Law Society Meeting Summary: 11, July 2013

Law Society Council meeting summary: 11 July 2013

At recent meetings, the Council has discussed major strategic issues facing the profession, including supporting the profession after April 2013 reforms, and responding to the Government’s proposals for competitive tendering for criminal legal aid. At the July Council meeting, followed by the Law Society’s AGM, several boards and committees submitted reports and Council considered new board and committee appointments. A report from the Equality and Diversity Committee reviewed provision of mandatory training on unconscious bias and disability awareness for board and committee chairs and those involved in committee recruitment interviews.

Budget and practising certificate (PC) fee
One of the main items of business was the 2014 operating budget for the Law Society Group, agreed at £112.5million. The total funding requirement from PC fees  was set at £116.8 million, broken down as below.
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Through the PC fee, 60 per cent of the budget is provided by firms and 40 per cent by individuals. With the substantial reduction of the Compensation Fund levy, individuals in 2014 will pay £4 (0.9 per cent) more than in 2013 and firms will pay between 6 and 13 per cent more depending on their annual turnover. Group expenditure in 2014 will remain less than the equivalent sum in 2011.

Updates from reports made to Council

Engagement: The CEO and office holders visited Liverpool, Bradford, Hull, Norwich, Bristol, Croydon, Merthyr and Cardiff. We also promoted the use of English law in cross-border transactions at the St Petersburg International Legal Forum.

Shaping the environment: Legal aid issues have been predominant, but other matters have not been forgotten. The president and the chairs of the EU and Criminal Law committees met with the lead MOJ ministers to discuss the Government’s proposed opt-out from 130 pre-Lisbon crime and justice measures. The Law Society also briefed MPs and peers on a number of bills in the Queen’s Speech.

Legal policy: A new staff project team and the Regulatory Affairs Board will be working together on our policies on regulation. This follows a Government call for evidence on the future of regulation, closing on 3 September. We have also held road shows on technology in the criminal justice system and produced practice notes on topics including financial abuse of vulnerable clients and ‘unbundling’ legal services.

Divisions: The Junior Lawyers Division (JLD) attended the LawWorks pro bono presentation dinner and the European Young Bar Association AGM in the Hague at the end of June.
The Small Firms Division held a joint event with the Law Management Section on ‘Going for Growth: Practical Strategies’. This focused on how members can attract and keep clients, increase profitability and develop commercial channels to create new work.
The In-House Division held a highly successful annual conference in May and a number of sold-out compliance forums in June and July.
The Women Lawyers’ Division held its first official event on 3 June, the annual Fiona Woolf lecture.

President’s end-of-year report
The president gave her end-of-year report to Council. Highlights included:
•  speaking at a diverse range of events to improve access to the profession
•   meeting key stakeholders at home and abroad  to promote the brand of solicitor
• campaigning to ensure that, even after the Legal Aid Sentencing and Punishment of Offenders Bill, the rule of law will still underpin our democracy.