President of Bristol Law Society,
Becky Moyce at their Annual Dinner
and Awards Ceremony
Since my last review, the shops are full of ghoulish masks, fireworks and Christmas cards. It is difficult to believe that I am now over halfway through my year as your President.
Business has certainly picked up a fast pace since the summer break and over the last few weeks the focus has been very much on the promotion of our 2018 Dinner and Legal Awards. We held our launch event at Somerset County Cricket Club which was attended by sponsors, and potential sponsors, nominators and nominees and our media partners Trinity Mirror South West. Mark Ollier, Partner at Beviss & Beckingsale, last year’s winners of the Law Firm of the Year Award (1-10 partners) spoke with passion and enthusiasm about the positive impact of their award on their firm, its staff and current and new clients. Following his hugely motivational words, I’m sure everyone in the room was inspired to submit an awards entry. Thank you Mark. The launch event was a great platform to highlight the extensive coverage that those associated with the Awards have received, and will continue to receive, in the run up to the evening on Thursday 1st March 2018. With a flood of high calibre entrants this year, I am sure the judges will face a challenging time in shortlisting those nominated. I wish you all success and am certain that those shortlisted will be thoroughly deserving of their selection.
As the Brexit talks and processes progress and continue to divide opinion, it remains important to show the rest of Europe that we are open for business. Whatever your view, the changing times we live in make our profession’s reputation, its integrity, fairness and independence as crucial as ever. I hope that the “Pride in the Profession” promoted by The Law Society will continue to be a key theme for you as we move towards our exit from the European Union and that our relationships with our Europ...
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 (according to the Articles) “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 me.
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 me by no later than 5.30pm on 31 January 2018. The election will take place at the 24th April 2018 AGM.
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 ………………………..
Please return this form by 31 January 2018....
Photograph courtesy of Bridget Batchelor Photography, bridgetbatchelor.com
20 recently qualified solicitors were welcomed into the Solicitors’ Profession
on Monday 9 October at the Guildhall in Exeter.
Penny Scott of Cartridges Law
PENNY Scott, partner at Cartridges Law, has been appointed as Chair of The Law Society’s Family Law Committee.
Penny, who has served on the committee for five years, took up the position this month. The committee is made up of specialist family law solicitors from throughout England and Wales who advise The Law Society on family law policy and development.
She said: ‘It really is a great honour to chair this committee. As well as generally reviewing and ensuring high standards of practice in family law we undertake specific projects - such as examining how family law should look post Brexit, or the development of on-line courts. The role also involves helping to represent the views of family lawyers nationally to policymakers and government.’
Penny, who is a specialist lawyer representing children, professional guardians, parents and grandparents in all types of children law cases, including care proceedings and adoption, will hold the position for three years.
She added: ‘I am very excited about being that bit closer to the decision-making process and being able positively to influence the role of family lawyers in our legal system. At the end of the three years my aim is to ensure people have a sharper idea of what family lawyers can actually do for them, and within society.
‘The committee is currently very London-focused and I think it will benefit from becoming more aware of the activity of its members in the regions.’
Penny qualified as a solicitor in 1995 and she has been Managing Partner of Cartridges Law for the last six years.
The Law Society is the national body which represents, promotes and supports all solicitors, promoting the highest professional standards and the rule of law. Within The Law Society the role of the Family Law Committee is:
to keep under review, and to promote improvements in, family law, practice and procedure, including child care law and procedu...
Once I had got over the shock and pleasure of being nominated for the award of best in house lawyer category by private practice it seemed very quickly that I was at the awards evening at the Exeter Chiefs Rugby Ground.
Fortunately for me on the night of the awards I was very well supported with good friends and work colleagues who all very much wanted me to win the award and were all delighted when my name was announced.
When you work in child protection it is a job that only people that do the same type of work understand. It may not be the best paid job for a lawyer but it is very satisfying to get a good outcome for children and hope that you have made a real difference to their lives so to be appreciated for the job is brilliant.
