I hope you have all enjoyed your summer holidays. All in all the weather in the south west was very good.
I would be grateful if you could ensure you get your nominations to us for the 2020 Devon and Somerset Legal Awards and raise the profile of the solicitors’ profession. Grow Marketing Group is again working with us to help to give the associated firms and individuals the significant public exposure they deserve. They help us to put together an incredible night in celebration of the legal profession and to showcase the achievements and successes within it. As you will recall the 2020 Annual Dinner is being held at Exeter Cathedral, on the 30th April when we will celebrate and recognise the achievements of those in the legal profession. Don't miss this dazzling occasion.
You will no doubt have seen that we have two new Council members for the South West and Gwent Constituency that we are a part of. Congratulations to Kathryn King and Scott Bowen on their elections. We look forward to receiving their regular updates on Law Society Council matters. I know from my conversations with Kathryn and Scott at our recent Association of South Western Law Societies (ASWLS) AGM that they plan to alternate their attendance at our DASLS meetings to keep you fully informed. Both Kathryn and Scott are to be DASLS ‘interviewees’ of the month in the near future.
Following the ASWLS theme many congratulations to Mel Bevan-Evans for her election as President of ASWLS for the forthcoming year.
Also, a well done to our very own Stephen Mahoney who has recently completed his ASWLS year in office.
Photo of them together airing the ASWLS brand new medal of office.
I must say a big thank you and express this Society’s very best wishes to Rod Mole for over a decade’s commitment as our Council Member at Chancery Lane. We have in fact been lucky enough to have had 13 years of news from the big smoke delivered to us from Rod. We all wish you well ...
We have exciting plans for the launch of our new recruitment service detailed below. We have thought about this for some time given the disruption to the recruitment market by the internet and the change in the way that firms and candidates come together. The result is a new opportunity for DASLS to create a recruitment hub that will support DASLS member firms and organisations to recruit candidates directly.
Our course programme is busy from late September through to November when we will also host our annual Practice Management Conference on 20th November. This year our headline speaker is Matt Massias, a former premier league FA referee who combines his sporting background with innovative and inspirational coaching to support leaders in business. As well as our accountant’s update with Andrew Allen we have sessions dealing with mystery shopping, online reviews and the client experience, ethics and why lawyers need to take them seriously, the future of the modern workplace, the value of lawyers and environmental sustainability in business.
Our In-House Lawyers’ Conference on 17th October has a fantastic line up of speakers dealing with the new SRA Handbook for in-house solicitors, crisis management, employment law, The Law Society’s in-house section and privilege & disclosure.
Our Environmental Sustainability Group would like to hear from any DASLS member who could share their experience of environmentally sensitive practice and/or management. Please talk to me if you can help.
Plans for the 2020 Legal Awards on 30th April at Exeter Cathedral are occupying our time and several sponsors have signed up to date including Commercial IT as our Headline for the second year running, PKF Francis Clark, Lockton, Exeter Racecourse, Magdalen Chambers and Conveyancing Data Services.
EMPLOYMENT REGISTER NEWS
After 25 years of offering a recruitment agency service we are excited to announce that the Employment Register is evolving. From...
GDPR has become part of everyday life but as Tom Chartres-Moore an Associate at Stephens Scown and Director of NuBright explains human error is the greatest risk to professional firms of exposure to a data breach. DASLS members Stephens Scown have worked with the BlueGrass Group to provide a training platform that will help firms improve awareness of how breaches occur.
GDPR is now in full swing, enabling the Information Commissioners Office (ICO), to levy large fines for breaches or for failing to take proper care of customer and personal data. The biggest cause of data breaches is close to home. It’s human error.
The ICO has said that over 85% of breaches are due to human mistakes and professional services firms both large and small are just as susceptible to a breach of GDPR as any other business. It is imperative that GDPR compliant policies and practices are put in place to reduce risk and ensure that the correct course of action is taken in the event of a breach.
Something as simple as email error is, in our experience, one of the most common mistakes made. It could be a case of not blind copying, or it could simply be sending an email to the wrong address. We all know that these things can easily happen, especially when someone is under time pressure or multi-tasking. But if an incident like this leads to the leaking of someone’s personal, sensitive data then the consequences could be serious, however innocent the mistake.
