PUBLIC. COUNCIL 10 December 2014 Item 10

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1 COUNCIL 10 December 2014 Item 10 Classification Public Purpose For noting PRESIDENTIAL UPDATE The Issues This paper presents an update on my activities since taking office in July 2014 with a particular focus on the programme of engagement and activity designed to deliver the three major themes set out in my Presidential Year Plan. Remit This is within my role as president. Statement of territorial application Not applicable. Policy position This paper provides an update on my Presidential Year Plan, as approved by the Management Board in June 2014 and presented to Council in July Financial and resourcing implications Within existing budgets. Communications Activity and engagement has been fully supported by the Communications and Public Affairs teams. Plans are in place to deliver the second half of the plan in Equality, diversity and inclusion implications The equalities implications of my Presidential Year Plan have been considered, and are compatible with the wider aspects of the Society s business plan for Consultation This paper has been prepared for noting by Council, following the approval of my Presidential Year Plan by Management Board in June 2014 and Council in July Author: Andrew Caplen Date of report: 24 November

2 PRESIDENTIAL UPDATE 1. Upon taking office in July 2014 I detailed themes designed to highlight the work of both the Law Society and the profession within three broad areas: Access to justice; 1.2. The rule of law; and 1.3. Diversity and inclusion. As president, I have sought to emphasise these themes in the following ways over the course of the past five months: ACCESS TO JUSTICE 2. Protecting and promoting access to justice: 2.1. In July, I marked the 65 th anniversary of the enactment of the Legal Advice and Assistance Act 1949 via a video on the Law Society website, a round of media interviews and the release of a poll showing public support for legal aid Also in July, I appeared before the House of Commons Justice Select Committee to explain the Law Society s view on the impact of changes to civil legal aid by virtue of the Legal Aid, Sentencing and Punishment of Offenders Act In September, I launched the Law Society s Use a Professional. Use a Solicitor consumer campaign, reminding the public that highly qualified, professionally trained solicitors are the best people to provide legal advice On 8 September, speaking alongside the Lord Chief Justice, I launched the Law Society s Access to Justice Campaign. To support the launch I was interviewed by The Guardian and The Times and was quoted widely in the trade press In October, I spoke at the annual conference of the Legal Aid Practitioners Group on the subject of the future of legal aid The 13 th annual National Pro Bono Week (NPBW), sponsored by the Law Society, the Bar Council and the Chartered Institute of Legal Executives (CILEx), took place between 3-7 November The week was launched by the Attorney General at a question time event hosted by the Law Society, and featured events about international and domestic pro bono work On 10 December, I am due to speak at a meeting of the All-Party Parliamentary Group for Legal Affairs to discuss with Parliamentarians whether victims of gender based violence are receiving sufficient access to justice, particularly in light of the Legal Aid Sentencing and Punishment of Offenders Act 2012, which imposes a high evidential gateway to the receipt of legal aid Following the outcome of the Judicial Review in respect of Criminal Legal Aid tendering, the Ministry of Justice issued a further consultation. This closed in mid-october. Meetings were held with membership groups and members in order to discuss how best to respond to the consultation. Materials were 2

