Law Society Council Meeting Report 30/03/22

Below is a brief summary of matters raised and discusses at the council meeting.

Criminal Legal Aid Review

The President’s report updated Council on very recent developments. In short, in communications

received both before and after publication of the consultation, the unmistakeable impression had

been given that proposed investment in criminal legal aid for both solicitors and barristers

amounted to 15%, as Sir Christopher Bellamy had recommended. This was reinforced by the Lord

Chancellor in the House of Commons on 22 March. 

 

On studying the detailed analysis of the proposals, we were deeply concerned to read an indication

that, while the investment for barristers amounts to 15%, the value of the investment for solicitors is

only 9%. The Law Society is now campaigning, engaging MPs, and raising awareness of concerns

through social media and press coverage. We will continue to work hard to get the message out that

the continuous erosion of our criminal justice system is unacceptable and our members deserve to

be treated fairly and with respect. Please share and like our posts, and consider responding to the

Ministry of Justice consultation (which ends on 7 June).

 

Law Society response to the unlawful invasion of Ukraine 


Council was updated on the Law Society’s ongoing work in this area. Following the outbreak of

hostilities in February, we issued a statement condemning the invasion and offering our support to

the people of Ukraine. At the same time we reached out to the two organisations representing

Ukrainian lawyers, the Ukrainian National Bar Association and the Ukrainian Bar Association. We are

maintaining our links to these agencies and to international partners. 


Defending the reputation of the profession – accusations of ‘professional enablement’:


There has been significant media and political attention, and negative coverage, directed at the

profession with some solicitors and law firms named publicly, was. 


 We have been clear that the right to legal representation was a sacrosanct principle of the rule of

law. We approached the law firms particularly affected by the publicity to offer our support.  This

was well-received. We have, however, been working with UK law firms which previously had offices

in Russia, of which there were 21 and now are none, most of those who have left citing

incompatibility between the Russian government’s actions and their firms’ values.


Our response to the new UK sanctions regime and other government actions: 


Having offered our support to the government in designing and implementing a tight and

enforceable sanctions regime, we worked quickly to ensure that members have been kept informed

through all our main communication channels.  It is displayed prominently on our website.  


We continue to engage with all the relevant government agencies involved in the sanctions regime

and its ongoing development and will update our information support to members as and when

needed. 


Support for firms directly affected by the crisis – those with offices in Ukraine and Russia:


There were three firms with offices in Ukraine, we have approached all of them and discussed the

process in detail.  All have closed their offices and have taken steps to support their colleagues,

including offering relocation to a safe country.  We understand the firms are maintaining their

contact with staff still in Ukraine. 


Support for Ukrainians and philanthropic initiatives:


We are in contact with a number of pro bono initiatives being set up by our members, and are

signposting interested members to these through our website. We have received a number of

suggestions from members that we should consider setting up a dedicated scheme to support

Ukrainian refugees and Ukrainian lawyers.  We are, however, mindful of the risk of starting any

initiative for which we do not have capacity.   

 

Diversity and Inclusion


Turning to domestic matters, Council heard that the Equality, Diversity and Inclusion Committee

approved a project plan for developing a new D&I framework for law firms. The intention of this

framework is to provide a clear set of expectations and guidance to enable firms to develop their

own tailored strategic action plans for advancing diversity and inclusion. The law firms that have

signed up to the D&I Charter have been consulted on whether they still see value in retaining the

public commitment this D&I Charter. If this is the case, the new framework can be linked to the

Charter.


As part of the Law Society’s own equality, diversity, and inclusion work, we’ve joined the 10,000

Black Interns initiative – a programme that helps to transform the horizons and prospects of young

Black people by offering them paid work experience, training, and development. Having received

120 applications, we’ve chosen five candidates who will join us as interns in June 2022 for six to

eight weeks.


My Law Society and Upcoming Elections/ Constituencies


The Council Membership Committee reported that the My Law Society portal for member in-

formation was being relaunched following a redesign in which Council members had been involved.

Law Society members should sign up and register their areas of work and demographic

characteristics, to ensure that they will be able to vote and stand in the relevant Council

constituencies in this year’s Law Society elections. They will also obtain information and

opportunities to engage on relevant legal practice areas and groups of interest. All Law Society

members will be receiving invitations and reminders and are encouraged to enter their details.


Law Society Activity Highlights


The chief executive’s report highlighted the fact that the Law Society continues to operate in difficult

times, but also stressed that much had been learnt from responding to the challenges of Covid in

terms of more flexible working, and the use of remote meetings which had facilitated wider

participation by the profession in the work of the Law Society. The interim chief executive noted that

the Law Society had delivered a solid start to the financial year and expected to remain on track to

deliver the business plan and budget for the year. He then highlighted a number of specific areas of

activity.


Human Rights: On 14 December 2021 the Lord Chancellor announced the Government’s plans to

replace the Human Rights Act with a “modern Bill of Rights”. The Government’s proposals included

plans to remove the duty on UK courts to follow the case law of the European Court of Human

Rights, introduce a permission stage for human rights claims, restrict the ability of foreign national

offenders to challenge deportation orders under human rights law, and limit the extraterritorial

application of the Human Rights Act, among others. The consultation closed on 8 March 2022, and

the Law Society submitted a full response and is engaging with key stakeholders.


SLAPPSs and reputation of the Profession: We have been closely monitoring the debate in

Parliament regarding strategic litigation against public participation (SLAPPs). It is clear that there is

now the political will to bring forward reforms in this area.


Wales: We were the driving force in ensuring the Law Council of Wales, as set out in the Thomas

Commission review of Justice in Wales, has full representation for practicing solicitors. The Law

Society Wales office is providing the secretariat to the Council and the Law Society head of Wales,

Jonathan Davies, has become General Secretary to the Council. Lord David Lloyd-Jones has been

voted in as the inaugural President.


Council was addressed by Mick Antoniw MS, Counsel General for Wales, who emphasised the

evolving nature of Welsh devolution and the increasing development of a separate law jurisdiction.

The chair and vice-chair of the Law Society’s Wales Committee, supported by the head of Wales, also

spoke, and the Law Society is actively reviewing how it can most effectively respond to these

emerging developments.


Member Engagement and Services: We held a virtual town hall meeting with local law socie-ties,

chaired by the president and vice president. Forty local law societies registered to take part and the

meeting was very well-received. A survey to local law societies closed on 17 Jan-uary. Feedback was

that we have produced very helpful information and engaged well. We have sent out the third

edition of a digital bulletin specifically developed for local law societies,


Events: In the first quarter of 2021-22, the Law Society Events team held 27 events, with 8,464

registered delegates, 4,030 live views and 2,562 on-demand views. Event satisfaction has remained

high at 4.4 (out of 5). The Domestic Abuse Act webinar in December has been our most popular with

1,061 registrations.

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