This year really is flying by. I have just had my birthday.
After updating you previously on the excellent catch up I had with the Law Society CEO Paul Tennant on his visit to the south west last November, I had not expected to be back in touch with him quite so soon.
Sadly, this time it was in less happy circumstances.
I was, like many of you, shocked and saddened in January to hear the news and see the pictures of the substantial fire at Chancery Lane in London. I have emailed Paul Tennant and James Shepherd, our Law Society Relationship Management Executive, to send our best wishes and we are hoping that the building will be back to full use very soon.
As I write this report, preparations are in full swing for the 2020 DASLS Legal Awards & Dinner. As you know the Annual Dinner is being held again this year at Exeter Cathedral. The event is to take place on the 30th April 2020. After the success of last year, we are hoping that once again the event is sold out which would mean we will have around 480 people attending. If you have not done so already, please contact Llew Nicholls and the team at our Awards partners ‘Grow Marketing’ who have worked very hard alongside our very own Tony and Monique to achieve full sponsorship of this event.
You can contact Llew to book the remaining places by emailing Llew directly at Llew@growmarketinguk.com. There have been more nominations than ever before with more entries making the short list. Please do not miss this dazzling occasion.
You will all have received DASLS latest 2020 training courses programme. Tony Steiner and the team have worked hard to arrange these events. You will see that as members you get preferential rates and if appropriate reduced rates for multiple attendees from your firms. Please take advantage of these services as a proportion of the monies do go to support our Society’s broad continuing education offering.
If I do not see you individ...
The first big social event of the year was the annual DASLS Quiz which is the grand finale of the Challenge Cup. It is an event I thoroughly enjoy and I make no apology for making it a bit challenging.
This year did not disappoint there being just ½ point between first and second place and resulting in joint winners of the Challenge Cup. Congratulations to Ashfords and Michelmores both of whom knew that the study of birds’ eggs is Oology. The next Challenge Cup kicks off with the usual Skittles match in Dawlish when the magnificent Skittles Cup will be contested.
The latest meeting of the County Societies Group took place in February when we were guests of the SRA in Birmingham. DASLS Deputy Vice-President Adrian Richards and I attended. We were welcomed by their Chief Executive Paul Philip who set out some key messages around SRA activity emphasising their desire for light touch engagement with solicitors and good channels of communication. He said that the SRA was working well with The Law Society and was focused on creating an environment where solicitors could be innovative and use the latest in technology. AML is a key area of activity and following the appointment of the new Chair, Anna Bradley, they are working to provide better customer care. He also explained that until now the SRA had not taken any position on issues such as Access to Justice, Rule of Law and Advice Deserts. They were considering looking at, and taking a position on, one or two of these issues each year. There followed several presentations by senior staff at the SRA dealing with Enforcement Strategy and reporting concerns; Customer information – Transparency Rules and clickable logo.; the SQE and Anti-Money Laundering. Comprehensive slides were produced to accompany each presentation which I will forward together with my notes to any member who wishes to see them. Just email me —firstname.lastname@example.org. There followed an interesting tour of the building. SRA have around 600 ...
You may know that DASLS is fortunate to be twinned with Bilbao, Erlangen, Gdańsk, Leuven, Rennes and Verona. Such twinning arrangements underpin a sense that we belong to one community of values on the basis that these relationships are based on reciprocity. Each year, we meet to discuss and debate important legal issues of the day, whilst discovering the cultures and languages of our partners. 2020 is DASLS turn to host such an event, which will be rounded off with the Sunday Legal Service at Exeter Cathedral on 7 June 2020 and to which DASLS members are cordially invited!
The subject of our conference (on 5 June at County Hall in Exeter) will be around the impact of artificial intelligence (AI) in the sphere of human rights. Rather than understanding AI in terms of a terrifying post-apocalyptic vision of a world controlled by robots, AI features in our everyday lives from Alexa and smart home devices to controversial facial recognition technologies and even Uber! AI is built by lines of code called algorithms. Put simply, an algorithm is a step by step method of solving a problem and is commonly used for data processing and calculation. However, the use of automated data processing techniques in public and private sectors, especially by internet platforms and its impact on the exercise of human rights is somewhat of a hot topic.
When it comes to AI, there is a focus on the usage of huge datasets. AI bias means when an algorithm produces results that may be prejudiced due to erroneous assumptions in the machine learning process and the data used to train the algorithm by data scientists. Bias runs deep in humans and it can be unconscious in nature. AI systems are created by individuals who have their own unique experiences and blind spots all of which can lead to fundamentally biased systems. This issue is compounded by the fact that those responsible for AI (including its deployment and training) may not be representative of society. Accordingly, unfair...
New AML Regulations and the pursuit of the beneficial owner.
The new Money Laundering & Terrorist Finance (Amendment) Regulations 2019 which came into force on 10 January have modified a number of aspects of the 2017 AML Regulations, with which we have been complying for some time. However, many firms’ procedures hark back to the earlier days of the 2007 Regulations and have not been modified or updated much over recent years.
This article seeks to set out what the new Regulations in fact require, and the steps we should be taking in relevant cases.
It has been true for some time that the ultimate aim of all the regulatory rules is transparency – it has always been the case that the use of artificial structures such as trusts, companies, bearer shares, foundations and charities – whilst perfectly legal – have to some extent also benefitted from the extra anonymity they offer to the true owner and recipient of the funds and services we provide.
If we offer services to these types of entity, the Regulations require us to go some way to identifying the individuals who are actually benefitting from our services, and this entails uncovering the true ownership of the organisation.
Whilst this would be difficult in many instances – Cayman Island companies with bearer shares, for example – we must nevertheless attempt to get some assurances from the creators of the companies, accountants or registrars as to the ownership of the shares, and have some way of being notified of any change in ownership.
We also need to be aware of the PEP and Sanctions status of these individuals.
Further, for UK companies, the PSC Regulations 2016 impose an exactly similar obligation on the companies themselves to identify their beneficial owners and notify Companies House of any shareholder with 25% or more of the shares or exercising control over management of the business.
As one of the mediators on the Devon and Somerset Law Society panel of mediators I wanted to share my experience of the cases referred to us from the small claims pilot mediation scheme. We are currently referred cases from the county court at Exeter, Barnstaple, Torquay and Plymouth.
The idea of the scheme is to try to mediate cases that have been issued at court in the hope a resolution can be reached prior to a court hearing. This frees up court time making the process quicker and more cost effective for the parties involved.
Typical mediations are usually scheduled for a minimum of three hours with more complicated cases set for a whole day or more whereas the small claim mediations are set for one hour only.
I have not found the short time limit listed for these mediations to have a negative impact indeed it seems to focus the minds of all involved to start seriously looking at a possible settlement immediately. In my experience of previous mediations in my capacity either as mediator or legal advisor I have found that it is not until the mediation is nearing the end that serious negotiations take place and all efforts are made by the parties to reach a settlement. I remind both sides in a small claim mediation of the time restraints and that time is ticking by and psychologically it seems to take the parties to the same place as at the end of much longer mediations.
