LawCare - Am I the Only One?
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Am I the Only One?
by Mary Jackson, Co-ordinator (Ireland), LawCare
Recently I watched The King’s Speech which I had missed when it first came out. What struck me most vividly was not the king’s speech impediment but his fear; fear of being constantly judged inadequate, of never quite being up to the mark, in the shadow of his older, more articulate brother, and under scrutiny from his father. That set me thinking about the voices staff and volunteers on the LawCare helpline listen to on a daily basis.
Many LawCare helpline callers are very much like the king in the film; afraid and lacking in confidence, often looking for someone else to blame, ashamed of their own perceived sense of inadequacy. Often callers ask “Am I the only one?” “Are there other people like me?” Lawyers often feel it’s important to appear competent and confident, whatever their personal insecurities and inadequacies. It can be reassuring to hear that many professionals feel like our callers – uncertain, anxious, and second-guessing themselves on a daily basis.
The LawCare helpline works because, like the therapist in the film, we endeavour to be non-judgmental, empathetic and keen to build trust.
The helpline is confidential: crucial when a caller is going through a very difficult time. Logue, the speech therapist, was not remotely fazed by his client’s status but keen to help him overcome barriers and progress. We on the helpline are in an extraordinary fiduciary position, not there as judge and jury but there to listen, give support, signpost try to hear what is not being said.
If you are going through a tough time, LawCare’s free and confidential helpline is available on 0800 279 6888 from 9 a...
News from the Devon & Somerset Junior Lawyers' Division
Devon and Somerset Junior Lawyer's Division – 2016 AGM and elections
The Devon and Somerset JLD is many things – a networking group, a voice for junior lawyers in the region and a contributor to change. We bring young lawyers in the region together. We host events introducing junior lawyers to their counterparts in other professions. And we take the opinions of our members to the national JLD to be put to the Law Society, the SRA and the Ministry of Justice on a range of issues.
This year, one of our key areas for development has been diversity. We are keen to carry this through to the elections, and so we are having our biggest push to a range of junior lawyers from Devon and Somerset represented on the 2016/2017 Committee. We would like to invite anyone who falls into our membership criteria* who would like to be involved in the Devon and Somerset JLD to run for election at our AGM on Thursday 10 November 2016.
All positions are voluntary and can be held alongside a busy professional day-job: we all understand that work sometimes has to come first, and everyone will pitch in to keep the workload down. The following positions will be up for election:
Provide support and leadership to all members of the team and liaise with DASLS. The Chair will lead the Committee's meetings and manage the challenges of working with a group of lawyers!
The main point of contact for sponsors of the JLD, the Vice Chair helps to steer projects and events. The Vice Chair will maintain existing relationships with supporters and sponsors and help to find and foster new ones.
Controlling the finances of the Committee and balancing sponsorship, membership fees and ticket prices to ensure our members get best value. This role requires fiscal responsibility!
Keeping the Committee on track by updating the membership records and liaising wi...
Are YOU the weakest link? by SPONSOR - Alchemy
Cyber security is a hot topic at the moment. Hardly surprising since we are seeing both a significant increase in the number of cyber attacks and an increase in the level of sophistication of how such attacks are perpetrated. Fortunately firms are slowly starting to wake up to the realities: that they could be a target and that they need to urgently become cyber resilient.
Law firms are especially vulnerable to cyber attacks since they hold large amounts of highly sensitive client data, yet few firms have a clear strategy to prevent attacks and mitigate their impacts. Even fewer have briefed their staff on the types of cyber attacks that could occur and how to avoid them.
People are a firm’s greatest asset but also the weakest links in its security strategy.
It only takes one click on a malicious link in a phishing email to jeopardise a firm’s security and the security of its client data. One ill-advised click is all it takes to put a firm out of action for hours or even for days.
Several law firms have been the victims of attacks during the past year however most keep silent about it. Whilst commercially understandable, this means their staff have less incentive to stay informed and take steps to avoid cyber attacks. They may even become complacent and think cyber attacks happen to other firms and not to theirs.
YOU could be your firm’s weakest link - whether you’re a senior partner or an unpaid intern.
Do YOU know the answer to any of these questions?
Does your firm have a clear strategy to prevent cyber attacks?
Do you know what that strategy is?
Are you regularly informed about the types of cyber attacks that are prevalent and how to avoid them?
Have you been advised on how to maintain cyber security?
Do you know how resilient your firm is to cyber attacks?
Can you recognise the symptoms of a cyber attack?
Becoming cyber resilient
Funding the right path by Sponsor Barclays
Funding the right path
Manage key risks to make the most of a challenging market, say Andrea Delay and Paul Jarrett from Barclays
Law firms are facing a range of financial pressures as they strive to take on both accountancy firms and other alternative providers making impressive inroads into the profession today.
