Our business plan

Foreword

I. Stephanie BoyceThe Law Society is run by and for our members. We exist to be the voice of solicitors, to drive excellence in the profession and to safeguard the rule of law.

We work to support an ethical profession delivering high-quality legal services in the public interest.

This business plan sets out how your professional body will work to support the profession as a whole and help our individual members in preparing for and dealing with change, supporting your practice excellence and being a companion at every stage in your career.

I. Stephanie Boyce
Law Society president

Our plans for 2021/22 have been developed in three steps:

  • horizon scanning the operating environment and, from that analysis, identifying the key issues that will impact our business for the coming year
  • using the horizon scan in tandem with the findings from the practising certificate fee (PCF) consultation findings to establish our priorities for the coming year, the outcomes we will look to achieve and the metrics against which we will measure progress
  • providing details of the strategies, actions and tactics we will use to deliver the business plan throughout the year

Delivering for our members in another unprecedented year

The large part of 2020/21 was again dominated by the COVID-19 crisis.

The Law Society continued to work hard, engaging with, listening to and working alongside members to navigate a shifting business and economic environment.

All teams continued to work remotely for the first part of the year, with a phased return to the office and hybrid working once restrictions were lifted in late summer.

The events of 2020 and 2021 have highlighted how important the ongoing transformation programme is to enable us to respond quickly to members on policy issues and more widely.

Our work for members has been based on extensive insight and upon delivering against six strategic themes.

Successes in this area included:

  • we made good progress on our priority area to promote a modern, diverse and inclusive profession. We published our research report Race for Inclusion and guidance on reasonable adjustments to support members, creating a framework and supporting materials. We continued to influence the Solicitors Regulation Authority (SRA) around access for the new Solicitors Qualifying Examination (SQE) and have stepped up our engagement across social mobility through membership of a new taskforce. We engaged widely with members and promoted our support and materials alongside partnering with Leeds Law Society at the National Inclusion Conference for a second year, using digital to reach as wide an audience as possible
  • we influenced important legislation on the rule of law by keeping the pressure up on reviews including administrative law, the Human Rights Act, judicial review and the reform of mental health and capacity law. We put a lot of energy into pressuring for more action on judicial diversity – whilst we have persuaded stakeholders to sign up to a more ambitious action plan to drive greater action around the issue and developed digital resources, webinars and remote networking opportunities, we have been critical of the pace of change from the Judicial Appointments Commission
  • we secured investment in the justice system from the government as they heard our calls for much-needed investment to address the courts backlog, invest in a sustainable legal aid market and help the justice system recover from the COVID-19 pandemic
  • we secured improvements to the legal aid system with changes to the means test, to the fee to be paid for pre-charge work and to the system for assessing solicitors' bills that will help more people access justice and make sure our members are paid more fairly for their important work. The Justice Select Committee report on legal aid was supportive of many of our issues and positions, including explicitly adopting our proposal as a recommendation in relation to exceptional case funding. The recent autumn statement demonstrates the impact of our calls for increased funding for the justice system through the spending review
  • we supported members through Brexit and secured change in overseas jurisdictions. At the start of the year, we supported members through briefings and insight as the Brexit transition period came to an end and we secured favourable practising rights for members in some key European jurisdictions and kept up our promotion of the UK as a global legal centre
  • we secured a consultation from the SRA on the future of the Solicitors Indemnity Fund (SIF) when the regulator agreed to extend the life of SIF for a further 12 months, having heard our concerns and those of the profession and consumers
  • supporting member firms and their economic contribution is a key area for us, and this year saw us continue to help members through pandemic-related business changes. We influenced the extension of the stamp duty land tax holiday, kept our guidance on furlough up to date and advised members on how to return to the office safely, alongside influencing how courts and police stations should adapt to keep members safe. We have influenced key legislation including the National Security Bill and the Leasehold Reform Bill and have representation on the Ministry of Justice (MoJ) electronic signature working group. We have engaged with the government's levelling up agenda, highlighting the contribution our profession makes across England and Wales. Ahead of COP26, we responded to member concerns about climate change and published a resolution alongside promoting a range of resources to support members in managing their own response to this critical issue
  • we supported members on their risk and compliance challenges and continued to provide members with guidance on key topics, including anti-money laundering (AML) requirements and price transparency issues. We influenced the budget and plan for the Legal Ombudsman, resulting in them dropping their budget increase from 19% to 13% and the government's proposed approach to the economic crime levy demonstrated the success of our influencing to secure an exemption for small firms

There has been significant progress this year in harnessing the changes and investments we have made to deliver more value for our members.