If a case settles at a small claims mediation, which they do more often than not, this avoids the case proceeding through the court process saving both time and money including court fees and legal costs. The settlement when reached is made and agreed by both parties and therefore the parties are in control of the resolution. Whereas a Judge by the very nature of court proceedings will make a finding on each point in the case for or against a party leaving the parties with no control over the result.
Overall the small claim mediation scheme is in my opinion advantageous to ...
Practitioners in Devon and Somerset, indeed across England and Wales, will be aware of HMCTS’s ambitious £1bn programme of court reform. Some have been involved in consultations, developing and testing new services and products; for others their work has already been impacted as new technology and modern ways of working are introduced.
Launched in September 2016, the programme is now almost at its half-way stage. We’ve already seen the roll out of several online services covering divorce, probate, civil money claims and social security appeals which have been used by well over 250,000 people. Two new services – immigration and asylum, and public family law – are currently being publicly tested.
Many in the region have been involved in the development of reform services in some capacity. Truro Combined Court, for example, is part of the national pilot in 12 family courts for the Citizens Advice family court domestic abuse support service, which launched in August 2019.
Our south western buildings
Some of your members, especially those who frequently work at Taunton Crown Court and Torquay & Newton Abbot County Court, may already be benefitting from the professional users’ court access scheme. This scheme is being rolled out in stages, across the region and nationwide. It allows legal professionals to avoid delays when being processed by security staff. Although registration for the national scheme has begun with the Bar Council, HMCTS is working with other legal associations who wish to participate and open the scheme for their members.
As part of our estate review process, which aims to improve the physical environment for all court users, Exeter Magistrates’ Court is closing and the work is moving to the Combined Court, half a mile away. To support this move, three new hearing rooms will be built, as well as increased cell capacity, witness and consultation facilities and a new cafe.
The move represents a significant ...
The Cook's and Hatchard's Law Prize is an award which recognises an individual who has achieved not only academic success but has also engaged in charitable initiatives which have raised the profile of the profession; supported junior lawyers and/or the wider community.
The Trustees recognise that the route to qualifying as a Solicitor is an ever changing process. The conventional approach of completing a Degree, undergoing the GDL/LPC and eventually sourcing a Training Contract has been supplemented by a series of alternative routes.
It is now increasingly common specifically in the case of smaller firms and/or Local Authorities for individuals to qualify as Solicitors through a more vocational route. For example, undergoing the conversion from CILEx. Whilst this is not your typical route to qualification, such individuals have nonetheless obtained considerable practical experience and have achieved 'Solicitor' status whilst having to combine study with work, often alongside family obligations. A challenging balance deserving recognition.
The Trustees are intent on ensuring that such individuals are not overlooked, especially in instances where candidates have come from backgrounds where they might have needed to work from school as opposed to being able to attend University and pursue academia.
If you are aware of an individual within Somerset who has achieved the finely tuned balance of academic success whilst also promoting the value of the profession through charitable work or some other means which has benefitted the wider community, then please send full details of the individual whom you are nominating together with the reasons for your nomination to DASLS Administrator, Monique Bertoni, Aston Court, Pynes Hill, Exeter EX2 5AZ by 30 June 2020, for consideration by the Trustees.
Nominations can also be sent by email to email@example.com.
Candidates for this year’s Prize must have been admitted to...
The new SRA Standard and Regulations came into effect on 25 November 2019, replacing the previous SRA Handbook.
Within these latest regulations are the new set of SRA Accounts Rules 2019 which the legal sector is still getting to grips with some of the changes.
In this brief article we look at two of the most topical areas being raised by law firms and their COFAs.
Notification of disbursements
One of the leading questions raised has been regarding compliance with the new rule 4.3, which states that if a firm wishes to transfer money from the client bank account from funds held on account for a specific client to cover costs, the client or paying party must first be sent a bill or other written notification of these costs, before the transfer is made.
As ‘costs’ comprise of fees and disbursements, this is in contrast to the old requirements as it is now necessary to notify the client if the firm wants to take funds to cover disbursements.
Firms are now finding themselves in the position of having to choose between the additional administrative inconvenience of having to notify the clients every time they wish to transfer funds in the interim for disbursement, or face potential cash flow burdens. This will come down to a matter of policy, and will differ from firm to firm. It is helpful to highlight it has been mentioned that an email to the client will qualify as written notification to meet this requirement.
A further topical question has been in relation to disbursements that have been included on a bill, but not yet paid by the firm. Rule 4.3 refers to ‘costs incurred’, which, on the face of it, implies that funds can be transferred to cover disbursements that have been incurred but not yet paid, as long as the client has been notified. This has been queried with the regulators where anticipated disbursements had been included on a bill – could the firm transfer client funds to cover these which would be a fundam...
Devon & Somerset Law Society welcome DictateNow as new outsourcing partner
Devon & Somerset Law Society is pleased to announce it has teamed up with leading legal outsourcing provider DictateNow.
The firm, which was the first dictation provider for law firms in the UK, was formed almost 20 years ago, and now works with hundreds of law firms across the country.
“It truly is an honour to work closely with Devon & Somerset Law Society and we are confident we will provide its members with real value through this partnership,” said Maxine Park, who co-founded the firm, and is also a qualified solicitor.
Since its inception in Hertfordshire, at the start of the 21st century, DictateNow has become a leading provider of confidential digital dictation, transcription and business services that helps law firms streamline otherwise labour-intensive processes, reduce overheads, and improve client service.
“Since we started back in the early 2000s we have also expanded to include dealing with overseas clients, and offer other business services as well, with copy typing, proof reading and diary management amongst them,” added Maxine.
The business, which works with hundreds of legal secretaries and experienced administrators all UK based, working around the clock seven days a week, only came into being after Maxine, who was a senior solicitor, was asked by her employer to find a firm that could do the transcription for lawyers. She couldn’t find anyone suitable in the country, so she worked on a plan to fill this gap, with software developer husband Garry. She soon left her job in law, and the reputation of DictateNow gradually spread amongst law firms.
“It is fair to say the needs of law firms have changed greatly in recent years and like all progressive businesses, we are committed to adapting to stay at the forefront. We will never rest on our laurels,” added Maxine.
The business is covered by IS223...
Business Continuity Planning
With England’s chief medical officer Professor Chris Whitty warning a Covid-19 epidemic in the UK is looking “likely”, and with home working being a key part of the government's 'Battle Plan' to combat the virus, the prospect of fee earners working remotely may become a reality rather than a trend.
With most UK businesses, including law firms carrying out contingency planning in the event of a widespread outbreak we are being called upon by our clients to provide additional support should it be required.
The ability for fee earners to work from home is far easier than for support staff. Fee earners are able to use mobile phones to continue communicating with clients, receiving emails as well as dictating. Internal support staff aren't geared up to work remotely in the same way.
DictateNow has been providing outsourced business support services to law firms since 2002. Our legal secretaries can continue to support fee earners with their typing requirements with fee earners sending dictations via our apps and our typists returning the work as an attachment to an email, or directly into the client's case or document management system.
We take business continuity seriously, achieving and maintaining the ISO 22301 as a testament to the importance we put on being able to support our clients - whatever the circumstances.
