aims to improve access to justice on a regional basis, ensuring that the most vulnerable gain access to legal advice on issues such as domestic abuse, housing and employment.
Two thirds of the UK population don’t know how to get legal advice and 14 million people who live in poverty can’t afford it.
So far, we have raised over £4,000 for local access to justice causes and hope to raise more!
Anyone can participate in this event and dogs are also welcome on the walk. For more information about next year’s walk please feel free to contact us here.
The South West Legal Support Trust (the Trust) is part o...
On 14 June, the JLD hosted its annual Ball, with a 'Midsummer Night's Dream' theme.
The Ball was held at Reed Hall at Exeter University’s Streatham campus and gave attendees from a wide number of firms across Exeter and beyond the chance to get their glad rags on.
The attendees were greeted by a ‘pimp your prosecco’ stand as well as a business-card-raffle (the winner taking home a bottle of champagne kindly donated by Paragon Costs) and music from The UpCrowd, a local Jazz band.
Entertainment throughout the evening included a game of ‘heads or tails’ as well as a raffle to raise funds for The Wave Project, the JLD's charity of the year.
The JLD would like to thank Bedruthan Hotel and Spa, Exeter Cookery School, Rockfish, Oddfellows, Saddles and Paddles, Exeter Race Course, Hotel Du Vin and Harry's for generously donating raffle prizes.
During the course of the evening, £477.40 was raised for The Wave Project.
The JLD would also like to extent a big thank you to our event sponsors: Foot Anstey, Ashfords, Paragon Costs, Trowers & Hamlins and Colleton Chambers. This support helped make the Devon & Somerset JLD Ball the great success that it was.
Up next for the JLD is the annual rounders match with DASLS! JLD members are invited to get their RSVPs in as soon as possible, so as not to miss this enjoyable evening. RSVPs should be sent to Harry@dasls.com. We look forward to seeing you there!
Jess Clements – Social Secretary
Pictured - a number of the JLD Committee Members at the JLD Ball
Overwhelmed? Mind racing? Can’t sleep? Life in the law can be challenging and sometimes things can get on top of you. Talk to us – we’ve been there.
LawCare is an independent charity offering emotional support to legal professionals in the UK and Ireland through our helpline, peer support network, website, and training and talks to legal organisations. We’ve been supporting lawyers for 21 years. We raise awareness of wellbeing issues across the legal community and tackle stigma surrounding mental health.
Our free and confidential helpline is a safe place to talk without judgement, with calls answered by trained staff and volunteers who have first-hand experience of working in the law. Last year we responded to over 900 calls.
As well as our helpline, LawCare offers one-to-one peer support. We have a network of Peer Supporters, people who work in the legal profession who may have been through difficult times themselves and can offer one-to-one support, friendship and mentoring to helpline callers referred to them.
We have visited hundreds of legal workplaces over the years and we have listened to thousands of legal professionals tell us about the stress, anxiety and depression they are experiencing, which is often caused or exacerbated by a difficult working environment. Lack of support or supervision, an overly critical manager, being undermined after a career break, an unreasonably heavy workload, long hours and sleep deprivation are all very common issues.
Whether you’re support staff feeling burnt out, a young trainee being bullied, a student struggling with the workload, an experienced partner worrying about a mistake you’ve made, a senior lawyer feeling like you’re being pushed out - we’re here to listen.
We are here to help all branches of the legal profession: solicitors, barristers, barrister’s clerks, judges, legal executives, paralegals, trade mark attorneys, patent agents, costs lawyers and their ...