National Local Law Societies Conference Report

National Local Law Societies Conference Report

Address to Delegates - Carwyn Jones, First Minister of Wales.

The First Minister welcomed delegates to Wales. He explained the history of Welsh law and its ongoing divergence from English law that anyone practicing in Wales or dealing with Welsh legal matters must be aware of. Attached is a copy of the speaking note provided by the First Minister,which, although followed closely, does not represent an exact verbatim record of his speech

Why Strategy matters for Local Law Societies -Viv Williams CEO of 360 LegalGroup

Viv said that law firms across the country are facing many of the same issues such as age profile/succession, corporate structure and governance, increased regulations and external challenges.

A local law society should have a real strategy (rather than just a one year plan from each incoming President) to help members through education and training in such issues as change management, succession, exit and mergers. He also suggested that Societies should also consider preferred supplier buying groups. For more information you can contact Viv on

Session 1: Mirror, Mirror:

This Q & A session was chaired by Emma Waddingham of Emma Waddingham Consulting It focused on having a representative local law society that reflects the wider legal community Jennifer Richardson of the JLD (South East Wales) - stated that it is important that local law societies engage with the JLD. She said that it gives opportunities for young lawyers to make important contacts through networking. It also allows law societies to have a broader picture of the views of the legal profession and to ensure that they remain relevant to younger lawyers.

Through this engagement junior lawyers should also see the benefit of local law societies and want to get involved and support events and take on positions of responsibility on Council in the future.

Phillip Griffiths Senior Clerk at Thirty Park Place Chambers - commented that it is important that law societies engage with bar and not to just see them as potential sponsors for events. As many of the challenges that we have faced us as a profession have equally affected the bar. So it is very important to have the view from the bar and for them to understand our position in order to consider how we can, in some circumstances, work together to achieve change and a better way of working together. He also gave himself as an example as he is a member of the Cardiff Law Society Council and he has found it very useful as well as being a driver for him to want to get involved and support events.

Frances Edwards President of CILIEx - considered it important that local law societies engage with CILEx. She believes that t allows law societies to have a broader picture of the views of the legal profession and to ensure that they remain relevant to legal community as a whole. As a result of this, legal executive may well support events and take on positions of responsibility on Council in the future. Frances explained how she herself has been greatly involved with local law societies and was the first Chartered Legal Executive to be appointed president of a local Law Society. She also considers that if Local Law Societies were to open up their membership categories to include CILEx members then that would be very beneficial top their membership figures which in turn would attract more membership benefits and sponsors due to the attraction of being a larger society.

Session 2: Building strategic partnerships with Sponsors

This session chaired by Viv Williams and focused on what sponsors want from a Local Law Societies and how they can best work together. The speakers were Julian Stafford from Midshire, Pauline Freeguard from Ochresoft and Jonathan Furness of Thirty Park Place.

The general feeling from the speakers from our headline sponsors was that gaining maximum exposure from their sponsorship to maximise their return on investment was important and this included online activity via the website and social media .However, equally important were the links that they make by their association with a society and opportunities to network. They saw it as an ongoing partnership rather than just an annual cheque writing exercise.

Beacons of Excellence

This was the opportunity to showcase two local law societies – Bristol and Birmingham.

Bristol Law Society - The speakers were Michael Gupwell, President and Helen

Read, Recruitment & Careers and Business Development Manager. They told us how Bristol had managed to come back from the brink by innovatively engaging with larger firms and growing their membership and then increasing their offering to members.

Birmingham Law Society - Chris Owen CEO – Chris explained how Birmingham has developed a very strategic approach with long term goals and have structured the running of the Society accordingly. It means the society can consider the longer term development of its assets and added value offerings. They have a Board whose objective is to manage the business of the Society allowing the Officers to concentrate on membership matters and ensure that the Officers, particularly the President, receive maximum support. The board allows for sustainable, strategic implementation as the President changes on an annual basis but the board is a longer lasting entity.

Session 3: Strategy in Action: Breakout Session

In this interactive session we asked each table to deal with the issues facing a fabricated local law society Ambridgeshire and to use the knowledge gained in the earlier sessions.

Session 4: Finding your Voice

This Q & A session was chaired by Emma Waddingham of Emma Waddingham Consulting It focused on getting your members voices heard: through the press, your local MP and digital and social media

Speakers: Jessica Morden MP for Newport East – said that local law societies should engage with their MPs (and also AMs in Wales) and not just in difficult times but also with positive news.