Our management, operations, typists, receptionists and support teams all have the ability to work remotely but with the added security of working on our UK based servers.
Under no circumstances would we want to profit from COVID-19. We provide free apps for iPhone and Android mobile phones, a free registration process for disaster recovery and our service is low cost, pay-as-you-go and with no ongoing commitment.
We sincerely hope COVID-19 isn't as serious as some of the newspaper headlines have said it will be, but a little forward planning ...
Last month, Storm Ciara and Dennis brought devastation across the country, including the South West. We saw multiple flood warnings and alerts issued across Devon and Somerset, with many main routes made impassable, and rail passengers stranded as flooding stopped services reaching Exeter and Plymouth (see link at footnote 1).
Due to the increasing concern about flood risk for property owners, the Law Society has recently updated its Flood Risk practice note – the first revision in four years. The practice note provides guidance relating to information sources that better help clients understand the risk that flooding may pose, as well as offer steps that can be taken with regards to insurance and searches.
The practice note includes information relating to the types of flood risks that have the potential to affect property owners. For example, a property doesn’t have to be located next to a river for it to be located in a high risk zone. Flooding from surface water or groundwater is increasingly common and something that should always be researched in advance of a house purchase.
If flooding is a concern, it is important to investigate whether appropriate insurance cover can be arranged before a property transaction completes, to satisfy the risk criteria of the client’s mortgage lender.
On top of this, the Law Society has also published an updated TA6 Property Information Form and guidance notes. In particular, four areas of property information have been updated relating to Flood Risk, as well Japanese Knotweed, Radon and Septic Tanks. The update provides additional information about a property to prospective buyers and is designed to provide greater transparency.
Yet, while there is a plethora of guidance and support out there, unfortunately, recent research conducted by YouGov for Landmark Information has shown that the majority of consumers in Great Britain are still not checking the flood risk of their homes, despi...
As we come to the end of being the Devon and Somerset Law Society’s Charity of the Year 2019/20 we reflect on some of the achievements made throughout the year:
Thriving Workplace Project
In 2019 we launched our Thriving Workplace project which focuses on training workplaces in awareness and first aid for mental health. After a successful ‘soft launch’ at the SW Business EXPO, we have been working closely with local organisations to train staff members in spotting the signs and symptoms of poor mental health and starting meaningful conversations. The feedback we have received has been fantastic and we hope that this training not only helps organisations, but the wider communities in which we live.
As part of the project, we have also developed a course which we have delivered in custody at HMP Dartmoor, providing a forum for custodians to discuss strategies to manage wellbeing whilst in prison. Again we have had a brilliant response to the training delivered and are looking to roll out mental health first aid courses across the prison to promote conversations and support whilst in custody and for rehabilitation.
The impact this training has had so far has been excellent, helping individuals and organisations recognise the importance of good wellbeing and supporting colleagues and communities with mental health. With the stretch on services for mental health this is a fundamental project to support each other to good mental health and wellbeing.
Torbay Peer Support Project
The aim of this project is to support people over 50 years of age who are struggling with their mental health to engage with their community. We provide engagement visits to help people feel more relaxed when they first meet us and then encourage them to join one of our courses or groups.
Within the year the project has grown through our group of supportive volunteers, there are now 10 volunteers and they have all been people that we had ori...
As the new committee members of the Devon & Somerset Junior Lawyers' Division are starting this year’s culminating activities for our Junior Lawyers' Division members, our National Committee representative has attended the National JLD Meeting held at The Law Society office in London on the 1st of February 2020.
A lot of issues were discussed and tackled and it is important to share the outcome of the discussions. To highlight these, the following are the main points of discussion:-
There will be another consultation with the SRA regarding the SQE as it has been discussed that there are a large number of unresolved issues. The Legal Services Board has opened a call for evidence in relation to continuing competence. Everyone is encouraged to contact us and we would welcome any comments and inputs.
The Law Society has updated its Wellbeing Guidance in the workplace in October 2019 as well as a recently issued guide for firms to re-label work social events to divert the initial perception away from alcohol. This is to promote and encourage individuals to attend events with less pressure to consume alcohol in order to “fit in”. The DSJLD have been in full support of this and our events are being tailored to match this initiative.
In addition, The Law Society is currently developing a new Learning Management System and in the next coming months, The Law Society will launch a beta program for this which will give selected firms a free testing with this program. This will initially be provided free of charge with precedents etc available to firms.
The JLD event season 2020 kicked off in fine style with a groovy disco at I-Bounce in Exeter. With dimmed lights and funky disco beats, the JLD contingent were relishing the opportunity to hone their dancing skills ahead of this year’s highly anticipated JLD Summer Ball!
It is fair to say some members took to the bouncing b...
Some think there is no place for emotion in the law and believe emotions interfere with rational thinking. In fact there is a huge body of scientific evidence which proves cognition and emotion are intertwined. If we consider that emotions affect your actions, decision-making, reasoning, thought processes and judgement, we can clearly see the relevance of emotion in the law.
Often lawyers enter the workplace without the emotional competencies needed to meet the demands of an evolving profession. Emotional competency is about how we understand and handle our emotions, as well as identifying and interpreting emotional responses around us.
Providing legal professionals with resources to enable them to understand and develop key emotional competencies such as emotional self-awareness, self-reflection and better strategies for emotional self-regulation is one way to equip them more effectively for practice, enhance their wellbeing and potentially reduce levels of stress, anxiety and depression.
LawCare and academics at The Open University and the University of Sheffield have developed a new free online resource on emotional competency and professional resilience for the legal community.
The interactive resource, called Fit for Law, is part of an on-going project to promote psychologically and emotionally healthier ways of working within law and was developed based on evidence from focus groups with legal professionals across the UK and Ireland. The course takes 2-4 hours in total to complete but is broken down into smaller sections, and includes videos from legal professionals discussing wellbeing issues as well as a range of interactive activities.
The goal is to foster enhanced wellbeing, to support legal professionals to not just survive, but to also thrive, within a challenging work environment.
In addition to providing resources aimed at individual practitioners, the resources we are developing will include a tool kit for employers, to ...
Happy new year to you all!
I have certainly had a very festive few months.
The Taunton Dinner was a great success. Can I say a big thank you to all who attended. We raised an excellent £858.12 with gift aid, for my chosen charity of ‘Step One’. Our guest speaker Chris Robinson brought the history of the south west to life with his after dinner talk.
It was a great pleasure to welcome the Law Society CEO Paul Tennant to the south west when he visited Exeter on the 13 November.
After Paul attended our committee meeting in the morning it was good to participate in the Law Society Gazette Roundtable ‘South West Discussion’ in Exeter. A cross section of local firms sent members of staff to take part in debating various topics that were relevant to our lawyers and their firms’ development. The hour and half flew by. The debate flowed well and it was clear at the end that everyone felt they had their say and were given an opportunity to express their views. Thank you to Paul Tennant for organising this with Eduardo Reyes the Commissioning and Features Editor of The Law Society Gazette chairing the event.
