Latest News Updates from The Law Society

Latest News Updates from The Law Society


Written By: The Law Society
Written: 9th Jul 2020

Latest News Updates

Awards hail legal aid heroes - 8th July 2020
Support for jobs & the housing market welcomed by the Law Society - 8th July 2020
Ethnic Minority Lawyers Division (EMLD) - Virtual Roundtables & Online Survey - 6th July 2020
100 Days in lockdown: What we've done in numbers - 6th July 2020
Recognition for 'social justice heroes of the pandemic' - 2nd July 2020
Ministry of Justice launch 2020/21 round of Queen's Counsel Honoris Causa Awards - 1 July 2020
Solicitors Indemnity Fund closure postponed for a year - 30th June 2020
First woman solicitor honoured by Law Society - 29th June 2020
'No fault' Divorce becomes law - 26th June 2020
Employment Tribunals need to deliver justice swiftly - 22nd June 2020
120 Criminal Firms have collapsed with more to follow - Law Society demands more from government proposals - 17th June 2020
Employment Law Guidance for returning to the office - 16th June 2020
Immediate action needed to save the justice system - 16th June 2020
Lawyers virtually celebrate #LegalPride2020 - 11th June 2020

Parliamentary Report - Friday 3rd July 2020

Read the latest Parliamentary Report from The Law Society here.  Parliamentary Report - 3rd July 2020

Report includes:

  1. Return, Restart, Recovery: Law Society launches new campaign.
  2. Private International Law Bill passes Lords.
  3. MP's criticise indefinite detention during Immigration Bill debate.
  4. MPs consider amendments to the Counter-Terrorism and Sentencing Bill.
  5. Prime Minister gives speech on UK economy.

President's Update - Monday 6th July 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 

We have promoted our new campaign to highlight the great work the profession has been doing for clients and the community during the pandemic. You can read more here.
The latest twitter messages, including member comments and video are here

Please encourage your constituents to share their stories.

Practising Fee Consultation

You will know that we are communicating with members about our proposed reduction in our portion of the practising fee.

The detail is here

A Gazette article from Paul Tennant explains more

We have already received more than twice as many responses than last year and the consultation remains open until 10 July.

Please encourage your constituents to respond.


Return, restart, recovery

On Tuesday the Law Society launched a new Return, Restart, Recovery campaign as part of our COVID response work.
 
The main points of the campaign are:

Return: focusing on supporting law firms and organisations to re-open their doors safely and business support measures to address the courts backlog which do not compromise on the quality of justice. ?
 
Restart: focusing on steps the government can take to help solicitors in revitalising key markets, such as

  • bespoke support for the civil and criminal legal aid sectors 
  • changes to the apprenticeship levy to promote job creation and training, and 
  • targeted tax incentives to support employment and stimulate activity in key markets 

Recovery: focusing on the wider role legal services will play in the country’s recovery from coronavirus, both in economic terms and in social ones. This means:

  • continuing to promote England and Wales internationally as a global legal centre 
  • investing in adoption of new technologies in the legal sector, and 
  • ensuring access to justice for all to help ensure our communities emerge from the crisis more resilient and more supported than before.

The main RRR campaign webpage is here:
https://lawsociety.org.uk/campaigns/return-restart-and-recovery/
 
As part of the campaign we have made a submission to the Treasury with key economic policy asks, ahead of the chancellor’s July statement: https://lawsociety.org.uk/campaigns/return-restart-and-recovery/submission-to-the-treasury-return-restart-recovery  This paper has been shared with Treasury, the MoJ and BEIS. It will also be sent to key parliamentarians and other interested groups.
 
The campaign also details support packages for members https://lawsociety.org.uk/campaigns/return-restart-and-recovery/support-for-individual-solicitors and will also soon feature support information for firms facing financial hardship and particularly those that are exploring a different way of providing legal services. The campaign will run from June – October 2020.

Justice

We have joined three out of four judiciary-led working groups looking at extended operating hours for the courts. We have strong reservations about the practicality of the proposals and the impact on our members.

We are lobbying the LAA hard after their CCMS system crashed, urging that they extend the phasing in period for their takeover of assessment of bills from the Court.

We issued a joint statement with the Bar arguing against the curtailing of jury trial pointing out that it is "at the heart of our criminal justice system". We also observed that the current backlog in cases had been exacerbated but not created by Covid-19 and there were 40,000 outstanding even prior to the pandemic.

Regulation

Price transparency
We met with the SRA to discuss their work on evaluating implementation of the SRA Transparency Rules. The SRA appointed IRN consultancy to conduct an independent evaluation, with results expected in Autumn.
The research will largely focus on consumer experience and test consumer perceptions of whether there has been any impact from improved information on prices/service quality/SRA digital badge, and increased levels of shopping around and use of price comparison tools.
To a lesser degree, the research will also look at compliance issues and impact on law firms, e.g. compliance cost, underlying problems in compliance, and any potential positive outcomes on firms (e.g. increasing client base).
 
