Business review and annual report
Our key achievements
2020 was undoubtedly a year like no other.
Our business year began with setting out our three key goals:
- promoting the legal profession with government and the public
- influencing for impact to create a positive operating environment
- driving professional excellence
We were making significant progress in delivering these when we were faced with unprecedented developments, not only across our profession but across society.
This began with the unexpected news at the beginning of February that the Law Society building had caught fire. Luckily no-one was hurt, and we were able to quickly adapt, with agile working becoming the norm.
This agility served us well as only weeks later the UK entered its first national lockdown due to the COVID-19 pandemic and we all moved to working remotely.
Throughout this period of uncertainty, we remained committed to supporting the legal profession. We represented our members and their organisations through a collective, stronger voice, advocating for financial and business support from UK and Welsh governments.
We also provided practical and immediate support to our members, by responding to these unprecedented developments, not only across our profession and operating environment, but across society. Our influencing and engagement work also secured positive developments for the profession.
You can explore more about the ways in which we've supported the profession below.
Campaigned to ensure members could continue to work safely by influencing decisions about how the justice system operated during lockdown. This included the development of a risk assessment tool for individual courts to ensure our members’ safety.
Guaranteed solicitors could continue to operate during lockdown by influencing government decisions that allowed:
- law firms to remain open
- solicitors to travel to and from work
- practitioners to meet clients in law firms
- visit vulnerable clients at home
Ensured solicitors were recognised as key workers by influencing the UK government, enabling members who needed to attend court to send their children to school.
Secured the ability for oaths relating to commercial transactions to be sworn in via video link by influencing the Ministry of Justice (MoJ) and the Solicitors Regulation Authority (SRA). Appropriate record keeping is still needed if the oath’s validity is later challenged.
Persuaded the Land Registry to accept Mercury signatures given the difficulty of obtaining wet signatures.
Ensured that most trainees and students were able to continue sitting their exams following our representations to the SRA.
Secured amendments to the domestic abuse gateway to reduce the evidence requirements, helping victims of domestic abuse to get emergency injunctions during lockdown.
Secured a range of operational changes in the legal aid system to facilitate remote working.
Influenced the UK government to amend emergency coronavirus legislation to allow hearings under the Extradition Act 2003 to take place temporarily via a live link, as well as ensuring the government understood the need for a sunset clause in the legislation.
Secured £500m of government spending for the justice system due to our Reset, Resilience and Recovery campaign.
Alongside other groups, we persuaded the Treasury, British Business Bank and HMRC to defer the reporting deadline of the EU mandatory disclosure rules (DAC 6) by six months to give taxpayers and intermediaries additional time to ensure they can comply with obligations.
Provided practical services and resources to our members to help with the impact of COVID-19 and lockdown:
- provided expert advice to members seeking support, handing over 153,000 queries through our Practice Advice Service and Support Centre helplines – the average caller satisfaction rating was 95%
- facilitated free access to our library databases for small firms and sole practitioners negatively affected due to the pandemic, including legislation, precedents, forms and doctrine
- delivered one-to-one advice and career coaching to members going through redundancy or facing employment challenges; we supported this with practical advice from recruitment partners and Gazette Jobs
- expanded the access that law firms and sole practitioners have to expert advice by partnering with businesses on issues such as business support, health and safety, mental health and wellbeing
- we produced 95 webinars, resulting in 21,313 registrations for our events across the year
- our accreditation services continued remotely throughout lockdown – we worked with training and assessment providers to ensure face to face assessments, Lexcel assessments and interviews continued and we granted extensions to those unable to apply due to COVID-19 restrictions
- we provided discounted CQS membership fees to support conveyancer’s work with lender panels and help the property market
- we saw record numbers of solicitors engage with our digital content – in the three months from March, our COVID-19 content was viewed more than 500,000 times, and the Gazette set a new record for unique pageviews, with 169,000 in a single week in March
Supported members in Wales by communicating their concerns to Welsh government ministers and officials on safety and operational issues. We ensured firms were captured by the eligibility criteria for support schemes and received early notice of impending funding announcements and accompanying application materials.
Facilitated discussion and advice to those affected by the end of the Brexit transition period. Through our Brussels team, we delivered workshops for firms covering subjects from data, to trade and family law to mobility with over 2500 registrations. We set up a new working group on private international law under the support of the EU Committee, engaging with members from 22 different firms.
Influenced the MoJ, the Department for International Trade and Parliament, resulting in the UK government using our priorities and making them a formal part of their negotiations with the USA.
Supported the professional development of members by launching a dedicated learning and development platform, Law Society Learning. This new service provides efficient, easy access to develop the essential skills and knowledge they need to remain competitive and safe to practise.
Our virtual AML and Financial Crime Annual Conference saw 560 delegates register for the latest information on the forthcoming changes, current policy approaches and key topics in financial crime – our highest-ever attendance. We also provided a series of guidance webinars in response to the January Legal Sector Affinity Group (LSAG) changes with 5,473 registrants.
Our solicitor brand campaign, raising the profile of solicitors across England and Wales, received 12,115,534 social media impressions and generated 1,099,394 campaign video views
Protected the financial interests of members by persuading the SRA to support firms with their professional indemnity insurance renewal by increasing the extended indemnity period and cessation period.
Download our summary of the business review:
The Law Society Group annual report (PDF 3 MB) was signed off at our annual general meeting on 14 October 2020.
The full report gives information on:
- how the Law Society Group is made up
- what the Law Society Group achieved in 2018/19
- detailed accounts and consolidated financial statements
- a full financial review