Can I thank those of you who have entered the 2020 DASLS Legal Awards to celebrate and raise the profile of the solicitors’ profession in our area. I must also thank Grow Marketing Group for all their help to enable us to put together an incredible night in celebration of the legal profession and to showcase the achievements and successes within it. Please do not forget to put the DASLS Annual Dinner 2020 at Exeter Cathedral in your diary. The event will take place on the 30th April when we will celebrate and recognise the achievements of those in the legal profession. Don't miss this dazzling occasion.
With that in mind I may I wish you all a happy and prosperous 2020. I look forward to seeing you in the New Year.
With very best wishes
DASLS President 2019-2020...
Happy New Year
It is the morning after! No not that sort of morning after – as I write it’s the morning after the deadline for nominations to be made for the DASLS Legal Awards and we are delighted to announce that we have had significantly more entries than in previous years. Thank you to everyone who has entered; we look forward to seeing you at Exeter Cathedral on 30th April when the winners will be announced. No doubt there will be another morning after that! Tickets will go on sale once the shortlist has been announced towards the end of January.
Our new recruitment advertising service has started well with good support and our work behind the scenes has seen increased levels of activity on our website. The advertising package includes a job posting on the Law Society Gazette Online Job Board ensuring a national presence at a very cost-effective price. The DASLS Job Board is now the place to go to look at vacancies available across our two counties and all the latest positions are advertised on the back of this Newsletter. Go to DASLS website for more details.
Looking forward we will be working to improve and refine our provision of training events. The DASLS programme has always been responsive to members’ requests and we would be very pleased to hear about seminars that you would like to see included speakers that we might wish to invite. Look out for new Annual Conferences and masterclass sessions.
The County Societies Group will be meeting in February when we will be the guests of the SRA at The Cube. I am sure there will be some interesting discussions about their direction of travel and current operations to report back.
Can it really be 20 years since the Millennium? The economic and political landscape has changed greatly in that time and new challenges and opportunities in the provision of legal services have emerged. I hope that DASLS has evolved and adapted to continue to be relevant and fit for purpose in that time. ...
What made you want to serve on The Law Society Family Law Committee?
I was impressed by The Law Society’s campaigning over Legal Aid and felt this was an area in which they really stood up for lawyers such as me, working in a strongly Legal Aid practice. I looked at the kind of work done by the Family Law Committee and saw that it was very interesting; I thought it would be stimulating, and it is. What are the key concerns you have at the moment for the legal profession in the South West?
They are the same concerns as I have about the national picture: people not having access to justice because of the assault on Legal Aid; chaos in the court system; the unknown impact of Brexit. I know for many firms in the South West there will be a direct impact from Brexit; but for all of us, the threat of recession and increased poverty accompanied by its familiar problems is alarming.
What is your dream job?
If I had not been a lawyer, I’d have enjoyed being a psychiatrist or a private detective – I’m very curious (or nosy) about people. If I was embarking on a new career now, I’d be a gardener or a chef. Which sort of work gives you the most job satisfaction?
I’m motivated by fairness. My job gives me the opportunity to try to achieve a bit more of it.
What gets you up in the morning?
Optimism. What do you do in your spare time?
Gardening, food, reading, films, travel, learning Italian, swimming, my family.
I’m very interested in language, generally. What book are you reading at the moment?
Naomi Klein – This Changes Everything
Before that, Elmore Leonard – Gold Coast
Next, I will be reading Margaret Atwood’s sequel to The Handmaid’s Tale, The Testaments.
What is the most recent film you have seen?
Amazing Grace – a documentary about Aretha Franklin
In the Loop – (again; it never gets stale) What are your favourite food / restaurant?
I honestly love food and am happy to go anywhere ...
DASLS is twinned with a number of local law societies across Europe, and the group fosters and maintains DASLS’ relationships with its Twin Bars.
The Sub-Committee represents DASLS abroad by attending international conferences, but also serves as the first point of contact for any enquiries from international lawyers looking for local legal advice. On occasion, they host foreign lawyers who attend the Exeter Legal Sunday Service and provide funding to send representatives abroad.
Lucy Ferrat, Solicitor with Stephens Scown, attended the Twin Bars annual meetings hosted by Leuven in 2018 and by Rennes in 2019. These conferences are topical and aim to compare legal systems in order to learn from other jurisdictions. For the last two years, the conferences have focused on questions relating to professional regulation. Lucy explains the benefits derived from her involvement with DASLS International Relations Sub-Committee.
“Building our worldwide network
Attending these conferences is an important part of my professional development – the skills acquired are good for business and good for international relations.
Last year, I met fellow IP practitioners from Italy. They explained that they have seen increased demand for advice about accessing the UK market post-Brexit, and were happy to meet someone who they could refer work to if/when the need arises. In turn, I have had the opportunity to refer work abroad with confidence in the person receiving our instructions. This is an essential part of our international practice.
I have found that there is immense value in developing friendships, as well as professional relationships, with the foreign lawyers we meet as part of our work. Repeat attendance has meant I have been able to consolidate relationships forged with other junior lawyers from across the EU – our interests and concerns are markedly similar. We stay in touch throughout the year and it is enriching to hear their (often dif...
Having been appointed as Council Members in July 2019, the first two meetings have already flown by. Council met on the 3rd October 2019 and the 5th December 2019. We hope to bring you up to date with developments over the last few months.
Much of this time has been dominated by the word we shall not mention, beginning with “B” and the General Election. A lot of the usual Law Society work has therefore been on hold awaiting the outcome and strategising so as to be prepared for which Government would be in power.
We now know that we have a Conservative Majority Government and whilst many will be happy about that, this may well make some of the Law Society’s campaigning around Access to Justice and Legal Aid a little harder.
Time will tell…..
Prior to Purdah, the Law Society was continuing to support works on funding inquests for people who are unable to access legal aid. The Policy and Regulatory Affairs Committee had approved a plan designed for restructuring legal aid provision, into Law Society policy. The plan detailed the Society’s intention to reintroduce early legal advice in family law cases, to reintroduce legal aid in all finance cases, and to bring back legal aid for alleged perpetrators of abuse in domestic violence cases. There were 120 MPs lobbying for change to practice direction 12J (on child arrangements and contact orders involving domestic abuse and harm), for there to be legal representation provided to alleged perpetrators of domestic abuse. It was a major issue that more children were being killed in situations where there is unsafe contact. There have been ongoing discussions about the Flexible operating hours and the pilot. An update is expected on that.
The Ministry of Justice (MoJ) allocation includes a 4.9% increase in real terms to the department’s resource budget from 2019-20 to 2020-21, with £55 million bookmarked for use across the Criminal Justice System to “support the work of 20,000 additional ...
A statistical number from the ‘campaign report’ in respect of the first 5 top links clicked by members looking at the November 2019 Newsletter sent via Mail Chimp. This was my article in between the President’s Letter (no.1 with 56 clicks and the article from PKF Francis Clark (no.3 with 47 clicks) – interesting but not sure what to make of this?