Working for council and receiving such an accolade meant that the press office was quick in publicising it and I even got a mention in council’s chambers at one of their meetings.
Local Firms of solicitors were very forthcoming with their congratulations.
However after a few weeks it was soon back to normal until I then discovered I had been nominated for the national award too.
The award has not made a difference in my job from day to day but has been a good morale boost.
L-R - Host Joshua Rozenberg QC, Sponsor Conscious, Winner Sara Smith and DASLS President Mark Roome
Electronic search fees do not qualify as disbursements?
The cost of electronic property searches do not qualify as a disbursement for VAT purposes but should be treated as part of the consideration for the supply of legal services.
That was the result of a recent ruling in the first tier tribunal against North West law firm Brabners, resulting in an HMRC VAT assessment of £68,000 being upheld against them. This case should be of significant interest to all law firms providing conveyancing services and recharging fees incurred for property searches, but could also have wider repercussions.
The case revolved around the treatment of electronic property searches procured from provider Searchflow. It appears that Brabners were not being charged any input VAT on the electronic searches which they usually obtained through Searchflow. As a result of that they had no input Tax to offset HMRC’s claim for output Tax on the sale.
HMRC assessed Brabners on the basis that the searches formed only an incidental part of their overall service to their clients, and since the primary supply was taxable, the recharge of the search fees should follow the same treatment as their primary supply.
Brabners, who had applied their treatment based on the guidance provided in The Law Society’s Practice Note on the subject, appealed the decision with the backing of The Law Society.
A key argument put forward by Brabners and The Law Society was that a 1991 concession from HMRC confirmed that postal searches could be treated as disbursements as ‘the fee is charged for the supply of access to the official record and it is the solicitor rather than the client who receives that service’, therefore electronic searches should be treated in the same manner.
This argument was rejected on the basis that the appeal did not concern whether or not the concession for postal searches was right or wrong, and was only looking at the facts of the case. It is unc...
Here today, gone tomorrow? By Sponsor Aon
Some smaller firms still hold the mistaken belief that business continuity is only relevant when you die. Of course, if you have no succession plan in place, then dying will pose a serious business continuity issue for whoever you have lined up to handle your affairs but the vast majority of business continuity risks don’t involve death.
Business continuity is defined in ISO 22301.2012 as the “capability of a business to continue delivery of its services at acceptable predefined levels following a disruptive incident”. The standard is very comprehensive. After all, the standard is recognised in almost every country in the world. Whether it is appropriate for your firm will depend on all the circumstances. What is crucial is that you have a plan so that your practice will survive whatever life throws at it.
Your professional obligations are implied rather than explicit. For example, reading between the lines, Principle 4 requires you to act in the best interests of each client even if the ceilings at your offices have collapsed due to a burst pipe. Principle 5 requires you to provide a proper standard of service to your clients even if the person handling the matter is in hospital recovering from a triple heart by-pass. Principle 6 requires you to maintain the public’s trust even when your systems have been hacked by fraudsters.
More generally, Principle 8 requires you to run your business effectively and in accordance with proper governance and sound financial and risk management principles. If you haven’t implemented a plan that is appropriate to the size and nature of your practice, then it is hard to see how the SRA would think you are compliant.
Some of the Indicative Behaviours (IBs) in the SRA Code of Conduct give a clearer indication of what is required, even though they themselves are not mandatory. For example, if you can identify and monitor business continuity risks inclu...
Unless you’ve been living under a rock for several years, you will have heard people you know speak about the “cloud”. Of course, we’re not speaking about big white fluffy things in the sky, but rather a world of online connectivity which, if used well, can help to increase your business efficiencies. Here are 3 of the best ways how you can use the cloud to your advantage, right now:
Microsoft Office 365
Picture the scene, you’re upscaling, new employees are joining your team and your IT department or support company are hit with a backlog of software installation requests to get them up and running. Sound familiar? With cloud-based Office 365, the days of installing physical software on an individual basis could be long-gone. Employees can simply sign into the Office 365 cloud via a browser and download the most up to date software directly onto their own device. Once signed-in, staff can access their documents across all devices where Office 365 is installed, and new versions download and install in the background, saving time and money.