More members than ever before took part in our events

  • We launched Hopin, a standalone virtual technology conference platform, in January 2021
  • We doubled our registered delegate number compared to the last pre-pandemic year with 40,000 registered delegates
  • We increased the geographical reach of events so more members outside London and the South East are taking part
  • Since January, there have been 12,000 views of our events on-demand – we did not have this capability pre-pandemic

More members than ever take a Law Society education course or training

We released 171 new learning items and created the capability to deliver online exams, which increases our revenue.

Our new forum for small firm members grows fast and beats expectations

We launched a new platform for small firms – Law Society Connect – with over 1,000 signed up and where members exchange ideas, problems and inspiration, and support each other on issues as varied as the PC fee renewal to starting a new business.

We will launch new Connect forums for in-house and junior members next.

We introduced a new local law society strategy to bring us closer together

We made seven commitments to local law societies to ensure we communicate regularly and engage with them across a range of issues.

We initiated new 'town hall' style meetings hosted by the president and worked together on big projects such as the National Inclusion Conference.

More members than ever took part in the PC fee consultation

We engaged 1,007 members through the process including 927 survey respondents and 80 focus group participants across 17 sessions, all in the space of one month.

This is almost five times the number of members engaged in our previous top year.

We collected a range of demographic data from the consultation and have achieved excellent representation levels.

We can be confident in understanding how opinions and needs vary according to different member segments.

We agreed a new value proposition – making it clear what we do for members

Council endorsed and agreed the six pillars of the value proposition that represent what members say they value most in their Law Society.

These pillars underpin all our member-focused work and help us prioritise what we do.

Organisational capability

We have continued to drive the transformation programme forward and make changes to how we work, as this underpins an efficient and effective organisation focusing on member value.

The main achievements this year are as follows:

  • completion of the refurbishment of 113 Chancery Lane, upgrading our network and making excellent progress on a phased return to work based on adopting a hybrid approach
  • enabled remote and hybrid working through implementation of Microsoft Teams for meetings, telephony and collaboration
  • taking direct control of all aspects of human resources and finance, removing the reliance on shared services staff
  • the foundation of the member experience transformation programme was completed with a new CRM, Law Society Learning platform and website platform launched to improve the quality, reach and performance of our member-facing learning and development products and services
  • a new vision, strategy and value proposition was agreed on member experience and our commercial approach

The last year has seen many successes and our ambition is to continuously improve our member services and the way we work.

In 2021/22, there will be further uncertainty for the economy, the profession and the Law Society.

An assessment of the operating environment from a number of sources tells us that:

  • our focus needs to be on increasing member awareness and engagement with the Law Society
  • our service offer needs to be stronger, particularly when we know there will be members facing a range of new challenges, including mental health and wellbeing

We also increasingly recognise that member segments require different types of support from us.

It is also clear that the Law Society will be operating in an increasingly challenging financial, political, regulatory and policy landscape.

The budget underpinning the plan this year offers little room for manoeuvre given we are projecting a small operating surplus and will rely on a draw on reserves to fund our transformation programme.

However, we are aiming to create greater flexibility by increasing this surplus through careful cost control and a greater focus on profit-making events and commercial activities.

The pandemic has also challenged the ways in which services and operational activities are delivered and the Law Society has grasped those opportunities to develop our approach.

Hybrid working for a large proportion of our staff has become the new normal and it is important that we maximise the benefits that such an approach can bring to both the employee/employer relationship, but also the associated business benefits in relation to our property and its efficient use.

During the year, we aim to develop a clearly defined offer to current and potential staff that maximises the positive aspects of hybrid working and supports our ambition to be an employer of choice in this competitive employment market.

Alongside the specific organisational issues highlighted above, we also take into account the following key areas of analysis to inform the focus and planned outcomes in the plan:

Member survey results

The 2021 annual member feedback survey was based predominantly on online responses (75% of the sample) compared with previous surveys, which were based solely on telephone interviews.

An online approach was out of necessity with many members not reachable on office telephone numbers whilst working from home during the pandemic.

Using an online method does impact how people respond (there are numerous studies that demonstrate this) and results will differ from telephone surveys by generally being more likely to be negative.

This is because respondents are more open or candid when responding online, and they do not have the benefit of a telephone interviewer explaining and talking through questions with them.

Overall satisfaction in 2021 (combining online and telephone) was 42% (a 6% reduction from 2020).