In terms of performance, Mail Chimp tells us “Well, this is exciting. You’re doing great!” with average campaign performance above 32% but when you look more closely …. firstname.lastname@example.org comes up as ‘subscriber with most opens with 209 clicks… well I can assure you I certainly did not click on the Newsletter articles that many times …. but I did post them as drafts, updated them when corrections were needed, proof-read them again before publishing them and finally time to push the SEND button.
Then the perennial question – how do we engage / reach out to the other 70% of our members? What articles would they like to see in DASLS Newsletter and what would really be of interest to them?
2020 … New Year … New Resolution …. Your chance to let us know – we’d love to hear from you!
This brings me to the topic of our Twin / International Bars’ Meeting hosted by DASLS to be held from 5 to 7 June. The working sessions on the Friday will discuss Artificial Intelligence. This is a fascinating if somewhat scary subject and we are all affected by it. It covers so many aspects – algorithms, human rights, ethics etc.
The June 2020 Working Group is putting together the programme and hope to see as many members as possible participating in the AI debate on Friday 5 June. Put the date in your diary now and contact me if you would like to be kept updated as things progress and to receive a copy of the final programme including reserving tickets to take part in the procession at the Legal Service on Sunday 7 June.
There are other ways for you / your firm to be involved –...
Well, it is all over now. The Election is won, Brexit is confirmed and the future will be what it will be – AND the SRA has implemented its new Standards & Regulations (STARS), effective from 25 November 2019.
2020 has a much calmer (and resigned) outlook than did 2019.
Along with new – and briefer – Accounts Rules and the obligation to adopt the SRA clickable logo, the STARS have ushered in a novel approach to regulation. I mention here the main things that immediately occur to me, but in future months I will be offering some further, more reflective thoughts on the implications of the new regime.
My top 5 thoughts are:
1 Loss of monopoly
We – the learned legal profession - have lost our age-old monopoly over the right to employ ‘solicitors’ to offer legal services to the general public. The tide turned against us on this one some years ago, when the Competition & Markets Authority pointed out that 90% of members of the general public with a legal problem will not go and see a solicitor (mainly as a result of misperceptions about the cost of so doing). This has led to the Transparency Rules 2018 the efficacy of which is yet to be determined, but which has led to a rethink over the marketing challenges facing us in the fight against others (professions, as well as commercial entities) who want to offer the services of a solicitor to our historical client-base. Time will tell whether this will increase our recruitment difficulties.
2 Legal professional privilege
One disadvantage of taking legal advice from a ‘solicitor’ working in a non-regulated environment is that the advice sought and given will probably not benefit from the cloak of legal professional privilege, as it would be given by a solicitor on behalf of a non-regulated business, rather than a law firm. Recent Law Society publications have mentioned this drawback, but it is one thing that the SRA c...
Partners in firms that have closed since 2000 and some employees of such firms may face claims for negligence after 30 September 2020 and may not have the benefit of professional indemnity insurance cover (PII). Many of them are unaware of the risk they face if the firm closed without a successor practice regulated by the Solicitors Regulation Authority (SRA).
The History of Solicitors Professional Indemnity Insurance (PII)
Up until 31 August 2000, the profession self-insured through the Solicitors Indemnity Fund (SIF). SIF provided firms with the compulsory level of cover and if firms closed before September 2000 then run off cover protection was provided without time limitation.
Back in 1999, after the large number of claims in the 1990’s it was recognised that the mutual fund had been an expensive means of providing cover for the profession and that the open market could provide a cheaper alternative for the majority of firms. The Council of the Law Society did not favour the open market solution as it recognised that the 1990s recession had been a difficult time and that the open market may not be a comfortable place when markets hardened. However, the profession was balloted and as a result, it was decided that firms would go to the open market.
The Law Society negotiated minimum terms and conditions (MTC) with insurers, providing far better protection than is normally available in the open commercial market. Insurers in the open market accepted these terms and there have been, despite fluctuating numbers, sufficient numbers of insurers to make the scheme viable. The terms of cover have broadly been maintained by the SRA. Generally speaking, over time many firms have paid less for their insurance than they would have done if SIF had been retained.
The cover for solicitors’ negligence claims is provided on a ‘claims made’ basis, which means that insurance needs to be in place at the time when a claim is made and notified. T...
Please help shape the future of your local Law Society.
The main Committee is at the heart of the work and decision making of DASLS and also helps to co-ordinate the important work of the many Sub-Committees. As a result membership of the main Committee can make a real difference to the Society and to the working life of solicitors across our two counties.
The Committee is made up of the Officers of the Society together with (see Articles §7.1.5) “not less than 10 or more than 40 elected members”.
If you would like any further information please contact the Honorary Secretary Chris Hart. - email@example.com
Elections will take place at the 28 April 2020 AGM at the Exeter Golf & Country Club.
Contact DASLS office on 01392 366333 or email firstname.lastname@example.org if you would like further information. Click below for the nomination form which must be completed and returned by 31 January.
In November I attended the annual conference of the Civil Mediation Council (CMC) and share below three issues raised there.
Those issues were access to mediation for mid-level cases, the increasing numbers of defended county court claims and the effectiveness of half day (or time limited) mediations for more complex disputes.
Particular concerns were expressed by speakers about the availability of mediation services for disputes falling between the small claims limit and larger High Court actions, a ‘gap’ which the Civil Justice Council Working party final report on ADR (https://www.judiciary.uk/announcements/new-report-on-alternative-dispute-resolution/ ) had identified as a concern.
These are disputes, generally in the range £10,000 to £100,000, where the sums involved are too high to trigger the involvement of the court appointed Small Claims Mediation Service (although the lack of availability of that service in practice, even for small claims, was also a recurrent theme at the conference) but at a level where the legal costs involved in mediating (to which the mediation fee is of course only a small part) could still present a significant barrier to the use of mediation or ADR.
Of course, for DASLS members that gap is not an issue as they have, unlike solicitors in much of the rest of the country, their own mediation panel of experienced mediators available to mediate such cases. As one of only two (together with Manchester) ‘pilot’ providers of a court scheme for such cases the DASLS panel is at the forefront of seeking ways solicitors and clients with mid-range claims can access mediation as an alternative to Court proceedings. As Jeremy Ferguson reported, in the September edition of this newsletter, the availability of that scheme has in cooperation with the court service and judiciary recently been extended to all Devon Courts.
Secondly, the CMC conference heard that demand for mediation for such cases has been ...
Thursday 27th February 2020 AT 7.30 P.M.
The IMPERIAL HOTEL TORQUAY
From Glamour to Gore - the Life of a Make-up Artist
Sharon is a professional hair & make-up artist who covers all aspects of hair & make-up including for film, TV and photography.
20 years ago, Sharon followed a lifelong ambition to work in TV & film, deciding to train as a professional make-up artist. She now has a successful career in that industry.
In 2015 and 2016 Sharon worked for the BBC on its drama series "The Coroner" which was filmed all around the South Hams area.
To reserve your place go to https://torquaymedsoc.com/book-february-meeting
and make sure you tick the box confirming that you are attending as a DASLS member.