“We are seeing steady growth in line with the economy, but law firms are still challenged to be innovative and cost effective with clients demanding that they manage to deliver more for less,” says head of professional services at Barclays, Andrea Delay. “However, there’s also some aggressive momentum behind financial incentives for partners to move on from their current firm. The downward pressure on margins from clients, and upward pressure on cashflow to pay for funding future growth in the form of talent, feed in to quite a mix of cash requirements.”
Of course, firms also need to maintain levels of profitability to attract new talent – and all these forces combined demand a cautiously balanced investment strategy – for people, process and premises. “There may be opportunities to use technology to serve clients and add value in new ways, or to move certain activities to lower-cost locations in the UK or overseas,” adds industry director Paul Jarrett (pictured below). “As clients continue to move their own operations on cost grounds, it’s a good opportunity for law firms to review their own arrangements.
They could either reduce that space altogether, or replace traditional offices with increasingly popular open-plan alternatives.”
Investing in the apparatus of agile working for example – helping fee earners to work away from the desk, but around the clock – could well pay for itself through a combination of space savings and more flexible client service.
Risk and reward
The possibilities of lower overheads is something the so-called NewLaw player...
Managing Lock Up - By SPONSOR PKF Francis Clark LLP
FINANCIAL MANAGEMENT - MANAGING LOCK UP
Lock up within a law firm is an essential area in which a practice needs to maintain control to assist in generating cash resources and as part of maintaining their overall financial stability requirements.
What is lock up?
Lock up represents a working capital requirement in a law firm. This is derived from both office balances outstanding and unbilled amounts of time recorded in undertaking a matter to be charged to clients. In essence these are assets / resources due to the practice which will potentially be converted to cash over a period of time.
Office balances outstanding include amounts billed to your clients for fees and disbursements but also for disbursements in which the practice has funded but remain unbilled and not settled from funds held on account in the interim
Unbilled time is often referred to as accrued income or work in progress (WIP) and for lock up purposes should reflect the time recorded at the fee earner’s full charge out rate.
Why is managing lock up important?
In simplistic terms to demonstrate how lock up affects cash resources; a practice will undertake a matter where it may not be possible to bill the client for a lengthy period of time. Over this time frame the law firm will be incurring various related operating costs which are in turn being reflected in the underlying unbilled time generated as the matter progresses.
The operating costs need to be financed from the practice over the course of the matter but no cash is actually received from the client until the unbilled time is converted to a bill of cost and settled. Hence there is a time frame where outgoing cash exceeds incoming cash.
Multiply this scenario by several hundreds of matters and the absolute level of the interim cash requirement can soon become a significant amount. To finance this requirement, funding needs to be obtained which ca...
GET MUDDY TO SUPPORT DASLS
CHARITY OF THE YEAR
North Devon Hospice has been named as
charity of the year for the Devon & Somerset Law Society, as nominated by President Mark Roome.
Having been chosen as charity of the year for the Devon & Somerset Law Society, North Devon Hospice is offering members across the two counties the perfect opportunity to show their support.
Mission:Unbreakable is this year’s most mud-tastic fundraising event, which returns in the autumn after a stunning sell-out debut in 2015. Taking place on Sunday 16th October, it is a commando-style obstacle course set over 10km of punishing terrain. Competitors will have to negotiate miles of mud, marshland, rivers, steep hills and dozens of gruelling obstacles before they reach the finish and can call themselves an ‘Unbreakable’.
The event is once again sponsored by Toller Beattie, the firm of DASLS President Mark Roome. Mark took part in the inaugural event in 2015 and will be back again to take up the challenge this autumn. He is encouraging others from the DASLS to join him. “Taking part in Mission:Unbreakable was an amazing experience,” he said. “We are very lucky to have an event of this calibre in the area, and I was so glad I took up the challenge as part of the Toller Beattie team. The fact we had to put ourselves through the pain and punishment meant we achieved something special together. To do this whilst raising money for North Devon Hospice made it a fantastic day out, and we were proud to have completed the course and helped such a worthy cause.”
The course has been designed with help from Commandos based at RMB Chivenor and will be a real test of the mind as well as the body. Some of the course highlights include an energy-sapping mud crawl under barbed wire, a leap of faith over a raging fire, and the infamous sheep-dip which sees competitors hold their breath through an underwater tunnel.
Ethics Column: Brexit, Compliance and Risk Management
Oakalls Consultancy Limited
Just when we thought we had enough to contemplate with the SRA consultation on regulatory change, along comes Brexit and the legal profession is speculating about what changes will be triggered by the vote out decision. In the short-term I imagine life will continue as normal, but sooner or later, we will not be part of the European Union and that will have a number of consequences.
What does the SRA say? At the moment, it’s a ‘keep calm and carry on’ message. In a brief news release of 24 June, the regulator said: “We, like everyone else, will be looking at the implications of the Brexit vote in general and for the legal market in particular. Any transition will take time and it would be premature to draw any further conclusions at this point. There are of course European lawyers working in firms that we regulate throughout England and Wales who may have questions about their current role or an application to practise. As it stands there is no impact on your ability to practise or apply. We will keep you updated if this position changes in the future.”