One notable case ruled on by the ICO involved Gloucestershire Police. An officer sent an update email about an alleged victim of child abuse and put recipients names in the ‘to’ field instead of blind copying them. This made all recipients’ names and email addresses visible to all. The force was fined £80,000 by the ICO. Professional services firms deal with sensitive and financial information on a daily basis, so the risk of a data breach is real.
Other common human error issues include staff simply dis...
The SRA is currently conducting the second of its 2 thematic reviews for 2019. It has called for copies of 400 law firms’ risk assessments to assess the extent to which firms are integrating the more-detailed requirements of the 2017 Anti-Money Laundering Regulations.
This follows their first review, reported on in May 2019, into trust and company service providers (TCSP) – a survey of 59 firms only but indicative, nonetheless.
That published review identified a number of stark features:
26 of the 59 firms were referred for disciplinary action (though not for actual money laundering, but for sloppy breaches of the Regulations)
4 firms had no risk assessment at all
24 firms had inadequate risk assessments
20 firms had not specifically addressed TCSP work in their risk assessments
14 firms had no or inadequate file-related risk assessments
21 firms were unable adequately to demonstrate that ongoing monitoring was undertaken
14 firms had inadequate PEP processes in place
17 firms failed to provide training about TCSP work
Only 10 firms had submitted SARs in the last 12 months.
Points to emerge
The pointers for us all to take away from this interim review are
..that we ALL need to revamp our written firm-wide risk assessments to encompass all the factors mentioned in the Regulations, as well as the wider issues revealed by the Treasury Risk Assessment published in October 2017 and further guidance from the SRA thereunder.
The Treasury Risk Assessment, inter alia, proscribed 6 levels of badness, of which the second was ‘unwittingness’, and the view was that most professionals fall into this band of oblivion. We are too busy getting on with the job to stand back an inch or two and adequately assess
the circumstances of the client – including a knowledge of their source of wealth and, more specifically, the source of funds for the transaction
the surrounding instructional context
other parties or ...
What made you want to serve on The Law Society Council?
I have been involved in The Law Society’s Junior Lawyers Division (“JLD”) for a while and have met some incredible people who inspired me to do more for the profession as a whole rather than just the JLD. They opened my eyes to the possibility of serving on Council and although I never dreamed that anyone would vote for me in the election, I am immensely proud to have been proved wrong.
The challenges we face are evolving. The way we work is adapting. Council, in my opinion, also needs to adapt in order to be more representative of the profession and to fulfil its purpose. I hope that I can bring a fresh perspective to Council which will help to achieve this.
What are the key concerns you have at the moment for the legal profession in the South West?
The ‘South West’ is such a large and varied geographical area that there is no ‘one size fits all’ approach, which I think is misunderstood (or at least not fully appreciated) by many. What works well in the Bristol legal market, for example, does not necessarily have the same relevance for the legal market in Barnstaple. Or Exeter. Or Looe. Smaller practices are not getting the support they need to keep up with changes and there is not enough focus on the regions at Council level.
That being said, I think it has been acknowledged that change is necessary and I understand that there is currently a review underway to address the structure and make up of representation.
What is your dream job?
I have wanted to be a lawyer since I was at primary school so have never seriously considered doing anything else, but based on current interests if I wasn’t a solicitor I would probably be a detective or a forensic scientist. I don’t know the first thing about psychology or forensic science - but I like the idea of solving crimes and pursuing the truth. That and the TV dramas make it out to be quite glamourous and reward...
There is usually a belief that underlies every problem that people perceive.
So what are beliefs and where do they come from?
A belief is a statement about reality that you believe to be the truth.
Our initial core beliefs are formed in childhood from parents, teachers and society. We interpret the world every day, through the filter of these core beliefs. I like to call them our personal rule book.
But the beliefs we hold are not necessarily the truth and they stop serving us when they cause us to be, do or have things we don’t want.
Limiting beliefs are often about ourselves, for example, I’m not good enough to be promoted or I’m not sufficiently qualified. So, you don’t put yourself forward for something you want.
Bronnie Ware is a former palliative care giver, who has written a book about the regrets her patients shared with her.
The most common regret was people wishing they had lived a life true to themselves, not a life that others expected of them.
According to Ware, the top five regrets all came down to a lack of courage, because it takes courage to step out and say I don’t care what you think anymore.
So much of people’s lives is shaped by lack of self-belief and fear of failure.
People worry about how they are going to look in front of others and the assumptions or judgements they make about them. They believe what makes them good enough, is having others think well of them.