The research will be based on a mixture of interviews and surveys:

  • Stakeholder interviews, including with the Law Society
  • Online consumer survey
  • Online survey with law firms and practitioners

The SRA indicated that based on their second web sweep carried out in December last year, compliance has not improved largely in comparison to the previous sweep done the previous August. Key problems found were around displaying information on how to complain and VAT disbursements, though there was notable improvement on immigration work.
 
The SRA is not currently taking any enforcement action against firms for non-compliance because they recognise the exceptionally difficult circumstances currently faced by the profession.
 
We suggested that SRA include questions in the survey for firms about whether firms understand regulatory requirements. We also raised the issue of  difficulty in evaluating service quality, consumer bias pending on the case outcome, and the right criteria to use. We agreed to stay in touch and will provide further details on the outcome of this work.  

Parliamentary

Speeches

Climate webinar
On Wednesday I spoke at an online seminar, ‘Law and the Climate Emergency,’ hosted by Esela. Also speaking were:

  • Matthew Gingell, Chair of The Chancery Lane Project and General Counsel at Oxygen House
  • Mark Campanale, Founder & Executive Chair of Carbon Tracker Initiative
  • Lina Pimentel Garcia, Head of Environmental Law at Mattos Filho and Senior Vice Chair of the International Bar Association (IBA) Environment, Health & Safety Committee Silke Goldberg, Chair of the Legal Response International (LRI) and Partner at Herbert Smith Freehill 
  • Ellie Mulholland, Director of the Commonwealth Climate and Law Initiative

I also covered the importance of the Law Society as a convenor and a facilitator of collaboration in the legal sector’s work to tackle the climate crisis.
 
MP's  criticise indefinite detention during Immigration Bill debate
The Law Society has briefed throughout the passage of the Immigration and Social Security (EU Withdrawal) Bill, which had its report stage and third reading on Tuesday. During the debate, many MP’s spoke about the importance of a series of amendments aimed at reducing the amount of time someone can be placed in immigration detention to 28 days, which the Law Society had briefed in support of. Conservative David Davis MP mentioned the Law Society alongside the chief inspector of prisons, the chief inspector of borders, the Select Committee on Home Affairs, the Joint Committee on Human Rights, and the Bar Council as expert organisations which have criticised the measure. Only one of these amendments was pressed to a vote, and it was defeated by a margin of 332 – 252. The Bill passed its third reading by a margin of 342 – 248.


Relationship Management

On Monday 22 June the relationship management team organised a Covid 19 briefing for the largest firms.
 
We had thirty attendees on the MS teams briefing, mainly managing and senior partners. I gave an update on the successful lobbying work the Law Society has undertaken in the Covid 19 crisis.
 
The response was very positive.Einat Sohar and I received the following email from the executive partner and  Chairman of a one of the firms:
 
“Simon and Einat

Many thanks for hosting the call which I joined today on behalf of …. It is reassuring to know that the voice of firms like ours is being heard in these changing times, and that our interests and angles are so well understood by the Law Society. There has been consistently strong feedback around our leadership table on the work you have been doing.”

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

International Update

This week, the Law Society launched the RRR campaign (see above) to help the legal profession play its part in getting the economy back on its feet in the wake of the Covid-19 pandemic.
 
I wrote an article for the Gazette. “Our profession is absolutely integral to the rule of law, access to justice and the overall economy. It is the job of the Law Society in turn to help look after solicitors’ physical, mental and financial health.”
 
The Times (£), New Law Journal, Today’s Wills & Probate, Solicitors Journal, Legal Cheek, Legal Futures and Today’s Conveyancer also reported.
 
“All across the country solicitors have worked tirelessly for their clients to ensure the highest standard of service. I am proud of the role solicitors have played to keep the wheels of justice turning through this extraordinarily challenging time,” I said.
 
“We want to help our members prepare as the government begins to lift restrictions and solicitors slowly return to the office in the coming weeks.”
 
As part of the RRR initiative, we have identified that technology will play a vital role in driving the post-coronavirus recovery.
 
The Gazette and Practical Law focused on this insight, noting that one way to empower law firms to create new jobs would be to allow them to spend the apprenticeships funding on lawtech seats and training in lawtech skills.
 
The Guardian reported that the backlog of untried cases in the criminal justice system – which has ballooned during lockdown – could take a decade to clear.
 
I said: “Going straight to extended working hours for already beleaguered judges, court staff and legal practitioners needs to be treated with utmost caution and, worse still, we should not be thinking about scrapping jury trials, even if only for some cases and on a temporary basis.” Also in the The Press and Journal, Chard & Ilminster News, Yeovil Express, Bridgwater Mercury, LawFuel and MSN.com.
 