There are too many benefits to Office 365 to list, but here are some of our favourites:
Real-time, synchronised data: With Office 365, all of your emails, documents and files can be stored across all of your devices in real-time. With the software being cloud-based, all data is backed-up to the cloud, meaning no matter where you are or which device you are on, you can be up and running quickly and easily, simply by signing in to your Office 365 account. Never before has working been so flexible!
Whether you’re working in your office or on the go, you get a familiar, top-of-the-line set of productivity tools. Office applications —always the latest versions—let you create, edit, and share from your PC/Mac or your iOS, Android™, or Windows device with anyone in real time.
Your IT department are set-free: Setting up Office 365 is as easy as signing-in, downloading software and go. No more...
At the risk of saturating everyone with yet more Government Consultation papers it is incumbent upon our Sub-Committee to remind you that the latest SRA consultation paper on the subject of “Transparency” opened on 27 September and expires on 20 December. Please click on this link to download and respond. Whilst most of us feel we may be bashing our heads against a brick wall with these exercises, if nobody sends in a response we will most certainly achieve nothing. Your Non- Contentious Business Sub-Committee, Property Working Group, sent in a detailed response recently to the Government Consultation Paper on “unfair leasehold practices”. And I also know that several of you sent in individual responses to that as well, which can only be good. We will continue to make an input on behalf of our members.
I think that this “transparency” paper is much more over-arching and is part of a wider review by the Competition and Marketing Authority- so not just with conveyancing in mind – your firms may wish to take a broader brush approach.
However, much has been recently discussed about price standardisation within the realm of conveyancing. Yet the SRA state that “they are looking at transparency and apparently not at price standardisation. They state they do not want to interfere in how prices themselves are set. Their approach so far seems to be that, whatever pricing model or approach a firm uses to price its services, the firm will have to publish on line for consumers to look at. The new rules will likely be minimum standards, so firms will be free to add more information and context to differentiate themselves from other solicitor firms and providers. They do not have plans to standardise costs.”*
With this in mind our Sub-Committee are inviting Michael Lonergan to give a presentation early 2018 at Exeter Racecourse to the profession to expand on the SRA’s intentions and The Law Society’s input regarding this initiative. This shoul...
There isn’t anyone I know who wasn’t touched by the incredible sadness of little Charlie Gard’s devastating situation some months ago.
Can any one of us with children of our own even begin to contemplate what it must have been like for Charlie’s parents to have had to endure, beyond the very fact of Charlie’s illness, the endless Court battles that ensued? The answer must be a resounding no. Conversely, those doctors and nurses working in the intensive care unit of Great Ormond Street, painstakingly looking after the sickest of children, could never have contemplated the wrath and anger targeted towards them by the general public after the sad passing of Charlie.
Mr Justice Francis gave his Judgment on the 11th April this year which ends with his procedural note “I have already expressed the opinion that I believe that it would, in all cases like this, be helpful for there to be some form of Issues Resolution Hearing or other form of mediation where the parties can have confidential conversations to see what common ground can be reached between them. I believe that that type of hearing, be it Judge led or some other form of private mediation, would have led to a greater understanding between the parents and the clinical team in this case. I am not saying that it would necessarily have led to a resolution, but I think in many such cases it would and I would like to think that in future cases like this such attempts can be made.”
Whether or not mediation would have been taken up if offered in this case remains unknown, as does the question of whether or not mediation would have assisted the parties had it been offered.
In any litigation however, it is the offering which is vitally important. As lawyers, aren’t we depriving our Clients of ultimate Client care if we don’t always consider whether mediation would assist the parties in settlement of a litigious matter?
Vice Chair, Mediation Sub-Committee, Devon &a...
The Apprenticeship Levy: a new tax or an opportunity to find and nurture talent? For professional services firms, the consideration will be whether this is an operational burden or a chance to broaden their training programmes for future prosperity.