But what others may think are just their opinion, based upon their beliefs, according to their personal rule book. They are not necessarily the truth and they do not define you, unless you choose to believe them too.
When you let go of what others think of you, good or bad, it empowers you, because you have taken back your personal power.
You can then make decisions that support what you want, because others have ceased to have any power or control over you.
In my experience, it’s difficult t...
And so began the honour of being invited to a Garden Party at Buckingham Palace this summer!
In fact, the surprise of the royal envelope arriving in April, complete with the gold embossed invitation printed on the thickest card imaginable and plenty of detailed instructions for the day, wasn’t unexpected although it was still exciting to open the envelope and read the contents from cover to cover.
Back in January I’d been contacted by Sarah Richards, the Law Society’s Relationship Manager for the South West and Midlands. Quite out of the blue she told me that the Lord Chamberlain’s Office at Buckingham Palace had asked The Law Society to nominate a few solicitors to attend one of the three Buckingham Palace Garden Parties this year and that they’d like to nominate me! To say I was astounded is an understatement, but I was thrilled to be invited and considered it an honour for DASLS and the profession in our neck of the woods. I was asked to indicate in order of preference three afternoon dates in May. I opted for the third and latest of the dates – Wednesday 29th May, thinking that it was likely to be the warmer and sunnier option being closest to June. This turned out to be a mistake!
The date quickly approached and with outfits sorted for my wife Liz and I, and a hotel booked for the evening after, we made our way to London by train for the big day. The forecast mentioned the possibility of a shower or two in the afternoon, so we decided to take two small brollies “just in case”. It had been dry for weeks and the previous two Garden Parties had been bathed in sunshine so surely we’d be fine. London was warm and sunny, and we grabbed some lunch before heading to our hotel to change into our finery. Just as we got to the hotel the cloud was building so we thought we’d better take the brollies even though we really didn’t particularly want them with us. The hotel was close to The Palace and as we left we felt...
From Shylock to Antonio in The Merchant of Venice – “go with me to a notary, seal me there” to Scarlett Johannson’s leather clad notary for Stark Industries in Iron Man 2, the term “notary public” may be used in common parlance, but what on earth does it mean?
With its genesis in the Roman era, the modern-day notary public is a member of the smallest and oldest branch of the legal profession (there are around 770 practising notaries in England and Wales). A notary’s signature and seal of office gives legal authenticity to a document, which can then be relied on by overseas individuals and institutions, so the notarisation therefore is the official fraud deterrent process. Notarised documents often form a vital part of international trade whether the matter relates to overseas property transactions; travel consents; commercial transactions; court proceedings; marrying abroad; work visas or immigration matters - the extent of notarial work is very varied. True globalisation in action.
A notary’s function does not stop at authenticating documents. Many countries require additional validation, which is known as legalisation. An apostille is issued by the Foreign and Commonwealth Office and affixed to the document to prove that the notary is who they say they are. Some countries need even more in terms of further legalisation at the country’s London embassy. Different jurisdictions have different quirks and a good notary will keep up to date with embassy and consulate changes.
Notaries are held in high accountability and are relied on by the public in the exercise of their office, which is recognised globally so it is more than “simply signing” a document or acting as a “professional witness” (as a former colleague once said). Unlike solicitors whose duty is to their client, a notary’s duty is to the whole transaction. Although many notaries are also solicitors, each role is completely independent of the other. Notaries are not ...
As everyone knows the Society ran a very successful Small Claims Mediation scheme between 2002 and 2008 which was brought to an end by the MOJ who substituted its own scheme. However, following the Briggs Report, that scheme has been restricted to cases of up to £3,000 in value and cases over that figure are now being referred to our mediators including cases well outside the Small Claims limit. Initially this was under a Pilot Scheme which started in February 2018 but the Court has now ordered that our scheme shall now become an official part of the court process in the South West!
A document is now appearing on Court notice boards and flyers are being sent to litigants to confirm that the Court Service and our Society have come together to offer a mediation scheme at the County Courts in Devon and Somerset. The courts presently served are Exeter and Barnstaple (and shortly Torbay), and possibly later in Plymouth. The Citizens Advice Bureaux in Devon and Somerset are now aware of this change of direction and our mediators have received enquiries from both North and South Somerset during the past 2 months although it is not yet known whether an extension of the scheme to Somerset will actually take place; so watch this space! This new initiative is largely due to a change of direction by the Judiciary and by the Courts Service and is much to be welcomed.
