Latest News Updates from The Law Society

Latest News Updates from The Law Society


Written By: The Law Society
Written: 22nd Sep 2020

Latest News Updates

News Flash: 

As part of the D&I conference from The Law Society and Leeds Law Society, on 24 September (17.00-18.45) join Jane Burton (Lawyers with Disabilities Division), Yasmin Sheikh - TEDx Speaker, Diversity Trainer and coach, Carolyn Pepper (Reed Smith LLP), Leanne Coyle (Leeds Law Society) and Jonathan Fogerty (CFG Law) for an in-depth panel discussion focussed on disability. Our esteemed panellists will debate the issues facing disabled practitioners, as highlighted in the recent Legally Disabled research http://legallydisabled.com/, as well as what organisations can do to improve inclusion for disabled people. Sign up here:  Leeds Conference - 24 September 2020


More work needs to be done to make judiciary diverse  - 17 September 2020
Solicitors' leader welcomes new fee for Crown Court cases - 17 September 2020
Measures to tackle 560,000 criminal case backlog welcomed by The Law Society - 7 September 2020
Blockchain report:  Lawyers given regulation guidance - 7 September 2020
Eviction notice period extended to six months - 3 September 2020
Solicitors' leaders launch legal action against the Legal Aid Agency - 3 September 2020
Supporting Women in the Legal Profession - 1 September 2020
Support for your career - 28 August 2020
Attacks on the legal profession undermine the rule of law - 27 August 2020
Act now on P11 law firms urged - 24 August 2020

Parliamentary Report - Friday 4 September 2020

Read the latest Parliamentary Report from The Law Society here.  Parliamentary Report - 4 September 2020

Report includes:

  1. Private International Law Bill passes Commons second reading.
  2. Urgent question on channel crossings
  3. International trade questions.
  4. Lords discuss UK-EU negotiations and services.
  5. Lord Chancellor gives statement on judicial review panel.

President's Update - Monday 21 September 2020

Your weekly Law Society update

As the professional body for solicitors, every week the Law Society is working hard to influence the legal and regulatory environment on behalf of our profession and to promote solicitors at home and abroad. We support practice excellence, are an informed source of legal sector news and support members at every stage of their career.

Website

Our new website  and the new My LS went fully live yesterday. Please register to see content tailored to your practice,and interests. Thanks to all members who have fed back during development. Feedback is still welcome.  Registering with My LS will also help you understand the benefit to your constituents.

Solicitorspirit

Our campaign to highlight the great work the profession has been doing for clients and the community during the pandemic is continuing. You can read more here.  You can see members contributing to this campaign by searching for the hashtag #solicitorspirit on Twitter or click this link here

Please keep encouraging your constituents to share their stories on Twitter using the hashtag #solicitorspirit and copying us in (@TheLawSociety).
If members have videos or stories they want to share but do not use social media please ask them to send the story and any pictures/videos to corporatecommunications@lawsociety.org.uk

We have been in the media this week to promote the role and value of the profession in difficult times

The Independent, the Gazette and, again, the Independent reported on our stance on the Internal Market Bill, which entered its House of Commons committee stage.

 

I said: “The rule of law is under attack. It is because of our commitment to the rule of law that our system of justice is respected globally, that countries want to do trade deals with the UK and that we can comment on state oppression in Belarus with credibility.

 

“We have a choice about what sort of country we want to be and what we want to be known for around the world. I fervently hope we will still be respected as a country which prides itself on upholding the rule of law.”

 

I also wrote a piece for the Gazette on defending the rule of law covering the Law Society’s  condemnation of the Home Office, which referred to immigration lawyers as ‘activist lawyers’, and sections of the Internal Market Bill which will break international law.

“Britain’s international standing is underpinned by our reputation for respect for the rule of law and fair play. This is not just about moral authority – although that is undoubtedly immediately undermined.

 

“With Brexit fast approaching, Britain’s reputation is one of our greatest assets; it has arguably rarely been so vital to our position on the global stage and for future trade negotiations.”

 

Meanwhile, the Law Society campaign to amend the Internal Market Bill was mentioned in the House of Commons alongside my defence of the rule of law.

