Law Society Council Meeting Report 14/10/20

The Law Society held it AGM on the 14th October when the new President David Greene

took office along with the other office holder so for this year, Stephanie Boyce Vice President

and Lubna Shuja Deputy Vice President.


Proposals for the reform of council by introducing 12-year term limits and a changed

constituency system were voted on, which being the first-ever online AGM was a challenge, especially when over 200 people joined the meeting. The proposals were approved by

, especially when over 200 people joined the meeting. The proposals were approved by

members attending the AGM. Following the votes, the AGM voted to put both matters to a

ballot of all members. All members who might wish to participate should ensure that they are

opted-in to TLS emails and that their registered email address is up to date.


For more information go to https:// www.lawsociety.org.uk/topics/news-articles/right-to-vote-on-

changes-to-council-check-your-contact-details-are-up-to-

date?utm_source=presidents_updt&utm_medium=email&utm_campaign=President%27s+Up

date+6+November+2020_11%2f07%2f2020


The last regular council meeting was held in the morning of the 14th October before the

AGM. A brief report of that meeting is below.


This was Simon Davis’ last Council meeting as president of the Law Society and warm

tribute was paid to him for his leadership in what had been very difficult times.


A diverse profession

A profession representative of the society we serve has long been a priority at Chancery Lane

– a goal the Black Lives Matter (BLM) movement has brought into even sharper focus in

recent months.


At the latest Law Society Council meeting (14 October), representatives of the profession

were updated on our work in this area including research into the career experiences of black,

Asian and ethnic minority (BAME) members of the legal profession which we began in late

2019.


The project came about as a result of discussions with our Ethnic Minority Lawyers Division

(EMLD) and aims to investigate progress made over the last decade and uncover new issues.

The findings will promote understanding of the challenges faced by BAME solicitors and

provide an evidence base to underpin strategies and member-facing support.


Policy impact

The Ministry of Justice (MoJ) announced its decision on the “accelerated items” within the

Criminal Legal Aid Review. As a result of our lobbying, they have doubled the proposed fee

our members will receive for work on cases sent to Crown Court. They have also confirmed

the work on the review on the sustainability of criminal defence practice will be conducted

independently and undertaken to look at concerns around the sustainability of civil legal aid

work – both things we have been pushing for.


We have had significant engagement with the SRA and LSB about the Solicitors Qualifying

Examination. The SRA has changed its plans in relation to transitional arrangements, in line

with our advice, and committed to monitor and address equality implications of the new

system.


Council was pleased to hear that after discussions with TLS about the challenges facing

practitioners seeking to execute wills, the MoJ announced video witnessing would be valid

for a period of two years, backdated to the end of January 2020.


Public Affairs

The chief executive reported that this quarter, we continued to focus our public affairs work

on addressing the Covid-19 pandemic. From June to date, the Law Society and its campaigns

were mentioned 97 times in Hansard and in social media accounts linked to parliamentarians

on a range of issues. In June, the Law Society president gave evidence to the House of Lords’

EU Services Committee on UK-EU negotiations, and in July provided evidence to the

Constitution Committee on the impact of Covid-19 on the courts. In the past three months,

we have also met senior government and parliamentary stakeholders, including the Lord

Chancellor. We have continued to be active in promoting and supporting the role of the

solicitors’ profession in maintaining a focus on the rule of law and access to justice.


Supporting members during Covid-19

Council noted the insight gathered by speaking directly to members, including from directly

surveying sections of our membership, throughout the pandemic has been crucial to our

ability to respond quickly, appropriately and effectively. The lessons from this experience

will help us explore new ways to connect with members.


Diversity Access Scheme

Council heard an update on the Law Society’s work to promote equality, diversity and

inclusion. Our Diversity Access Scheme (DAS) helps talented people who would otherwise

be unable to pursue a career in law by providing funding for their Legal Practice Course

(LPC) and helping secure work placements and professional mentors. We offer 10 DAS

awards each year.


Five out of 10 DAS awardees from 2019 have secured training contracts in a diverse range of

settings, including the CPS and the City. Work has begun on DAS for 2021.


Social Mobility Ambassadors

The Social Mobility Ambassador (SMA) scheme promotes role models from non-traditional

backgrounds who are willing to support their peers plus prospective solicitors.

The recruitment process for SMAs was recently redesigned to make it clearer as well as more

accessible to candidates with disabilities. We received 85 applications and interviewed 27

candidates with help from LDD, LGBT+D and EMLD on the panels.

We have recruited 13 new SMAs. As part of a drive to represent a wide geographical area,

we have a Welsh SMA specifically targeting Wales.


Online Communities

It was reported to Council that we are in the process of finalising the launch of our pilot

digital community designed to connect small firm members to one another and to TLS. The

pilot will test the concept of digital communities in real-time with a live issue: support for

small firms as the country re-opens post-Covid. The digital community aims to increase

awareness of content and resources available to small firms.


Remote events

May 2020 saw the start of our online events replacing face-to-face events cancelled earlier in

the year. Between May and July, we held our first-ever virtual conference (the annual JLD

conference), 32 webinars and nine podcasts attracting 4,700 delegate bookings and a live

viewing conversion rate of 65%. The online events have been well received and our

geographical reach has increased by 50%.


Learning and development

October will be a significant month for the new member learning and development offer. We

will launch to around 50,000 members from three cohorts (in-house practitioners, compliance

specialists and junior lawyers). Our bite-sized content will be available to purchase to these

cohorts.


Looking to the future

Council approved the draft business plan for 2020-2021. It focuses on building an even

stronger connection with our members, delivering focused and influential policy work, and

continuing to become an even more effective and efficient organisation.


The next council meeting is on the 9th of December 2020.


Richard Atkinson

Law Society Council member for Kent

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