Monmouthshire President

Monmouthshire President's Letter (December 2015)


I am pleased to be able to report on a lot of activity since my last column.

As President of Monmouthshire Incorporated Law Society I was recently invited to be a part of the Opening of the Legal Year ceremony in Westminster Abbey, along with our Council Member Jonathan Stephens.

I was delighted to accept the invitation. Over 600 guests attended the event including judges, Government ministers, Law Officers of the Crown, senior judicial officers, Queen’s Counsel and overseas judges and lawyers - all in ceremonial dress. There was a real sense of occasion, with all of the pageantry on display; it reminded one of the importance of the rule of law and the essential work of lawyers up and down country to provide access to justice for their clients, despite the many challenges we have been facing in recent times.

The night before the ceremony, I was invited to attend a Welcome Dinner at Chancery Lane in London for guests from the legal communities from across the globe. Jonathan Smithers, the President of the Law Society of England and Wales, gave a speech in which he spoke about the need to identify and solve the legal issues of tomorrow now so that we can shape the future and fix problems like Human Rights, abuses in businesses and embrace new technological solutions. I was lucky enough to meet lawyers from Switzerland, Slovenia, Singapore, Australia and Canada. It was fascinating to met lawyers from other countries to meet and discuss the problems they are facing. Most notably, the representative from Slovenia told me that they were trying to tax pro bono work in his country!


We are announcing new membership rates and a corporate rate to encourage more lawyers to engage with us. We have also introduced a new category of member - an Associate Member. This will allow barristers, costs lawyers, Cilex members, licensed conveyancers and other businesses affiliated with legal services to join us. We believe this will enable us to be a more representative local law society that reflects the wider legal community. We hope as many of you as possible will take advantage of membership of our society.

At the same time we will also be looking to add new member’s benefits to provide more value to membership of our society.

We also wish to engage with students and junior lawyers and have met with the University of South Wales and are planning to put on some innovative joint events.

Now that the outcome of the Law Society’s Strategic Review has been announced, we are arranging our inaugural Partners Forum and have requested an attendance from a senior Law Society figure.

We are planning to hold a number of courses in the New Year, one of which will focus on Cyber Crime. We also sponsored the second annual Mather-Jackson Lecture, organised by Jonathan Stephens given by Elizabeth Jones, Chief Legal Advisor to the National Assembly of Wales on “The Wales Act 2017-time for an event not a process?”. It was an excellent event that promoted a very lively discussion and she concluded that the Act was not the “event” but just another part of the process of Devolution.

Monmouthshire Law Society are proud Members of the Association of South Western Law Societies. As a result I recently attended the excellent Plymouth Law Society 200 Year Anniversary Dinner and the Bristol Law Society Awards Dinner.

We have responded to the recent MOJ consultation on court closures. I feel very strongly that the public need to see justice done in their local community and using any old building to dispense justice will not help in there being a respect for the law. Also the technological infrastructure just isn’t there in many parts of the country, including rural Wales, to support their plans for video conferencing etc. Coming as it does hard on the heels of the legal aid cuts and increased court fees I believe that the plans will serve to further restrict access to justice.

We are also very concerned at the ongoing farce that is the handling of the Criminal Duty Solicitors Legal Aid Contracts. It has created huge uncertainty in all firms dealing with this work. We fully support the Law Society in urging an investigation into the procurement process for the new contracts.

I hope that the Lord Chancellor will reflect on the words of the Dean of Westminster at the Opening of the Legal Year ceremony, when he preached that the law “needs the coagulant of love, decency sympathy and neighbourly care”. Very worthy sentiments, but it is increasingly difficult for High Street firms to provide a legal service to be proud of in the face of such an ongoing constant battering from all sides. 


Clive Thomas
President of Monmouthshire Incorporated Law Society