However, when we make a direct like-for-like comparison using just telephone interviews, we see improvements across all measures compared to 2020:

  • satisfaction levels are relatively higher amongst members from small and medium-sized private practices, junior level solicitors, women and those from a BME background
  • members from government and other in-house organisations and those in partner positions are less satisfied overall with the Law Society
  • it's evident that overall satisfaction levels are higher amongst members who pay for their membership
  • on a very positive note, there has been a rise from 46% (2020) to 51% (2021) in respondents saying being a member of the Law Society contributes to their sense of belonging to the solicitor profession

Key to improving the member experience (awareness, engagement, sense of belonging and satisfaction) is being able to clearly define, articulate and communicate the role of the Law Society in supporting and delivering value to our members, from a solicitor's first interaction with the Law Society continuing throughout their career.

Successful organisations do this in the form of a value proposition, which is a statement that defines, in members' own words, the positive outcomes Law Society membership provides, as well as the products and services that deliver those outcomes.

This is used as a reference point for developing meaningful and relevant communications that resonate with members, increase awareness and drive engagement.

During 2020/21, in consultation with members, we developed a value proposition, which is already beginning to inform the development of new membership communications and engagement strategies and plans.

Technology

In an ever-changing business climate, it seems inevitable that solicitors and lawyers face a future of change on a varied scale, depending on area of practice and client types.

Innovation in services and service delivery will become a key differentiating factor and it is more important than ever for legal professionals to have access to potential future states, anticipate changes in client needs and the effects drivers such as technology may have on how they, their clients and regulators operate.

In 2021, we undertook a skills survey with members asking questions about digital skills – such as their confidence in using and talking about technology, types of technology used and uses of multi-disciplinary teams.

We received 452 completed responses and found:

  • members believe tech needs to be: appropriate for the user and end client; compatible with the courts and others in the sector; correctly specified/developed for the legal sector; safe, functional and efficient; consistent and uniform; a tool rather than a means in itself; enhance performance; help to provide an efficient and cost-effective service; cyber secure; and trusted
  • however, they find tech is often: unreliable; not compatible with client tech/courts; expensive; generic; dependent on the IT systems and capabilities of the business (in-house); not streamlined; overwhelming in its variety and too complex
  • solicitors are more confident in using their tech skills, rather than talking about tech
  • around half of all solicitors worked in organisations which are "extremely focused on technology", with 65% of solicitors working in large firms (26+ partners) that are extremely focused on tech
  • 38% of solicitors describe themselves as working in multi-disciplinary teams, a similar proportion to that reported in the 2020 Oxford Study (40%)

The economy

The outlook for the domestic economy remains uncertain given the UK's changing relationship with the European Union (EU) and other trading partners, as well as the impact of COVID-19.

In September 2021, we published forecasts of economic activity levels in the legal services sector.

As a result of Brexit and COVID-19, there has been a significant shock to levels of activity in the short term, with falls in the number of legal activities enterprises, the level of turnover and gross value added (GVA) of around 10% in 2020.

These are expected to begin to recover, but not expected to return to previous levels until the end of 2022.

By the end of the forecast period (2028), we expect these indicators to have increased on the 2019 (pre-shock) levels by 14%.

Across the business and professional services sectors in the UK, the legal services sector has the highest balance of trade.

Any change in London's position as a key global financial centre due to EU exit would have a detrimental effect on the wider economy including legal services.

However, City law firms are generally well equipped to adapt and, if necessary, move their operations from the UK to an EU state. This means that EU exit will potentially have a much bigger impact on medium-sized firms than on the larger City firms themselves.

In October 2021, Legal UK published a report looking at the value of English law. The study was co-funded by several organisations including the Law Society.

English law is a key part of what makes the UK an attractive place to do business for internationally mobile activity and underpins a vast amount of economic activity both in the UK and globally.

(For example, English law likely governed at least $11.6 trillion of global metals trading in 2020.)

However, English law's role as a national asset and its wider commercial importance are not fully appreciated or exploited by the UK.

The report calls on greater action from government to recognise and invest in the value that English law brings to the UK.

Future shape and profile of the profession

We published Future Worlds 2050 in June 2021.

This research captured the views of a range of experts and used other data sources to present predictions about future employment trends.

The disruptive scenario estimates that in the next 10 years, due to the adoption of new technology employment in the UK legal services sector could be 10% lower than it would otherwise have been (50,000 fewer full-time equivalent jobs).

Technological unemployment in the legal profession has also been predicted by other commentators, starting with routine jobs and individuals performing low-skilled, standardised legal work and, in the long term, moving up the value chain.

