Law Society Council Meeting Summary

Law Society Council meeting summary: 16 October 2013

At this first Council meeting of the legal year 2013-14, we welcomed the 19 new members of Council who had been elected or nominated to Council seats earlier in the year, the great majority of whom were able to attend their first Council meeting in person. There were a number of important matters on the Council agenda which this document attempts to summarise for wider circulation.

The future of regulation

We submitted a response, adopted by the Society’s Regulatory Affairs Board, to the Lord Chancellor’s call for evidence on regulating the profession. The key elements ofour preferred way forward are:

1. Return responsibility for standard setting and education to the professional bodies2. Revise the Internal Governance Rules to clarify responsibilities, giving the professional bodies clearer accountability for their arm’s-length regulator3. Reduce the size and scope of the oversight regulator, which would be chaired by a judge.

Council discussed these proposals and the strands of work that would be required for implementation ifthey were adopted by the Ministry of Justice. These include defining which functions would transfer, how the rules would need to be amended, and how to address practical issues including organisation design.

Criminal Legal Aid

In a wide-ranging debate, Council considered the Society’s position, and what the next steps should be. The Law Society opposed the model for the procurement of legal aid originally proposed in theTransforming Legal Aid consultation paper. In particular:

A. We opposed the removal of client choice.B. We opposed the introduction of Price-Competitive Tendering (PCT).C. We  sought to ensure that that greatest possible number of firms could sustainably deliver criminal legal aid in the medium term.

A separate document (enclosed) summarises presentations made to the meeting.

Updates on other issues

Some of the discussions in Council related to how it oversees the Society’s activities and operations, for example continuing updates on measures to improve the internal control regime, and a business case to support moving to a much more ‘joined up’ and effective suite of IT systems.

Engaging and shaping our environment

The CEO, accompanied by the relevant regional manager, made visits to firms in Suffolk, South Hampshire, Hertfordshire, and Greater London.

The Law Society maintained its customary presence at the American Bar Association annual conference, hosting a seminar for international bar leaders on regulation of the legal profession.

On civil litigation issues, the Chief Executive appeared before the Transport Select Committee, and the President met with the relevant MoJ minister to express our views.

On equality and diversity, we have worked with Riliance to develop a free online tool to enable firms to collect, report and publish data on the diversity of their workforce as required by the SRA. As at the end of August, nearly 900 firms had registered for this.

Commercial affairs: We have conducted research with 275 small and medium practices to understand the importance of various support functions and business services provided to them. This will inform plans for the delivery of consultancy and other services for 2014. Activity has continued to deliver high quality services to section members, to improve the offering to Law Society divisions, to build the marketing and communications strategy to support the launch of the Wills Inheritance Quality Scheme, and to support the launch of Chancery Pii. The Practice Advice Service has received over 7,500 calls over the last three months and has been important in supporting firms with advice on Professional Indemnity Insurance. The new Gazette website has been well received by users.