Since the Levy came into force in England in April 2017, all employers with a pay bill exceeding £3m a year (on all earnings that are liable to Class 1 NICs) must now invest 0.5% of that figure in apprenticeships. However, as a sweetener, the scheme comes with a £15,000 offset allowance every tax year, so some firms will effectively pay nothing and receive funding for training.
Use it or lose it
The scheme funding for firms is managed through the Digital Apprenticeship Service online account, with the Levy calculated, reported and paid on a monthly basis to HMRC through the PAYE process (alongside tax and NICs). This money, paid into the account by firms, can then be spent on any qualifying apprenticeship training. But with this money having a 24-month shelf-life, firms are forced to ‘use it or lose it’.
However, there is a rapidly growing roster of official apprenticeship schemes (over 200) covering a wide range of sectors to choose from – although, naturally, there are rules about how the Levy funding can be spent:
It must be spent on apprenticeship training (not apprentice salaries)
Apprenticeships must be real jobs, lasting for a full year (or more), with 20% of time spent on training and including a programme of learning measured against an agreed standard
Training must be delivered by a registered training provider, with apprentices assessed by a registered accreditor
Apprenticeships can be at any level (from basic to postgraduate level), for employees of any age, and at any career stage
Apprenticeships are governed by standards (usually employer-led).
Accounting for success
The Government has a target to reach three million new apprenticeships by 2020. It also wants t...
Richard Morgan a Past President of the Somerset Law Society died on the 10th September aged 71. Richard was born in Taunton where his father was the Second Master at Kings College. Richard went to Radley where he played in the 1st XV Rugby team and also rowed for his school and then onto Bristol University to obtain a Law Degree. At Bristol he continued to play rugger both for the University and the English under 19s as well as rowing there. Sadly his athletic career was to end when he broke his back in an accident involving an armoured car whilst in the Army Officers Training Corps.
On leaving the University he joined the firm of Clarke Willmott & Clarke at Taunton where he was articled to Mr John Close. After studying at Gibson and Weldon at Guildford he passed his qualifying examinations remaining with his firm and later becoming a Partner. He dealt with private client work including commercial conveyancing. He was a keen member of the Somerset Law Society which then had a thriving young members group.
After nearly twelve years suffering health problems, with which he reacted in his unfailing cheerfulness and good humour, he was diagnosed with a large benign brain tumour. This was removed after a 14 hour operation and Richard returned to work later deciding to retire as a Partner and work as a locum for firms in the Taunton area until he was 60.
In his retirement he continued with his interest in the Army Cadet Force rising to the rank of Lt-Colonel. He also played a strong part in local affairs being a Member and later Chairman of his local Parish Council. He was also a very capable singer and sang not only in his Church Choir but also the Taunton Male Voice Choir. Richard leaves behind a widow and two daughters.
Past President of Somerset Law Society...
Dear civil practitioners,
On behalf of HHJ Gore QC, DCJ for Devon and Cornwall, I am writing to let you know that some changes have been made to the directions provided for cases allocated to the Fast Track. These changes have been introduced by the DCJ in order to improve timeliness of these cases. The details will be provided in new allocation orders as of 17th October 2017, but one of the most significant changes will be that cases will be listed at allocation (in the same way the Small Claims cases are).
No changes to allocation directions from Small Claims or Multi Track is being made.
Regards, Johnny Walker
Civil, Family, Tribunals Delivery Manager HMCTS | Exeter and Barnstaple County Courts...
For some the summer months can be a relatively quiet time often interspersed with well-needed holidays whether in sunshine or the rain. By contrast it isn’t traditionally the season for contentious legal pronouncements, which made the surge in commentary (see The Law Society’s Gazette and elsewhere) concerning powers of attorney all the more unexpected, but interesting. Certainly the commentary is worthy of reflection by anyone - solicitors, related professional bodies, or members of the general public interested in the circumstances where individuals can be granted the authority to manage the affairs of others.