Alongside less emphasis on the partnership model, expansion of the freelance economy is set with technological advances to drive changes to ways in which legal services are delivered – requiring adaption from lawyers and their businesses.

The new skills and aptitudes of solicitors required to deliver services differently implies alternative approaches to legal education and training.

The approaches may need to reflect solicitors being permitted to practice from a broader range of non-regulated entities (the current SRA proposal), such that entrepreneurship, creativity and strategic thinking skills could assume more significance in education and recruitment.

Challenges in developing future senior solicitors and legal business leaders are then around upskilling in communication, change management, influencing and people management.

During the last decade, there have also been notable changes in the make-up of the profession (source: Annual Statistics Report). In particular:

  • women with practising certificates outnumber men by nearly 7,000 and accounted for 52% of PC holders in 2020
  • Black, Asian and minority ethnic (BAME) groups make up 14% of all PC holders
  • the proportion of solicitors working in-house continues to rise and is now 24%, but this is likely an underestimate where some PC holders recorded as not attached to an organisation are working in-house
  • 28% of PC holders are under 35. The mean age of women is 41 and 46 for men
  • there were 9,113 private practice firms in England and Wales. 46% of firms are sole ownership but account for only 7% of PC holders. In comparison, only 4% of firms have 11 or more partners: these account for 56% of PC holders

We will continue to monitor the make-up of the profession on an annual basis so that we can respond accordingly so that this informs development of our priorities and member offer.

Competition and the regulatory landscape

In September 2021, the long awaited SQE was introduced, which significantly changes the routes into the profession.

Those who qualify under the SQE will need to:

  • have a degree in any subject (or equivalent qualification or experience)
  • meet character and suitability requirements
  • gain two years' qualifying work experience
  • pass two stages of SQE assessment: SQE1 will test candidates' functioning legal knowledge of the law of England and Wales, while SQE2 will test a combination of practical legal skills and knowledge

The need to promote greater diversity, whilst maintaining high standards in the profession, will continue to be a focus of the regulators, the Law Society and the profession.

In December 2020, the Competition and Markets Authority (CMA) published its report on the findings of its review of the legal services market in England and Wales.

The CMA's assessment of changes in the legal services sector since its market study has found some positive developments but concludes that further progress is needed.

The CMA recommended that the Legal Services Board (LSB), working with other regulators in the sector:

  • continues to build on the reforms made so far to improve transparency of information that can help consumers make informed choices
  • addresses some aspects of the market study recommendations that still require progression, such as providing more information on quality – this has been a strong focus of the LSB for the past 12 months, with their quality indicators discussion paper earlier in the year and the current work on its consumer empowerment policy statement

In the meantime, the CMA is advocating that the MoJ and LSB take some shorter-term steps that will deliver regulatory reform in stages.

As part of this, there continues to be a focus on unregulated providers, with the LSB undertaking work to amp out the unregulated market.

Greater levels of competition in parts of the legal services market are likely to result from these regulatory reforms (generally liberalisation efforts), increased use of technology and more flexibility in ownership models and how solicitors can deliver services.

Technology is one contributor to changes in the way buyers purchase legal services which, along with wider consumer trends and expectations, is likely to enhance competition in terms of price and/or quality of services.

The political agenda

Continued efforts by the UK government to reduce the fiscal deficit coupled with the need to deal with the increasing costs of the UK government's response to COVID are likely to mean further downward pressure on funding for the justice system.

This will have potentially serious implications for our members and for access to justice.

We have been pleased to see the UK government commit to various reviews of areas that desperately needed attention:

  • the second phase of the Criminal Legal Aid Review (CLAR) launched in January 2021
  • in February 2021, the MoJ CLAR team published a data compendium that summarises information on publicly funded legal services

We worked with the MoJ to combine key datasets, along with the Bar Council, the Legal Aid Agency and the Crown Prosecution Service.

The compendium presents a broad overview of the main features of the legal aid provider base. However, it's likely that more detailed analysis will be carried out in due course.

In May 2021, we responded to the review's call for evidence, warning that the criminal defence profession could collapse if the government does not increase funding and we are optimistic that the review will make recommendations that address our members' concerns.

Of continuing concern is the spate of political and media attacks on the rule of law.

Promoting and defending the rule of law will be a key part of what we stand for over the next 12 months, as it is a core value underlying both our justice system and our economy.

One particular area of focus this year will be on the implications of the Judicial review and Courts Bill and the review of human rights legislation, given the current lord chancellor's expressed views on the need for reform.

On a more positive note, the government's prioritisation of services within its new approach to trade policy and its recognition of the value of the legal sector offer significant opportunity for our members.