The Guardian, the Independent and Yahoo! News also reported on the government’s latest plan to battle the backlog of more than half a million cases, with the HM Courts and Tribunal Service (HMCTS) explaining that “alternative venues” would start operating in August.
 
Prime Minister Boris Johnson revealed, as part of a £5 billion coronavirus recovery plan, that around 100 courts would receive £142 million to digitally upgrade their services, creating at least 2,250 jobs, reported the Gazette.
 
The Press Association and the Gazette noted that the Law Society has welcomed the PM’s spending boost, but said wider funding is desperately needed across the justice system.
 
“Covid-19 has had a significant impact – with many courts closing temporarily and already high case backlogs increasing. Improving legal aid and ensuring more people are represented in court will also be vital in ensuring the courts run as efficiently as possible and clearing the backlogs,” I said.
 
The Gazette reported the legal aid means test review has been paused. I urged the review be restarted as soon as possible and said: “The test must be restructured to ensure that those who cannot reasonably afford to pay for legal services are able to get representation.”
The Solicitor’s Journal covered justice secretary Robert Buckland’s comments that jury trials might be scrapped for some cases. I warned: “Jury trial is the bedrock of our criminal justice system.”
 
Public Law Today reported on the employment tribunal backlog. I said: “If employment tribunals cannot hear cases in a short timeframe there will be many unsettled claims over the next two years.”
 
The Gazette reported HMCTS is braced for a potential surge in probate applications. The Law Society holds regular meetings with HMCTS and other organisations on the probate system.
 
Today’s Wills and Probate examined the need for wider wills reform after coronavirus. They cite our conversations with government about relaxing wills regulations during the pandemic.
 
Estate Agent Today examined how to avoid delays as the property market restarts. They cite our calls for the government to give greater flexibility in the job retention scheme to help people get back to work.
 
Maria Murphy, on our family law committee, spoke to BBC Radio Humberside (from 03:39:10) about how temporary changes to the adoption and fostering regulations during the coronavirus pandemic could leave vulnerable children at risk.

Grazia assessed the new government guidance for couples planning to get married in England from tomorrow.
 
David Greene, Law Society vice president, looks at our international work in Africa in the Gazette.
 
International work “gives lawyers the chance to learn about other jurisdictions, meet colleagues from around the world and broaden our understanding of the law and its practice in different circumstances”, he wrote
 
The Solicitors Indemnity Fund (SIF) is to stay open for another year, reports the Gazette and Legal Futures.
 
The SIF covers claims made after firms’ run-off cover expires, and the extra time will allow the insurance market time to develop commercial products.
 
“Solicitors will be relieved, because with the breathing space this pause provides, the Law Society and the Solicitors Regulation Authority (SRA) can work together with insurers to try to find a practical solution that will protect former principals and their clients once SIF finally does close to new claims,” I said.
 
Today’s Conveyancer noted that the Law Society is running a survey and calling on all CQS members for their input to help change the conveyancing process.
 
Our message to members said: “Some industry groups representing significant numbers of conveyancers – solicitors and others – are advocating the use of a new Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) to try and improve conveyancing processes during the pandemic and afterwards.”
 
“The draft MOU is a voluntary set of guidelines which, if widely adopted by industry groups, could have significant implications for firms undertaking conveyancing work, as well as buyers and sellers.”
 
The Legal Aid Group reports that the Legal Aid Practitioners Group announced the winners of four Legal Aid Lawyer of the Year (LALY) special awards for ‘social justice heroes of the pandemic.
 
Jenny Beck, a member of the Law Society’s access to justice committee received the honour for her work campaigning for greater protection for victims of domestic violence during the lockdown.
 
Richard Atkinson, co-chair of our criminal law committee, meanwhile, was responsible for the development and introduction of a nationwide protocol for lawyers attending clients at the police station during the coronavirus pandemic.
 
The LALY 2020 award ceremony will take place online on 7 July.  
 
Practice Source carried a story about Carrie Morrison, the first woman to be admitted to the solicitors’ roll, nearly 100 years ago, who is to have a room renamed in her honour at the Law Society’s Chancery Lane headquarters.

Update from our Brussels Office

On Tuesday 30 June, Helena Raulus, head of office attended a call with Irwin Mitchell to discuss Lugano Convention matters.

On Thursday 2 July, The Brussels Office organised an online working group meeting related to private international law with our members and staff. The participants were from Allen & Overy; Herbeth Smith Freehills; Simmons & Simmons and Irwin Mitchell. The meeting was chaired by Sarah Garvey, member of the LSEW EU Committee.

Council Report - 3 June 2020 - download the report here.

Includes:

  • Consulting on the practicising fee.
  • Pandemic support for members.
  • Legal Aid & financial support.
  • Member Safety
  • Remote hearings in the Civil & Family Courts.
  • Conveyancing
  • The relationship between the professional body & the regulator
  • Going digital.


The next council meeting is scheduled for 15th July 2020.