The spark to the Summer’s interest were comments made by retired Senior Judge Denzil Lush on the merits of Lasting Powers of Attorney (2.5m of which are currently registered), subsequently picked up by the BBC and other major news-outlets (http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-40887323). These in turn prompted responses from a number of solicitors (for instance see Solicitors for the Elderly Director Karon Walton speaking to the BBC http://www.sfe.legal/industry/media).
What is a power of attorney?
As many readers will already know, a Power of Attorney is a legal document that lets an individual (the ‘donor’) appoint one or more people (known as ‘attorneys’) to make decisions on his or her behalf. According to the Office of the Public Guardian, the purpose of the appointment is to give donors “more control over what happens to you if you have an accident or an illness and can’t make your own decisions” https://www.gov.uk/government/organisations/office-of-the-public-guardian.
Whilst powers of attorney are not exclusive to old age, age is clearly a crucial factor in the rise in related appointments. At the time of the 2011 consensus, individuals aged 65 and above made up 16.4% of the UK population. By 2014 this had increased to 17.7%, whilst by 2024 it is forecast to increase to 19.9% and rising (Source ONS). We are all te...
Our role within the committee is to promote diversity in the legal profession by supporting and encouraging young people to consider joining the profession regardless of their background. For the past two years, the JLD has been working closely with law firms and schools in Devon and Somerset to break down the typical barriers to pursuing a career in law. This was done partly by offering the opportunity to final year GCSE and A-level students to undertake legal work experience with three law firms in Exeter.
How did we promote diversity?
This year the JLD ran an essay competition in local schools in Devon and Somerset. The essay topic was "Should governments be allowed to regulate the internet?” a popular topic in the general press and one which we hoped the students would be able to relate to.
The essays were marked on style, understanding and independent thinking. The whole JLD committee participated in assessing and reviewing the essays. Three winners were selected and offered a work experience placement at Ashfords LLP, Michelmores LLP and Tozers LLP in Exeter.
The work experience placements took place over the student's holidays. We have received some really positive experience from the students:
The first candidate joined Tozers' Property team for a week and was able to experience a broad range of commercial property work.
The second essay competition winner, from Bridgwater, joined Ashfords in Exeter and thoroughly enjoyed his day:
"I profoundly enjoyed the work experience and the variety of departments I had the chance to visit on the day truly proved insightful.
In particular, the visible distinction between the contentious and non-contentious kinds of work conducted by the commercial and planning departments gave me an opportunity to not only see certain areas of law not present in my A level studies (which focus mainly on criminal law) but also to discover what type of legal work fascinates me the most."
The Collaborative Legal Network (CLN) is a referrals and support network for law firms across the South West. The network is run by Michelmores, a Top 100 law firm with headquarters in Exeter and offices in Bristol and London. CLN currently has over 40 members.
The network is designed to benefit firms who are asked by clients to undertake work that they either do not cover or are unable to take on due to a conflict of interest. Rather than the client taking their work to a competitor and then remaining with the other firm in the future, the network enables a firm to refer the client to Michelmores with the confidence that Michelmores will not actively market that client or accept any further work from the client without the referring firm's written consent.
Membership to the network is free, and brings a number of benefits, including:
a specific Service Level Agreement
no lock-in period
a non-poaching agreement
a fee sharing arrangement
a free enquiry line service
discounted Mediation fees.
In return for referring work through CLN, a firm receives a fee share of the work billed and paid during the matter.
Michelmores provides an assurance that the referral firm or the referred client will be contacted on the day the referral is made for an initial discussion. Michelmores, within 48 hours, will confirm whether the matter can be taken on. If, for some reason, Michelmores is unable to deal with the matter then we will discuss with you referring the matter to another member firm (the fee share arrangement will then not apply).
Membership of the network enables member firms to access the resources and support of a larger firm. Michelmores offers member firms a free enquiry line service giving access to an experienced specialist lawyer for perhaps a second opinion on a complicated transaction, or in respect of a tricky HR issue that you may be facing internally. We aim to contact a member firm on the day the enquiry is...