3 produced to help members respond and lobby their MPs on the issue. I also wrote to the Chairs of the influential Justice Select Committee and the Public Accounts Committee in the House of Commons to raising appropriate issues with them. RULE OF LAW 3. Positioning the Law Society, and the profession, as the leading voice on the importance of adherence to the rule of law is a major theme of the Society s business plan In September I joined bar leaders from around the world for the Opening of the Legal Year, which this year focussed on the rule of law. I chaired one of the seminars based on the United Nations Guiding principles on Business and Human Rights and it's application by lawyers in business. I also spoke at the bar leader s breakfast on the subject of the rule of law in the light of next year s Magna Carta celebrations The Deputy Vice President, Robert Bourns, gave a key note speech to an audience of City lawyers, financial services firms and think-tanks at a conference organised by the major policy think-tank, Policy Exchange. He focussed on the significant economic contribution of the profession and said that the legal sector makes a direct contribution of 1.5% of the UK s GDP, that for every 100 jobs in the legal services sector, 67 are supported in other areas of the economy, and that every 1 of output underpins 2.39 of output in the economy as a whole. He made clear that the success of the legal sector would not be possible without the existence of a high quality legal and independent legal profession and judiciary. The Rule of Law was vital to guaranteeing this continued success The Annual Law Society Human Rights Conference will be held on 10 December. The major focus of the event is the interaction between business and human rights. In addition, the Society has been preparing its work in defending the Human Rights Act. DIVERSITY AND INCLUSION 4. I have committed to emphasising the Society s work to help the legal profession to promote diversity and inclusion. I have undertaken a number of events in pursuit of this aim since July: 4.1. In July I hosted a dinner to explore the role of lawyers in assisting women and girls who are subject to domestic violence and to review good practice by law firms in respect of this In October, I spoke at a Law Society organised and hosted inspirational evening reception to highlight the achievements of Black and Asian lawyers. The event was part of the Society s programme of events designed to mark Black History Month I met recipients of funding under the Society s Diversity Access Scheme at the Law Society s annual Excellence Awards in October and used the event to raise the profile of their achievements. 3

4 4.4. I also met the Judicial Appointments Commission in October in order to discuss progress in improving the diversity of the judiciary and how the Law Society is encouraging solicitors to pursue judicial opportunities I hosted a dinner in Birmingham in November to discuss challenges and issues relating to career progression for BAME lawyers Also in November, I am due to open the London Law Fair, a careers event aimed at encouraging individuals form diverse backgrounds to enter the legal profession. The event is to be hosted by the Law Society I am due to speak to law students at the University of Portsmouth in December and will use this opportunity to discuss career options in the legal sector. Engagement 5. Other ongoing engagement has included: meetings and key-note events outside of London in Wales and the English regions e.g. visits to various solicitors in south Wales in July, the Notaries Society conference and visiting firms in Harrogate in September, a lunch with local government lawyers in Manchester in October, joining Liverpool Law Society s access to justice committee for a meeting in November and hosting a dinner for BAME lawyers in Birmingham I spoke at the ABA conference in Boston USA in August, on the topic of business and human rights and at the IBA conference in Tokyo in October on the topic of Human Trafficking I have held regular meetings with the Solicitors Regulation Authority and Legal Services Board The Law Society continues to develop and build on good relations with the judiciary. I have had meetings with the President of the Queen's Bench Division, Sir Brian Leveson, Master of the Rolls, Lord Dyson, President of the Supreme Court, Lord Neuberger, Lord Chief Justice, Lord Thomas, Senior President of Tribunals, Lord Justice Sullivan and President of the Family Division, Sir James Munby Media - There has been extensive coverage in print media around, for example, access to justice, the European Arrest Warrant, judicial review, wills and conveyancing in the Guardian, Times, Gazette, Solicitors Journal and New Law Journal and Legal Voice among others. The Access to Justice Day on 8 September received a great deal of positive coverage The Law Society, Bar Council and CILEx submitted a letter to the Sunday Times in October defending judicial review and condemning plans in the Criminal Justice and Courts Bill to limit access to JR. This was covered widely by the press, especially in the Guardian. 4

5 5.7. The Vice President and I gave interviews with Sky News and BBC (both television and radio) in November upon the Law Society s position on European Arrest Warrants Government and Parliament - the Vice President and I attended the political party conferences in September and October leading a full programme of events in Manchester (Labour), Birmingham (Conservatives) and Glasgow (Liberal Democrats). This programme was used to bring together ministers, frontbench spokespeople, conference delegates and locally based practitioners to focus on the issues contained in the Society s manifesto for justice I have also held meetings with the Attorney General and Solictor General, and with other parliamentarians in the House of Commons and Lords including qualified solictors such as the health minister, Norman Lamb MP and the Liberal Democrat peer, Baroness Hamwee. The Society s manifesto for justice has been the main topic of discussion at a series of Presidential dinners in November and December with ministers, spokespeople and policy advisers from each of the three main political parties. There will be ongoing activity to engage MPs, party spokespeople and prospective MPs over the coming six months, both before and after the 2015 General Election. 5

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