Monmouthshire President

Monmouthshire President's Letter (February 2016)


Happy New Year all! Sadly the New Year has not seen any let up on the challenges to the profession.


The Government continue to attack access to justice and the criminal legal aid situation continues to be a farce. Their plan to raise the small claims limit for personal injury cases will, in my view, only succeed creating a huge inequality of arms between the public and insurance companies. They also seem intent on eradicating whiplash claims, disregarding the right enshrined in law for injured people to claim compensation. They have no hard evidence to support their fraud figures, or claims of a “compensation culture” or that whiplash is any way out of control when compared with other countries, particularly when you consider that the UK has 79% more vehicles per kilometre than any other EU country and the most congested roads. There is also nothing to suggest that the insurers will keep their promise of reducing motorists’ premiums. They just seem intent on railroading through these changes, based mainly on Daily Mail rhetoric. We must take every opportunity to counter their arguments so that the public understand that they will ultimately be the losers in this. We need to make access to affordable justice as much of a vote winner as lowering the cost of justice and reducing motor insurance premiums.


Another potential area of change is in the way solicitors qualify. Last month I attended a talk given by Julie Brannan of the SRA at Capital Towers. She argued the case for bringing in the Solicitors Qualifying Examination. I can see the sense in a common examination allowing us to have a consistent and fair way of testing the competence of new entrants into the profession from all of the different pathways. My concern is that the standard must not “dumbed down” as this will create issues in the protection of the public and importantly the value of the brand of solicitor in England and Wales - and how it is perceived abroad. We intend responding to the current SRA consultation, however in my view they should have incorporated the period of recognised training and also the qualifications required to sit the new exam into the consultation, rather than adopt a piecemeal approach.


We recently held a very successful Cyber Security Course at the Parkway Hotel in Cwmbran. It attracted very good numbers as it is such an important issue currently, with law firms being under attack from cyber fraudsters. It came out of the course that a very good option for law firms is to consider obtaining the Government backed Cyber Essential Scheme Accreditation, which provides good basic cyber security practice that will enable us to be better protected from the most common cyber threats. Thank you to our excellent speakers at the event - Wayne Williams of CPM21, Chris Fawcett of Lloyds Bank and Damon Rands of Wolfberry. Our next course will be a Health and Safety training later in the month and we thereafter hope to arrange a Partners Networking Forum.


I also attended the joint round-table meeting in Cardiff with Catherine Dixon, the CEO of the Law Society, in January, involving both Monmouthshire and Cardiff and District Law Societies. Thank you very much to Law Society Wales for arranging the event. Catherine outlined the Law Society’s new strategy and the business plan behind it to implement it. Their aims are to represent, promote and support solicitors - the test will now be how they put this into practice to deal with all of the changes and challenges facing to the profession. I will be attending a meeting with other ASWLS (The Association of South Western Law Societies of which Monmouthshire is a constituent member) representatives in March with Catherine and hopefully the President, Vice President and Junior Vice President of the Law Society to raise the concerns that we have as a group of local law societies and to establish how we, and the profession as a whole, can effectively collaborate with Law Society in the future. I will report back on the outcome.


It is also that time of year when we ask you to renew your membership. So please take advantage of our new corporate rates and new category of “Associate Member”. Contact me for more details. I will have news of our Summer Ball in the next edition.


Clive Thomas
President of Monmouthshire Incorporated Law Society