Sharon Anniss with Harry Enfield in the process of applying a Bald Cap
Vice President Global Professional & Financial Risks Lockton
It must be incredibly difficult for the Legal Profession to determine which broker they should trust to place their professional insurances with, especially when being approached by multiple brokers all reporting to be specialists.
Your Professional Indemnity premium is likely to be the third largest spend annually after staff and premises costs. However, it is possibly one of the most critical spends as your PII provides you with your certificate to trade. In light of the importance to your business it is incredibly important you select the right broker. After all, you are entrusting them with your livelihood, and they should appreciate the seriousness of this task that you are entrusting upon them. So how do you differentiate one broker from another, and why is it important to ensure you find the right fit for you?
The financial aspect is just one consideration why finding the right broker is important. Perhaps of equal importance is consideration of the fact that a broker also manages your firm’s reputation within the insurance market which you could argue is more valuable. A good broker will be one whom you feel confident will represent you as you would represent your practice when speaking to insurers. You should feel confident that they not only understand you and your business, but can evidence to you that they are experts within their field, as you and your associates can for your clients.
You should feel confident that your broker understands the ethos of your practice and will relay this fluently to insurers. Importantly, does your broker take the time to ask you questions and listen in order to understand what is important to you? If not, how can they be selecting the right insurers for you or representing your firm adequately?
The relationship between a client and broker should be a true partnership of guidance and support which is utilised ...
Expert in the house
Janet Taylor is a well-known name in the legal sector. One of the UK’s top legal trainers, Janet is renowned for taking the complexity out of the SRA Accounts Rules. Over the years, hundreds of law firms have turned to her business for expert advice to boost their growth and profitability.
Janet joined PKF Francis Clark as a Director in 2018 and is based out of the firm’s Poole office, providing training and legal accountancy services to law firms right across the UK. Her appointment to PKF Francis Clark’s own dedicated legal sector division, headed up by Andrew Allen, has strengthened the firm’s expertise in the legal sector with a wider range of training and consultancy now provided.
This has been further enhanced with a joint venture with Taylor Mowbray LLP to provide additional consultancy and services – helping PKF Francis Clark clients to increase their profitability, improve cashflow and pricing, and benefit from better time and people management.
Why PKF Francis Clark?
Janet has known Andrew Allen for many years, and has worked alongside him on various legal advisory groups. Janet explains that she was actually running some training for the PKF Francis Clark team when her “off the cuff remark” about “looking to move to the South West and go back into practice” started discussions that eventually resulted in a move from London to Dorset, and an in-house role with PKF Francis Clark.
“PKF Francis Clark is a firm that I have known and respected for many years. They are unusual as accountancy practices go because they have a specialist legal division and a large number of clients in the legal sector – they really understand solicitors and have a long track record with law practice clients nationwide, as well as locally. My experience has all dovetailed quite neatly.”
Since joining the legal team, Janet has been focused on internal training and updating compliance policies and proce...
Today I take a look at the fast-evolving cyber-crime landscape and how professional services firms can protect themselves from attack.
Cyber Crime Today
Professional Services firms operate in an increasingly data-driven, online world. Data has become critical to the way firms operate and more and more of it is being stored digitally.
As firms continue to operate online and store information in the cloud, the threat of cyber-crime continues to grow.
Cyber attacks against organisations have reached an unprecedented scale and frequency. For example, new variants of global ransomware and wiper attacks have toppled international companies.
Data breaches are also growing exponentially: 10 billion records were reportedly stolen in 2018 and that figure increased to 12 billion for the first half of 2019 alone.
With 72% of large businesses suffering a cyber-breach or attack during 2018, it’s clear that all firms are at risk.
As the technology firms use evolves, cyber attacks become more sophisticated. The integration of 5G and move to cloud infrastructure open different avenues for cyber criminals' to steal data, while recent advances in quantum fusion may render existing encryption methods obsolete within a matter of years.
The impact of cyber crime can be enormous: firms that fall victim to attacks not only face substantial financial losses and regulatory fines, but client confidence is undermined.
Firms therefore need to understand the scale of the cyber economy, how they could potentially be exposed to an attack, and what they should do to protect themselves.
The changing Cyber Economy
The term ‘digital underground’ might bring to mind an image of criminals sitting at computers in dark rooms, using complicated code to hack into systems, but that’s no longer the reality. These days, the digital underground – or dark web as it’s sometimes called – isn’t that far underground.
Crime as a service
Tony Rollason, Regional Manager, Landmark Information
People in Great Britain are still not checking the flood risk of their homes, in spite of increased incidents of flood events across the country.
62% of respondents to a YouGov survey, which was commissioned by property data company Landmark Information Group, stated that they have never checked the flood risk level of their home.
The survey found that people in Scotland are the least likely to have carried out any checks with 77% confirming they had never researched their flood risk. This was followed by those in London (71%), 65% of those in the North West of England and 63% in Yorkshire and Humber. In the South West, 57% of people said they had never checked their flood risk.
The survey also found that just 5% of people in the South West have a flood plan and would know how to put it into action if a flood was to occur. More than a third (38%) admitted that they do not have a flood plan and wouldn’t know what to do if they were to experience a flood, while almost half (49%) said they didn’t have a flood plan, yet felt they would know what to do in the event of a flood.
The survey identifies that the public is not necessarily making flood checks part of the research they conduct when moving into a new home; just over a quarter (26%) of respondents from the South West said they checked the flood risk of their home before moving in, with 14% saying they checked afterwards.
People in the East of England are some of the most diligent with 28% suggesting they looked into the risk ahead of moving and a further 17% did so after they had moved into their home. This compares to just 14% of those living in London who said they checked ahead of moving into their home.
The results of the survey show a worrying disconnect. The majority of people across the country – 88% – believe their property is not located in an area considered ‘at risk’ of fl...
In this article, Wayne Shinn, Business Development Executive for specialist unoccupied property insurance provider Unoccupied Direct, shares his tips on checking a property that has been standing empty over the Christmas holidays.
It’s January. Welcome back to work. Your brain feels foggy, you’ve had far too many mince pies and naps by the fire. Nothing on your desk has moved since last year, your inbox counter has reached triple figures.
It’s tempting to begin the trawl through those emails, but it’s not just your office that has been stood empty since the last decade. Spare a thought for the empty properties that your clients have entrusted you to look after. Especially during the winter months, any one of a number of problems could have arisen with nobody around to keep an eye on the situation.
Whilst other insurers may require you to make regular checks on unoccupied property, we don’t, but that’s not to say it’s not a good idea regardless. Your clients will appreciate their solicitor going the extra mile. Plus, noticing a problem before it has a chance to take hold will save a lot of misery down the road.
If you decide to be proactive and check on an empty property after Christmas, here are the top things to watch out for:
We stipulate that unoccupied property must have the heating continuously running at 12°C between 1st November and 31st March or that the water system must be drained completely. This policy allows us to insure against burst pipes during the winter months where other providers may exclude this from their cover.
If you aren’t sure about how to drain the water system, check with your local plumber. It can often be surprisingly affordable and will use far less energy than leaving the heating running continuously over winter.