Case studies involving your local constituents work well in order to make a point and for the MP to amplify that point, if appropriate, in Parliament. A letter from a constituent is even stronger evidence of the effect of an issue. Chris Hart, from Devon & Somerset Law Society, explained how they engage with their MP that they have a "meet the MP" event for the managing partners of firms in the constituency. Jessica liked the idea of law societies having a designated link with MPs and also feels that local law societies are invaluable in helping to frame the questions to put in Parliament. She gave the example that she recently wanted more information from practitioners on how the family courts were getting clogged.

John Hyde (Deputy News Editor Law Gazette) – John Hyde (Deputy News Editor Law Gazette) – gave answers about how best to liaise with the press. His tips were: Get to know your journalist and the areas they cover. Don't just contact them when you have a story to push but invite them for a coffee/drink catch up. That way you've forged a relationship and the journalist knows they can contact you if they need further context on a relevant story in your field / area or won't be surprised if you contact them out of the blue. Also, do not send irrelevant stories to the wrong journalist, (ie, don't send 'new partner' appointment stories to him! There is a separate section in the Gazette for that). If you do you send a news idea to the press it should have an genuinely newsworthy and exclusive angle. Consider what a genuinely interesting national issue is. If it's better for a local paper or magazine, send it over as a well constructed, issue led release to help struggling newsrooms fill copy space. A press release is fine but don't just send it over without a phone call - in fact, most national and sector journalists prefer a call, a synopsis of a story in an email or even an approach on Twitter. Just don't call on press day or on a day when there is a big story in the news as they will be preoccupied and too busy.

Case studies also work well in order to make any article interesting and to gain reader "buy in”. Beware the fact you may not have complete control over your story BUT that's where getting to know the journalist comes in handy. Make the time, do your research and make an effort. Importantly, don't be afraid of journalists!

David Gilroy (Conscious Solutions) – spoke about finding your voice in social media. He said that in the first place you must be doing social media. You should set up a Twitter account, follow all your member firms, retweet them and tweet about them when they doing something good. He also referred to the use of “barnacle marketing” by following organisations in your area who have big followings then retweet their stuff in the hope they retweet yours and ask them questions and mention their accounts. David also kindly offered a free social media workshop for each local society. Get in touch with him if you would like to take him up on it.

There then followed a talk from Caroline Goyder - Communicating with confidence influence and Authority. Caroline gave a really interesting talk about how we communicate and the difference between those of us who are cats or dogs. She explained how to speak so others will listen and to use simple techniques to build your natural gravitas and make people sit up and pay attention. Caroline is the Founder and Creator of The Gravitas Method, and author of a book called Gravitas. For further information contact Caroline at

Session 5: Being a Caring Local Law Society

We had three speakers in this session from Lawcare, the SBA and the SAS to talk about what law society can do to actively signpost members in need of help.

Elizabeth Rimmer (CEO LawCare) – explained all of the excellent work done by Lawcare providing support, information, education and training and promoting wellbeing , with a free and confidential helpline providing support and advice for the legal profession 365 days of the year - 0800 279 6888 . For further information go to -

Tim Martin OBE (CEO of the SBA) – gave a talk about the SBA (formerly the Solicitors

Benevolent Association). Their Mission is to provide relief and assistance to enrolled solicitors and their dependants who are “in need”. Over £1M distributed each year. They also provide help with career transition and personal insolvency advice. They have a shortage of area representatives and are looking for volunteers in Tyneside, North East Yorkshire, West Yorkshire, Nottinghamshire, West Midlands, Lincolnshire, Mid Wales/Powys, Pembrokeshire, Oxford, East London, North Kent, East Sussex, Cornwall. For further information go to

David Taylor (SAS- Solicitors Assistance Scheme)- he explained all of the good work that they do The Solicitors’ Assistance Scheme offers free confidential help and advice for all solicitors in England and Wales, their families and employees on any problem troubling them, whether personal or professional. They offer a lifeline to solicitors with problems by providing a fellow practitioner who will listen and help. For further information go to -

Inspiring leadership

 Speaker: Ed Fletcher (CEO Fletchers Solicitors)

Ed told his own remarkable story in his own inimitable style and talked about the importance of a few key points to being an inspiring leader - having passion; getting the right culture; having an inspiring vision and being able to communicate it effectively.

Goodbye from Monmouthshire… and Good Luck to Birmingham for next year’s Conference!