To date we have undertaken about 12 mediations with a settlement rate of over 80% and there’s no reason to think that this won’t continue thanks to the dedication and skill of the mediators and encouragement from the judges.
It has been a long road but we’re here at last and my grateful thanks go to all who have made this possible.
Now let’s join together and make a success of our ground-breaking scheme.
Mediation Panel Member
To contact DASLS Mediators - Mob. 07840 57 17 53 / firstname.lastname@example.org...
Whilst the Solicitors PII market has become more challenging it is perhaps not quite as hard as people predicted it to be, at the moment. Despite this, with 1st October approaching, things are likely to get even tougher.
There are certain elements and profile of practice whereby the market has hardened, which will naturally have an impact on the pricing that certain firms receive. The worst affected legal practices in terms of premium or rate increases are likely to be those with claims issues or if they are involved in perceived higher risk areas of practice such as Conveyance and Commercial work, even though they themselves may not have experienced any claims.
In the past year, the severity of claims has increased quite dramatically, which has had an impact upon the active underwriter’s mind sets. Prudent underwriters are acutely alive to the potential catastrophe loss that certain areas of practice could create in the event that they were to go wrong. This is slowing down the process, as more questions are being posed by underwriters which means if practices haven’t started looking at their PII renewal yet, then they should do so without further delay.
What is Happening:
Rates - The majority of insurers are either looking to maintain their rate or applying an uplift. If your fees have increased then it is likely that premiums will at least rise in line with this fee growth.
Excess Layer capacity has shrunk for the working layer (the first layer above the compulsory primary insurance) largely due to claim severity. Meaning that this layer of insurance is going to cost practices more to buy than in recent years.
Shrinking appetite and capacity in Lloyds will continue to make the excess layer placements of some of the largest practices even more challenging and difficult to place. Specialised brokers with excess layer facilities will be best placed to support practices with significant towers of Insurance.
Since last Renewa...
Jason Mitchell is a partner at PKF Francis Clark based in its Truro office but working right across Devon and Somerset as well as nationally. A Chartered Accountant and legal specialist within PKF Francis Clark’s own dedicated legal sector division.
Jason has a law industry background and works closely with sole practitioners’ right up to some of the UK’s largest law firms – assisting them to improve their performance, profitability, regulatory compliance and supporting them with various other sector-specific business challenges.
A veteran of 18 years with PKF Francis Clark, Jason works alongside Andrew Allen, a well-known industry figure who leads the firm’s legal sector team. Andrew personally advises law businesses within the UK Top 200 and has, in the past, been fundamental in the production of the DASLS annual Law Society Management Section’s benchmarking survey and currently the LawNet annual financial benchmarking report. Jason regularly speaks at legal events across the South West and says that it is the firm’s practical and wide-ranging specialist legal sector expertise that really sets it apart.
Jason says: “As specialists, we understand the issues that law firms face and find that many of our clients come to us because their previous advisers have lacked the sector specialist knowledge and the regulatory ‘know-how’ to assist them effectively. A very prominent current issue being Rule 14.5 of the SRA Accounts Rules, whereby law firms cannot provide banking facilities to their clients.
“There is a lot of confusion around Rule 14.5 and the regulatory evolution of this rule underlines why law firms need the right expertise to identify, advise and assist where there is a risk of non-compliance. A lack of understanding to spot the compliance risks and applying a tick box ‘everything is fine’ approach can leave a law firm and individuals therein exposed to regulatory action.”
Alongside its specialist complia...
Author: Tony Rollason, Regional Manager –
Legal, Landmark Information
Since becoming Prime Minister, Boris Johnson has stated his intentions of injecting a long-overdue boost in to the UK’s property market.
This is certainly welcome news to everyone – buyers, sellers and the professionals involved in the chain – to help revitalise what is currently a relatively flat market.
The Prime Minister has suggested that he is considering abolishing Stamp Duty on homes worth less than £500,000, which he has been reported as saying is “choking the market”. In doing so, it is reported that around 300,000 property buyers would no longer need to pay the duty – equating to almost three quarters of all residential sales becoming exempt from the charges.
This move, if it were to happen, would help unlock the sub-£500k market. If we look at Government figures from the first quarter of 2019 alone, there were 146,500 reported transactions – of those only 21,400 were for transactions on properties £500,000 or over, showing the impact this change would have.
Any step to rejuvenate the market should be considered and would be welcomed. The next step is to then look at ways the process can be made faster.
