Law Society Council Update March 2019

It’s been a while since my last Council update, and I never got a chance to provide you with an update before the January meeting.  My apologies for that.  So, here, I have decided to provide you with a compendium of the December and January meetings (there was no February meeting).  Our March meeting is on Friday, 22 March and I will aim to provide you with an update on that before the next meeting which is on 10 May.

As always, there are a couple of general caveats that apply to these updates:

Firstly, Regulation 24 of the Law Society Council Regulations obliges a member to keep confidential all matters coming to within his knowledge arising from his membership of the Council or any of its committees.

So, obviously, this obligation limits the extent to which I am able to report to you on the actual business of Council.

However, it seems to me that there are many things arising at Council that are in the public domain, albeit perhaps not that well known about. And I expect that there will resources for the profession that come to light that can usefully be shared through this channel.

Secondly, this are ephemeral updates that I’m compiling quickly. Therefore, I’m writing and posting them from the best of my recollection, pretty much as they come out in first draft without detailed proofreading. I offer them as a quick contemporary note of my impressions, they’re not intended to be refined legal writing or my considered opinion on these issues, so please take or leave them as such.

Council Meeting – December 2018

Gender Equality, Diversity and Inclusion

At the December meeting, the Council approved a motion on the establishment of a Task Force on Gender Equality, Diversity and Inclusion, in the following terms:

“1) That this Council agrees that the president should appoint a task force:

a) To draft a gender equality, diversity and inclusion policy for the Council, bodies, and representatives under the aegis of the Society, and the leadership thereof, to promote gender equality, promote diversity and inclusion in order to ensure that all solicitors feel valued, respected and supported within the Society’s Council, committees and other bodies,

b) To consider and make recommendations that would encourage more female solicitors and solicitors from diverse backgrounds to seek election to the Society’s Council, to participate in bodies and representation under the aegis of the Society, and the leadership thereof,

c) To draft appropriate amendments to the Code of Conduct for Council Members to reflect the new policy, and that

d) The task force should report back to the Council at its meeting on 12 July 2019.

2) In addition, the task force shall create tools that the profession can use to promote gender equality, diversity and inclusion within their firms.”

The motion was proposed by Maura Derivan and seconded by Brendan Twomey, it had been the subject of debate at the October and December meetings and then passed unanimously in the form above in December.

Legal Services Regulation Act

The Council noted submissions made by the Society’s task force to the LSRA on limited liability partnerships and on legal partnerships, and also noted a report, with attached review, by Hook Tangaza, issued by the authority on legal education and training.

It was agreed that the Society would engage with the proposed symposium on legal education and training that would be held by the authority in due course, and that the Society would press ahead with its own reforms on legal education and training, as outlined in its submission to the authority.

Council Meeting – January 2019

Diversity and Inclusion

The Council approved the terms of reference and composition of the Gender Equality, Diversity and Inclusion Task Force; its first meeting to be held on 12 February 2019.

Strategy Statement

The Council approved the Law Society’s Strategy Statement 2019-2023 and noted that it would be published on the Society’s website, together with the departmental operational plans for 2019.

As of the time of writing the current Strategy Statement on the Society’s website here appears to be the old 2014-2018 version, so this update to the website is awaited and presumably will be forthcoming in due course.

Meeting with Minister for Justice

The President and Director General briefed the Council on a meeting with the Minister for Justice and Equality on 21 January, at which a number of issues had been discussed, including Criminal Legal Aid, the Legal Services Regulation Act, Brexit, the Judicial Appointments Commission Bill, the Judicial Council Bill and electronic conveyancing.

High Court Practice Direction

The Council discussed concerns about a recent High Court practice direction in relation to asylum, immigration and citizenship proceedings, aspects of which would place additional onerous obligations on applicants and their solicitors, and could result in barriers to access to justice for migrants and their families.

The view was expressed that the proposals should have been discussed at the appropriate Rules of Court Committee, in consultation with the legal professional bodies. It was agreed to seek a meeting with the President of the High Court as a matter of urgency.

Well, that’s it for me for now.  Our next meeting is on  10 May and I hope to be in touch with you in advance of that.