 

New Law Journal also cited our stance on the Internal Market Bill, detailing our briefing highlighting that Clauses 41-45 enable ministers to derogate from the obligations of the UK under international law.

 

While the Times (£) published an article written by Sue Willman, chair our human rights committee and Daniel Carey, a partner at Deighton Piece Glynn in which they analysed a 2018 judicial review Court of Appeal case which questioned whether the ministerial code forbids breaking international law, finding that unequivocally, it does.

 

“For ministers the question is: can we support legislation that breaks international law consistently with our obligations under the ministerial code? The answer comes back in the form of the government’s own words to the second highest court in the land: no,” they said.

 

Member of the Law Society’s EU Committee Anna Bradshaw gave an interview to BBC Radio Kent alongside former Conservative leader Michael Howard, to discuss the thorny legal issues and help listeners understand why breaking international law threatens democratic principles.

Anna also talked to TalkRADIO  (13:30-14:00 segment, from 09mins, 05 secs) about the same issue.
 

Australasian Lawyer magazine noted the Law Society’s opposition to the Bill insofar as it would break international law, and our assertion ‘the rule of law is non-negotiable’.

In a deep-dive, the Gazette carried a long-read analysis of the deep-seated problems with the legal aid sector, based on interviews with a range of firms across the sector. The piece notes the sector is in such dire straits that the Law Society is considering new guidance for firms on legal compliance while facing insolvency.

 

The Gazette also revealed the combined outstanding cases in the magistrates and Crown courts surged 500,000 over the summer, new figures show, but there are signs that the system is slowly starting to perform better.

 

I said: “Investing in legal aid for early advice and legal representation will ensure?judicial time is used as efficiently as possible?in cases which do go to court. We are also calling on the?chancellor?to ensure that?our justice system is equipped with the funding it needs to face the challenges of the future.” The Gazette’s story was then picked up by Practice Source.

The Gazette, Daily Mail, Solicitors Journal, Legal Futures and more than 200 local news outlets covered the Judicial Diversity Forum report published on Thursday. The report shows very slow progress on representation of women and ethnic minority judges at senior levels of the judiciary.

 

I said: “We will work with colleagues from the Judicial Diversity Forum (JDF) to understand better the reasons for those disparities and to help make sure that application processes are open and fair, while continuing to provide targeted support for solicitors aspiring to judicial office.”

 

Daniel Fitzpatrick, a member of our housing law committee, spoke with BBC Radio Humberside (from 1:41:44) about students who have paid for their university accommodation up-front, but have now been told their lessons will be online, and what legal resource they have to get their money back. He also spoke with BBC Radio One Extra (from 24:21).


In an interview with BBC 3 Counties radio (01:50:20), Law Society committee member Gary Rycroft provided consumer advice on people’s rights to refunds during the pandemic if they have to cancel their holiday because of restrictions on travel.

The Gazette reported the Law Society’s analysis of the UK-Japan trade deal announced last week. I said: “We welcome news that the UK and Japan have secured an agreement in principle, in a deal which the UK government expects will increase trade with Japan by an estimated £15.2 billion.

“An FTA will undoubtedly bring benefits to both countries and the Law Society sees an FTA as a platform for future profession-to-profession discussions to enhance further the relationship between the Japan and the UK.”


Legal Futures reports that the International Underwriting Association (IUA) published an open letter to the profession earlier this month warning that professional indemnity insurance (PII) cover “could become unsustainable” if underwriters could not cancel policies where the premium is not paid.

I said: “The Law Society understands the concerns of insurers and is sympathetic towards their request but is mindful that the primary purpose of professional indemnity insurance is to protect solicitors' clients and the wider public.”

The Lawyer (£) details a report released by the Tech London Advocates’ (TLA) Blockchain Legal and Regulatory Group in conjunction with the Law Society of England and Wales about regulatory guidance around distributed ledger technology.  

“Our research suggests that the adoption of new technologies could reduce the cost of legal services to UK business users by £350 million by 2030, and double productivity growth in the legal sector,” I said.