In a recent ‘time to sell’ benchmark study1 suggested that, on average, it takes between 129 – 176 days to sell a property. This trend can largely be attributed to the challenging market conditions in the UK residential property sector.
The time it takes to complete a sale has also seen a significant increase since 2016 – except for Scotland and Wales – with all other regions experiencing an upward spike in average timescales. London and the South East are most noticeable with London increasing from just over 150 days to almost 180, according to Rightmove....
Microsoft Windows 7, Windows Server 2008R2 and SBS 2011 are some of the most successful operating systems developed by Microsoft and are still in use in many businesses today throughout the world.
The problem is that it will be the end for Windows 7, Windows Server 2008R2 and SBS 20011 in January 2020, which means that Microsoft will put an end to security updates, bug fixes, and support for all these operating systems.
Although theoretically there is nothing preventing your businesses from utilising these retired operating systems even after their End of Life (EOL) in January 2020, you need to be aware that using an outdated operating system will mean you are vulnerable to Cyber-Attacks.
A large number of small to medium size businesses stayed with Windows XP long after its EOL and subsequently suffered from severe Cyber-Attacks from infamous hackers like the WannaCry ransomware that hit the NHS in 2017 and cost them an estimated £92m. There’s a solid possibility that criminals are already acting on how they can exploit the vulnerabilities produced when Microsoft terminates their extended support period for Windows 7.
Don’t be caught out!
New Malware is generated every day so it’s essential to understand that anyone continuing to use Windows 7 could be more vulnerable. Without regular patches and security updates, you’re basically at the hands of hackers.
Another reason to move away from Windows 7 before the end of life in January 2020 is that if you use 3rd party software such as accounting or practice management software, you could become unsupported. If you need to raise a problem with a software vendor and you are not running supported operating systems, then you could find they will not help you until you have upgraded.
People do not like change, it is natural, especially if it could cost you money! Although when it comes to something important like your operating system, your company and st...
Thursday 22 August 2019 will forever be remembered as the date seventeen brave voyagers congregated at The Quay to embark on a journey along the River Exe to the eternal alcoholic sanctum that is Double Locks.
After receiving instructions and a short but sweet health and safety demonstration from the provider 'Saddles and Paddles', those in attendance took to the water.
In fairness, all canoeists involved would probably agree that the trip up stream was deceptively challenging and not without the odd difficulty. Nevertheless, aside from the occasional river bank collision and a zig-zag approach to navigating the meandering bends of the River Exe, all canoes and their occupants arrived safe and accounted for at their destination where a welcome array of food and beverages was waiting on dry land.
On behalf of the Devon and Somerset Junior Lawyers' Division, thank you to both those who attended, and to Saddles and Paddles who provided the equipment. Until next time!
Next up for the JLD is Pebblebed wine tasting with tapas and pizzas on 26 September 2019.
We also have a joint event with DASLS coming up at the Sandford Brewery – a tour and tasting session not to be missed on 10th October 2019....
LawCare’s Mary Jackson attended the Association of South Western Law Societies AGM on 23 July to talk about creating mentally healthy legal workplaces. The presentation was received enthusiastically and as a result Mary has been invited to some further speaking events in the autumn. There is growing recognition that working in the legal profession is demanding and can contribute to poor mental health. The responsibility lies with us all to encourage greater awareness of wellbeing both for ourselves and our colleagues. To download LawCare’s booklet on Creating Mentally Healthy Workplaces, and for more useful information visit www.lawcare.org.uk/workplace-hub
In this article we look at how to deal with email effectively
Most of us return to a mountain of emails after taking a holiday. Here are our tips on how to handle email effectively and maximise the time spent at your desk.
To avoid distractions disable notifications and schedule times during the day to deal with emails. You could use automatic reply even when in the office indicating email is checked periodically.
Manage your inbox
Keep only things to be dealt with in your inbox. Move everything else into relevant folders, or use categories or flags so that you can find them easily.
Save in draft
To prevent the stress of accidentally sending an email before it’s complete, don’t type the address into the’ To’ field until you are quite sure the email is ready to send.
Change the email subject line as conversations progress, so that it is easy to find if you need to refer to it later.
Keep your cool
Stop and think before sending an email, especially when angry, stressed or busy. You might want to send to yourself or save in draft first.
Ask not to be copied in on all your team’s emails and think twice about using reply all yourself!
Out of office
Set an out of offi...