On one level, outcome (7.5) of the current SRA Code seems easily manageable; you must comply with all legislation relevant to your business. Of course you must! Of course we do, no need to be overly concerned about monitoring achievement of this professional duty. The truth is different. This outcome is labour intensive and requires us to be vigilant about new legislation which must be accommodated in compliance and risk management strategies.
Since 2011 there have been several new laws including this year’s Money Laundering Regulations and the Criminal Finances Act in 2017. And of course, we should all be planning for the GDPR which will be implemented without any honeymoon period next year.
In the midst of constant change, what about the legislation which has always been there and always a concern. What about, for example, financial services law? My message about this is simple: understanding financial services matters, ignore at your peril.
The Financial Services and Markets Act 2000 (FSMA), stipulates that no one may carry on financial services regulated activities without being authorised (by the Prudential Regulation Authority or the Financial Conduct Authority) or being able to rely on an exemption. Breach of this requirement can result in criminal offences being committed. The double-whammy for solicitors, or anyone working in an authorised law firm, is the impact that breaking the law will have on their relationship with the SRA.
It is a fact that all but a handful of law firms, which are directly authorised by the FCA, rely on a legislative concession to carry on exempt regulated activities for their clients. This creates a minefield of risk considerations for the compliance team which starts with the need to ensure compliance with the SRA Financial Services (Scope) Rules 2001. Don’t be fooled into thinking this is light touch regulation. The SRA has responsibilities to ensure that their supervision of this area is...
LawCare is celebrating its 20th anniversary this year, and marked the occasion with an afternoon conference in London on 10 October, World Mental Health Day. LawCare has witnessed significant growth and change in the legal profession over those two decades, as organisations start to embrace the mental health agenda and recognise the need to look after those who need support with mental health issues.
We have played our part, moving from being a charity that supported lawyers who had difficulties with alcohol, to one that offers help with issues ranging from stress to depression to anxiety to bullying at work, right across the profession in the UK and Ireland.
Over the last twenty years it has become more acceptable to talk about mental health. When LawCare was set up in 1997 it was difficult for people to get support, or sympathy, and it seemed as if no-one wanted to know. It was felt that those lawyers who had difficulties with alcohol for example, were the authors of their own misfortune, and members of the profession were getting lost as a result.
While there has been a gradual sea change, this has accelerated over the past two years. In the legal profession, this has gone hand-in-hand with what we have seen more widely in society, where celebrities and sportspeople have been talking openly about their mental health issues, the Royal Family joined the Heads Together campaign, and the Government has pledged more support. We have also had campaigns such as This is Me and Time to Change reaching into our profession, as well as the formation of the City Mental Health Alliance, which is currently chaired by Nigel Jones, a partner in London firm Linklaters.
It is very encouraging to see across the profession, from large corporate firms where client pressures and long hours can take their toll, to legal aid practices where cuts and working with vulnerable clients can be difficult, that the mental health agenda is being taken onboard. Particularly t...
Challenge Cup News
5 a side Football:
It all came down to the final deciding game between Tozers and Michelmores, both teams who had won all of their previous matches. However, it was Michelmores that continued their winning streak and won the match 7-3, making sure that they stay well and truly in the running for winning the Challenge Cup again this year. Close second came Tozers, with Pennon coming a respectable third, followed by Trowers & Hamlins in fourth and Wollen Michelmore coming fifth.
Next up is Bowling on Thursday 16th November at 7pm at Ten Pin Bowling Exeter! Teams of 3 cost £30 incl. VAT to include 2 rounds of bowling, a sharing platter and a drink. Email email@example.com to book a team or for more information.
Torquay and District Medical Society
DASLS 2018 Joint meeting with T&DMS will be held on
Thursday 22nd March 2018
at The Imperial Hotel, Park Hill Road, Torquay
with speaker David Southall
Click here for full details including how to reserve a place.
DASLS Christmas Hours
We will be closing at 1pm on Friday 22nd December and reopening at 9am on Monday 2nd January.
We hope all of our members have a lovely Christmas and New Year!