But, this ought not be interpreted as a message to do nothing, rely on others to protect our position, or to adopt a head in sand response. The SRA is a risk-based regulator, and that ethos will continue despite the revision of their Handbook which is in the pipeline. This dictates the way in which we are expected to deal with changes; a risk-based response means that there is an expectation that solicitors and authorised firms will be dynamic and react to external influences such as the EU referendum.
So, whilst we do not have many answers as yet, the question is already clear and it is this: is anyone in your firm managing the risk of not being ready for Brexit and is anyone monitoring the legal and political landscape for...
District Judges' Corner - the Briggs Report
District Judge John Collins reviews the recommendations of the Briggs Report.
The Final Report of the Civil Courts Structure review (the Briggs Report) was published on 27 July 2016. It was commissioned by the Lord Chief Justice and the Master of the Rolls in July 2015 to coincide with a programme of reform of the courts by HMCTS which was looking at court structures and judicial processes more generally.
The report is the product of a series of meetings and consideration of written submissions from stakeholders, practitioners and users. The judiciary was also widely consulted and contributed to both the interim and final report.
The key recommendations are:
The creation of an online court designed to be used by ordinary people without assistance of lawyers. The court will have its own set of 'user-friendly' rules and the focus will be on open justice and transparency.
The court will deal with straight forward money claims up to £25,000 from inception. More complicated and complex cases will be transferred to higher courts.
The issue of process will require online access and the completion of data pages through a number of interrogatory stages. This date will be collated and upon completion will generate the creation of a claim form. Early disclosure electronically of documents in support will also be required at issue.
There will be a new cadre of case officers although their title has yet to be decided. (The re-establishment of Registrars for the over 50s amongst you!). They will be officials and senior court lawyers who will assist with functions currently carried out by judges. These will include administrative and non-contentious functions and possibly case management. The proposal is that they will be trained and supervised by judges. Their decisions will be subject to reconsideration by judges on request by a party or parties.
A singe streamlined court will be established to dea...
Legal Awards 2017
THOUGHTS FROM SOME OF THE 2016 WINNERS
The Family Law Company: Janet Chanot's Team reaction to the inaugural Legal Awards
When the inaugural DASLS Awards were announced, we were determined to support them; The Family Law Company has long recognised the importance of having a local Law Society representing our profession in the south west.
Amongst all employees, whatever their role, there is a strong belief in The Family Law Company (TFLC) and the service it provides to clients in need of guidance in this area of law. It therefore felt important to seek recognition for the hard work that everyone at TFLC commits to in this often difficult and demanding area of law.
Jane Chanot’s team works at the grittier end of family law, in particular child abduction, domestic abuse and honour based violence. We believed the team deserved to have their work acknowledged, and should therefore enter the Team of the Year category. The process enabled us to stop and reflect on the importance of the work they carry out, and the commitment of everyone in the team.
TFLC’s overarching ethos is to find workable solutions that help families to overcome problems with the least stress possible, and the submission looked at the work of the team over the past year including specific initiatives undertaken in the Exeter and Plymouth branches requiring innovative ways of working. It also highlighted smaller – but equally important - initiatives implemented by individuals, such as learning sign language to offer the deaf community a better service.
The ability of the team to handle difficult cases, both in this country and overseas, was another important element of the submission. A lot of what this team does is based around protecting individuals, including children, and it can be very challenging work. However, this is a strong team and a cohesive one. Often the information they handle is so sensitive that no-one else in the company ca...
A warm welcome back after the summer break.
Although this review is a little shorter than for other months, that shouldn’t make you think that less is happening with DASLS.
We still remain active, and continue to represent, promote and support the membership, even though half the profession seems to have upped sticks and moved to warm climes for the summer months.
Most have now arrived back on native shores, with some having been hounded to return by our Euro cousins! The people from across the water, or those I have spoken to at least, still can’t believe we decided to leave – but there you go.
Brexit remains high on the agenda, although the detail still has to filter down. No doubt Teresa May will give a clearer steer on Article 50 in the coming months, although there seems to be something of a constitutional wrangle over where it is for the Prime Minister/Government using royal prerogative to trigger Article 50, or if there is a need for full parliamentary approval from both Houses, meaning that a debate and vote would be required. Time will tell, but I can see the lawyers getting their teeth stuck in, even before the starter’s gun has gone off.
In contrast to the uncertainty over Brexit, was the complete certainty of how fantastic the GB Olympics Team was in Rio. A truly remarkable feat to beat China into second place in the medals haul, and also surpass our tally from London 2012.
I know sport and law don’t always mix, but I think we can all take inspiration from the commitment shown by our athletes – a truly remarkable feat. And of course our esteemed Honorary Secretary, Chris Hart, was himself out in Rio performing an arbitration role. Welcome home Chris.
As you know, the 2017 Legal Awards and Annual Dinner takes place on 2nd March next year at Sandy Park, Exeter, and competition is likely to be high. So I urge you all to start preparing your entries ea...