Empty property may attract burglars looking for anything left behind, and could also draw in squatters. Look out for signs of forced entry l...
Please adopt the following practice if your client wishes to keep their contact details confidential:
Applications submitted by e-mail
If you are filing an application by e-mail please send the C8 Confidential Contact Details form as a separate attachment.
Provide an alert in the e-mail that a party has confidential contact details.
Applications submitted by post
In your covering letter please provide an alert that a party has confidential contact details.
Subsequent correspondence with the court
Please ensure that any confidential contact details are redacted.
Click here for a copy of the letter from HM Courts & Tribunals Service.
3 December 2019....
As 2019 drew to a close, a new year for the Junior Lawyers' Division got off to a festive start following November's AGM and elections. November saw the election of the new JLD committee; made up of 10 representatives from 8 different law firms based across Devon & Somerset.
The elections were held during the JLD AGM, hosted by Oddfellows in Exeter. It was a well-attended and enjoyable evening. Whilst a small number of committee members return from last year's committee, it is great to welcome a high number of new committee members. You can find out more information on this year's committee on the DASLS website. At the first meeting of the new JLD committee and following a lengthy discussion the JLD’s charity of the year was unanimously decided. The JLD are very proud to announce that over the course of the year we will be supporting the Devon Freewheelers; a South-West charity that provides a free out of hours service to the NHS. The charity is a blood bike charity which couriers blood, and blood samples amongst other items. You can find out more about The Devon Freewheelers at their website.
The new JLD committee held their first event in December; a Christmas social event held at the Oddfellows Mulled Wine Tent at Exeter Christmas Market. The JLD’s charity of the year for 2019-2020 was announced.
The event was a huge success with an excellent turn-out; over twenty junior lawyers attended the event to socialise in the festive spirit. A collection of mulled beverages, nachos, pizzas and churros were devoured, whilst attendees gathered around the fire pit.
The committee look forward to meeting again in January to share ideas on how to further develop the committee and begin preparations for a series of social, sporting, educational and charitable events.
Details of the upcoming events will be circulated to JLD members in the New Year, so keep an eye out! Jess Clements – Chair
Emily Lakeman – So...
Have you ever wondered why solicitors need a charity? After all, legal professionals are successful, wealthy and live a stable lifestyle, right?
You're probably shaking your head at this moment thinking, this sentiment doesn't quite reflect reality. And you'd be right. The truth is, lawyers are vulnerable to life's hazards like everyone else. Simply being a lawyer doesn't shield you from illness, accidents, family breakup, job loss or bereavement and more.
With this in mind, it's no wonder so many solicitors fall into financial hardship each year. Fortunately, there is hope for those in crisis.
SBA The Solicitors' Charity
When you are in financial difficulty, paying for essential day-to-day items can seem impossible. Imagine having to manage the stress of having little to no income, with bills rising and still having to put food on the table. Add in illnesses, struggling to find a new job or caring for dependants and it can feel like a pot boiling over.
Luckily, solicitors don’t need to suffer alone. Lawyers like you have your very own charity to be there for you and colleagues when you are in financial difficulty.
SBA The Solicitors' Charity supports solicitors (and their dependants) through financial assistance. This support pays for essential items most people take for granted. These include:
Household repairs (leaking roofs etc)
The charity also helps with access to services for debt and welfare advice, mental health and career coaching.
How can I help?
Last year, Devon and Somerset Law Society gave £1,750.00 to SBA The Solicitors' Charity. Through this kindness, you and members helped the charity to secure a better quality of life for individuals most in need in the South West.
The quote below comes direct from an SBA beneficiary and shows the difference made by supporters like Devon and Somerset Law Society.
“SBA has made a massive difference in my life....
Many of us will be familiar with procrastinating - putting off or avoiding a task that needs to be done. If often seems as if the more we have to do, the more we procrastinate. There are two types of procrastination, active and passive.
Active procrastinators work better under pressure, they may choose to leave a task until it’s right down to the wire because they thrive on adrenaline.
Passive procrastinators do so to the detriment of their performance. According to a 2013 study procrastination has nothing to do with poor time management or laziness, it occurs because of our inability to manage negative emotion surrounding a task, either focused on an aversion to the task itself or because of the feelings the task provokes ‘I can’t write this, I don’t know enough about it, my boss will criticise me.’ These thoughts then make us procrastinate further.
Procrastination is closely linked to perfectionism, low self-esteem, fear of failure or of moving forward in our lives. Often procrastination is a red flag that we are finding it hard to cope, it can be a symptom of an underlying issue such as stress, anxiety or depression.
So if you are a procrastinator what can you do? Here are some tips.
Be kind to yourself, and don’t beat yourself up for procrastinating. Just accept that you do it. Try and write down some positive things about yourself, perhaps something nice a colleague said to you, or think about a previous time you completed a similar task and it went ok.
Make a list
Start by making a list of everything you have to do. Break big tasks into smaller manageable chunks so they don’t feel overwhelming and set realistic deadlines for each task.
Block out time and remove distractions
Estimate how long certain tasks will take and block out time in your calendar to complete them. Work out what times of day suit you to complete certain tasks, for example if you’re a morning person ...
Gosh this year is now galloping by. The clocks went back last month and before long it will be Christmas.
I have certainly had an exciting few months travelling to visit a number of the local law societies.
I had a great time at the Plymouth Law Society (PLS) annual dinner at the beginning of October. It was very enjoyable to go back to the Duke of Cornwall Hotel. Returning to the hotel brought back many happy memories. I had my annual dinner there when I was the PLS President. Long before that, in the early 1970’s, I used to play in the building as a boy. One of my friends' father was the general manager. We would run up and down the stairs, slide down the banisters and have trolley races in the ballroom. Happy days!
I met professional colleagues at the Chartered Institute for Securities & Investment West Country on 10 October. It was interesting to hear that none of the investment managers appeared too phased at Brexit and any risk of leaving the European Union with no deal. I was told… “All the smart money had already been invested in America!” After that I quickly went home to check my pension investments. Oh dear.
I will turn now to happier matters.
It was a pleasure to participate in the DASLS Annual Admissions Ceremony at the Exeter Guildhall on the 14th October. I was proud to see that we have a real wealth of excellent new solicitors coming into our local profession. I wish them all every success for the future wherever they may go. Can I say a special thank you to HHJ Edward Richards and District Judge Griffiths for their attendance.
DASLS Admissions Ceremony on 14 October 2019, Exeter Guildhall
Photograph courtesy of Bridget Batchelor Photography - bridgetbatchelor.com
I would like to congratulate those firms who do invest considerable time and resources into their local training and recruitment processes. Without this continued investment our profession will struggle to recruit a...