 

Giles Parsons, a member of our intellectual property (IP) committee, examines the future relationship between artificial intelligence and IP in the Gazette.

 

“AI is changing our shopping habits. Smart assistants can order goods; smart fridges can keep us stocked with fresh milk; AI fashion assistants can tell us what to wear. However, when I ask Alexa for an iPhone charger or a Nintendo Switch charger, it tells me that it has put a compatible charger in my basket,” he wrote.

Parliamentary

This week we launched our campaign action asking our members to help #DefendTheRuleOfLaw and write to their MPs about the Internal Market Bill. Some of the measures in this Bill would constitute or create potential for a breach of international law if put onto the statute book.


As you will see from the media activity listed above, we take our commitment to safeguarding the rule of law extremely seriously, and have already made clear our view on the matter to senior government ministers and officials. We have also briefed legally-qualified MPs, as well as other relevant parliamentarians, urging them to table or support amendments removing Clauses 41-45 of the Bill. 

Justice

Crown Court fee for unused material

Largely as a result of lobbying by the Law Society and other practitioner groups, the Ministry of Justice (MoJ) has this week (17 September) introduced a separate fee for the consideration of ‘unused material’ in full and cracked trials in the Crown Court. Up until now there was no separate fee for considering this material which is often voluminous and can consist of huge amounts of electronic evidence.

 

Non-contentious probate: mandating online professional applications – Law Society response

We have responded to the Ministry of Justice’s consultation on the mandating of online probate applications. The government and HM Courts and Tribunal Service (HMCTS) propose changing the non-contentious probate rules to make it mandatory for professional users (solicitors and other probate practitioners) to use the online process.

We agree in principle with mandating online professional applications, however, the system must be fit for purpose before this is fully rolled out and should not be made compulsory until all issues have been resolved. Practitioners will want to have assurance that the online systems work and are fully tested before mandating their use, that the service levels will not decline, and that these changes won’t lead to excessive changes to fees. HMCTS must also state what alternative options will be available should the system experience difficulties, such as technology issues or if a practitioner can show that the online system cannot cope with a particular aspect of the application.

 

Read our response here :https://www.lawsociety.org.uk/campaigns/consultation-responses/non-contentious-probate-mandating-online-professional-applications-law-society-response

Diversity and Inclusion

Let’s keep the spotlight on mental health

The pandemic has had a significant negative impact on mental health and well-being throughout the profession, however, more positively, for many organisations it has been the catalyst to invest and prioritise the mental well-being of their employees.

It has been fantastic to see launches of new, meaningful initiatives and the growing emphasis on the importance of a healthy mind.

For this World Mental Health Day on 10 October 2020, we want to celebrate organisations and individuals who have played a part in prioritising mental health during this unprecedented time.

Get in touch with us to share your own experiences or your organisation’s story and join us in keeping the spotlight on mental health.

Email us to share your story

Local law societies can lead the way on disability inclusion.

Our Lawyers with Disabilities Division is offering to run virtual roundtables for local law societies (and firms and other organisations) to discuss the findings of the recent Legally Disabled research, together with easy wins to improve disability inclusion.

Please get in touch to register your interest and arrange a session.

Find out more  

Our work internationally

On 16 September, deputy vice President Stephanie Boyce spoke at the International Association of Lawyers (UIA) online event on Women Leaders of the Bar. Stephanie was joined by panellists including, the president of the American Bar Association Patricia Lee Refo, chair of the Bar of England and Wales Amanda Pinto QC, International Association of Young Lawyers (AIJA) immediate past president Paola Fundakowska, and the president of The Law Society of Hong Kong Melissa Pang.

Council Report - 15 July 2020 - download the report here

Includes:

  • Covid-19 Policy Work.
  • Access to Justice.
  • Covid Business Support.
  • Criminal and Legal Aid.
  • HMCTS
  • Public Affairs
  • Regulation
  • Wales
  • International Rule of Law
  • Governance
  • International Governance (IGR)
  • New Website


The next council meeting is to be confirmed.

Chief Executive's Report to Council - Part 1 - 15 July 2020 - download the report here.