For local law societies, engaging with your local Member of Parliament (MP) is a key benefit that you can demonstrate to your members. In doing so, not only do you provide a strong voice for the local profession, but you are also able to influence policy and actively lobby for change.
Your Local Law Society Guidebook (PDF) (from page 25) provides some useful information on how you can engage with your MP. This ranges from writing to your MP by letter or email, to meeting with them in person.
Key tips include:
- Research your MP so that you are familiar with their party and political interests.
- If you wish to meet them face to face, contact your MP’s office to find out how their surgeries operate and when you might be able to meet with them.
- Keep all communication clear, well-structured and concise.
- Ensure the views you communicate are coupled with an action for the MP.
- Follow our campaigns, as they may provide an opportunity for you to contact your MP.
Local law societies have also held successful receptions at the House of Commons as means of engaging with their MPs.
Case study - House of Commons reception
On 15 May, the Counties Group (made up of Cheshire and North Wales, Devon and Somerset, Kent, Leicestershire, Newcastle and Surrey law societies), hosted a reception with the assistance of the Tory MP for Torbay, Kevin Foster.
Members of the group felt that if they worked together, the event would attract a higher profile of attendees than if they had organised similar events individually - and they were not wrong! The event was attended by the Lord Chancellor David Gauke, Chairman of the Commons Justice Select Committee Bob Neill and Lady Elizabeth Butler-Sloss, among other MPs.
During the reception, the group discussed a range of topics with the MPs, but particularly focused on the lack of public funding for the administration of justice, and changes to professional rules that have left clients unable to access quality legal advice. Attendees also discussed the significance of solicitors operating as a high-quality ‘brand’ amidst competition from unregulated legal consultants, and the need for solicitors to see themselves as professionals selling unique legal services, and not simply commoditised legal products.
Edward Lewis, immediate past president of Kent Law Society, said: ‘We were delighted to welcome a number of MPs including the Lord Chancellor himself, David Gauke, who came along and met the many solicitors who attended and then gave a speech to us on the ever-necessary requirement for change and helpfully pointed out that society needed solicitors.’
We asked Surrey Law Society why it decided to participate in the reception, and its CEO, Helen Opie, commented:
‘We felt it represented a fantastic opportunity for our members to liaise directly with the decision-makers and policy-influencers in the legal profession, as well as affording the chance to network with their peers from around the country. … A local law society is there to serve its membership, and opportunities such as these definitely add real value to our local solicitors.’
Edward commented that he ‘felt that we were listened to and much sympathy was expressed, with suggestions of trying to assist where they could.’
Organising such an event did not come without its challenges. Helen describes their biggest challenge as: ‘finding days and times where they (MPs) have availability. Unfortunately, a number of Surrey constituency MPs hold senior ministerial posts in the cabinet, and as such have very full diaries, but we were very pleased that some of our constituency MPs were able to attend and engage with our members.’
She went on to say that the successes far outweighed any challenges, and that the ultimate success of the event was the value it gave their members, one of whom commented: ‘This was an excellent opportunity to network with MPs, who enjoyed integrating with lawyers working outside of London, and therefore it was particularly good for instilling confidence in the legal profession at local level. I would thoroughly recommend it’.
If you would like to discuss ways in which you can strengthen your engagement activity with your local MP, please contact your relationship manager.