The last Newsletter of 2019 and another DASLS year draws to a close. It’s been business as usual at Aston Court with the ebb and flow of events through the year and the highlight of the spectacular Legal Awards at Exeter Cathedral. Plans for the 2020 event are well in hand. Those who attended the soft launch Sneak Peek event recently will have heard how the Awards have impacted on those that have taken part:
““Winning the awards had an obvious and immediate impact on the firm. In an age where we fear to even sit down for a meal without checking the restaurant’s online review, mention of the awards on our website offers new clients the reassurance that we have the DASLS seal of approval.” James McNally, Slee Blackwell, Taunton” and
“The publicity has led to more work – more Cafcass’s from Cafcass, people with conflicts were referring to me. Clients referred friends – don’t underestimate the power it has to generate more work for you and your colleagues” Imran Khodabocus The Family Law Company, Exeter
The closing date for nominations is 29th November although you do not have to wait until then to get your entries in. We know that solicitors work to deadlines but it really does help us if you submit early – go on, surprise us!
Following a discussion at the Torbay & South Devon Managing Partner Forum a new South Devon Property Forum has been formed that has brought conveyancers together. They have agreed a protocol of good working practices that has won the support of most of the solicitors and some of the estate agents in South Devon. It is hoped that this can be replicated elsewhere in the DASLS patch; please let me know if your firm would be interested in taking part.
We have had the pleasure of working in partnership with our sponsors through the year and look forward to our continuing association with Alchemy Systems, Barclays, Landmark, PKF Francis Clark, Unoccupied Direct, Webboss and Wessex Searches. We al...
Our congratulations to Bartons Marine Department and Ian Walker of Family Law and Mediation Ltd for being Highly Commended in Excellence in Client Service and Practice Manager of the Year respectively.
Bartons Marine Department
Ian Walker with
Law Society President Simon Davis
The remodelled regulatory toolkit from the SRA is to be launched on 25 November 2019. Called the SRA Standards and Regulations, (or STARs for short), its tone is transitional and evolutionary as opposed to revolutionary. However, it does provide some very strong messages about what is expected from us. Compliance professionals employed in SRA-authorised firms should be making preparations to support their colleagues make a safe and appropriate switch to this new regulatory toolkit.
The STARs signify phase two of the SRA’s regulatory relationship with us. Phase 1 was introduced by the SRA in 2011 with the SRA Handbook. This was a revolutionary document with its unfamiliar concepts such as outcomes-focused regulation, compliance officers, regulatory interest in our internal governance and far more self-reporting than perhaps we were comfortable with. In other words, the regulator was creating the expectation that compliance would be a central service in law firms and that openness and accountability should be in evidence.
With phase 2, the SRA is building on these foundation stones and making sure that compliance is embedded as an effective and firm wide function. In fact, in well-run, forward-thinking entities, this is now the norm and compliance is no longer a backroom function. Compliance skills are now recognised as professional skills and many firms are hiring compliance professionals and/or upskilling their employees to facilitate this function.
The key features of the STARs build on this starting point and add further ingredients into the mix. Changes which cannot be ignored include:
Ethical behaviour being more explicitly referenced. Of course, there has always been the need for individuals to deliver legal services in an ethical way, but the SRA Handbook language focused less on this and more on regulatory compliance requirements. The emphasis is shifting again. The realignment is clearly in evidence with the SRA Principles 2019. W...
What made you want to serve on The Law Society Council?
I am a Criminal Law defence Solicitor Advocate and from early in my career I took exception to the way respective Governments undervalued our Justice system and used it as an easy target to reduce the budget afforded to it.
I initially became involved in local action including a sit in at our local Magistrates Court. I thereafter attended the infamous vote of no confidence at The Law Society. My Council Member at that time quite properly said that I would achieve nothing by shouting from the side lines and if I wished to make a difference I would have to get on the pitch and get involved.
I have since 2015 become involved in The Law Society specialist committees and it was a natural progression to then apply for a Council seat when the current Member term came to an end.
I believe apathy is one of the greatest threats to our profession. I appreciate that we are all very busy in our day jobs, but unless we stand up for the profession as a whole we will continue to see our reputation and standards reduced.
What are the key concerns you have at the moment for the legal profession in the South West?
I think the brand “Solicitor” is something we should be proud of. We are professionals and have clients not customers. We no longer share the prestige that other professions receive and that is something we should be fighting for.
I believe we are facing a dumbing down of the profession with the introduction of the Solicitors Qualifying Exam. We have unregulated sectors introducing legal services as well. We have also had the SRA reduce the burden of proof that applies to the SDT and it will be interesting to see how matters are dealt with as more regulations apply to our practices.
Austerity is also affecting the profession with budget cuts biting hard across the board.
What has been the most embarrassing moment during your professional career?
For those of us working outside of private practice, DASLS’ annual In-house Lawyers' Conference is an opportunity to attend training targeted towards the business environments in which we operate. More than that, it is a chance for us - a regional body spread across a large geographical area - to come together to discuss the challenges we are encountering in our sector and to share the solutions we have identified, to consolidate those learning outcomes.
To that end, it was good to see a cross-section of members from the commercial and public sectors, as well as from charitable organisations, in attendance. The Conference did not disappoint, bringing experts from industry as well as leading private practitioners and barristers, to provide an invaluable look at evolving best practice, key issues surrounding business-partnering and corporate crisis management, and to provide case law updates.
In chronological order, highlights from the Conference include:
The new SRA Standards & Regulations
The SRA Handbook is due to be replaced with the new SRA Standards & Regulations, the content being substantially reduced in length and prescription. Juliet gave an engaging insight into the work that has been done to ensure that the Standards & Regulations provide as clear guidance to in-house practitioners as it does to those in private practice.
Furthermore, on the back of some high profile disciplinary cases in the press of late and this year’s publication of the SRA’s updated Enforcement Strategy, Juliet outlined the changes in the SRA’s approach to disciplinary matters and its focus on building public trust and confidence in solicitors (highlighting the importance of acting with integrity in whatever we do, both inside and outside of the work environment).
The Law Society’s ‘In-House’ Division
Rav provided a welcome update on the work that the Division has been undertaking on our behalf, including: its involvement in promoti...
In this article Jason Mitchell considers one of the most controversial changes within the new SRA Accounts Rules 2019 coming into force on the 25th November 2019 relating to clients’ own bank accounts operated from within the law firm.
So what are the requirements of the new rule 10.1 surrounding client’s own bank accounts?
Under the new rules the definition of client money includes money held or received as a trustee or as the holder of a specified office or appointment, such as donee of a power of attorney, Court of Protection deputy or trustee of an occupational pension scheme.
Rule 10 .1 states the main body of the new accounts rules do not apply for clients’ own accounts except for rules 8.2 to 8.4 covering the accounting records and states:
8.2) You obtain, at least every five weeks, statements from banks, building societies and other financial institutions for all client accounts and business accounts held or operated by you.
8.3) You complete at least every five weeks, for all client accounts held or operated by you, a reconciliation of the bank or building society statement balance with the cash book balance and the client ledger total, a record of which must be signed off by the COFA or a manager of the firm. You should promptly investigate and resolve any differences shown by the reconciliation.
8.4) You keep readily accessible a central record of all bills or other written notifications of costs given by you.
So what is the issue with the changes?
You will notice from the above that rules 8.2 and 8.3 covers the three-way reconciliations requirements which firms and their COFAs should already be fully converse with as part of their duties. Within this process this will now require the inclusion of clients’ own bank accounts.
To be able to include the client’s own acco