Operational capability

We have made improvements in how we operate internally; without the significant investment in IT in the past few years, it is unlikely that we would have been able to respond to the unpredictable events of 2020 and 2021.

Further change will be required in our operating environment, however, to ensure that we continue to build the capacity and infrastructure required to deliver a significantly improved member experience.

In terms of our staff, we know that we have a committed and talented staff group, and that many of the changes implemented in the last 12 months have contributed to the organisation's successes.

Despite 2021 being a difficult year professionally and personally for many staff, we have seen no deterioration in our Investors in People score and feedback from recent staff surveys indicate that they have felt well supported during lockdown.

Nonetheless, there is further progress to be made as we consider how to respond to the post-COVID world.

We will need to reconsider our approach to how we manage our staff and assess our approach to attracting and retaining talent as the expectations and priorities of the working population change.

We have stated our ambition to be a diverse and inclusive organisation and, in the light of the Black Lives Matter movement as well as staff feedback, we have recruited a new member of staff to improve our internal equality, diversity and inclusion (EDI) policies across the organisation.

We will need a much tougher focus on budgets, cost and use of resources to reflect the changes of the economy impacting on commercial income and the need to invest every pound wisely to deliver maximum value for our members.

From our analysis, we have identified the following priorities that will drive our business and our performance for the coming year.

These are:

  • delivering programmes to meet member expectations as outlined in the consultation – acting as highly visible leaders across the justice system, championing the role of solicitors and influencing policymakers to protect and enhance the rule of law
  • finalising the member experience roadmap – ensuring members have clarity about the services and benefits we provide and focusing our teams to deliver the agreed value proposition
  • driving forward change in how we communicate to members and engage with key groups to ensure more members are aware of the value of the Law Society to their own work, careers and aspirations
  • embedding the positive changes in delivery due to the pandemic, including the greater use of digital platforms to increase our inclusivity and accessibility for members outside London and the South East
  • continuing the Shaping our Future programme with significant investment in key platforms to improve efficiency and member experience, including delivering the new finance system
  • reviewing our business and services aiming to reduce cost whilst making sure we are an employer of choice in a competitive market
  • review and implement new budgeting and forecasting processes to enable a three-year financial plan to be agreed with the Legal Services Board
  • deliver the recommendations from the Property Working Group tasked with deciding the best use of Law Society properties, including 113 and 113 Chancery Lane and Carey Street
  • agree the future of the Law Society Awards and how to recognise excellence across our membership
  • implement the recommendations following the review of the work of the policy committees

Member experience transformation

We are progressing well with transforming our approach to improving the member experience.

This year will be focused on rolling out those new approaches to members and increasing visibility of the foundational work that has taken place over the past year.

This includes:

  • member offer – develop a compelling, tailored and targeted member offer that delivers tangible value to members based on a good understanding of what the profession and key segments want and need
  • member journeys – transform the way we engage with members through an improved member journey rooted in a meaningful and valued member offer
  • single member view and segmentation – establish a data strategy to support segmented and targeted member engagement and communications
  • engagement, communications and content – finalise a strategic and centralised approach to planning, commissioning and communicating member-facing content, which engages all parts of the business to deliver joined-up, targeted, relevant and more valued content and communications for members
  • a member-centric organisation – build a member-centric organisational culture, based on the member experience vision and strategy that is understood, supported and implemented within every department at the Law Society and supported by key stakeholders
  • member experience roadmap and performance measures – develop one plan for the transition of the member experience programme to business as usual with objectives, timings, resources and key performance indicators to monitor progress against it
  • digital member experience – increase member satisfaction and engagement with member-facing digital channels by establishing integrated, collaborative and efficient ways of working and outputs. This includes social media, email and the website
  • member experience target operating models – develop a target operating model and business capability model, taking into account end-to-end product and content management frameworks and strategies

Focused support to member segments

A message we heard loud and clear from members was that we have to target them with a relevant member offer.

For a membership as large and complex as ours, we cannot segment our offer too far as our work will become unmanageable but we can target our work at some key segments, including:

  • our small firms and freelancers
  • medium-sized firms
  • larger firms
  • in-house members
  • across some key career stages, such as junior lawyers

We must be able to offer members value as individual professionals and as leaders or employers of firms or organisations.

With this in mind, looking across all the areas of focus, we will:

  1. create a small firms and freelancer/sole practitioner package of support. This will focus on the information, support and resources those members have told us they need – particularly to manage regulation and change, the challenging business environment and to act positively to support diversity and inclusion. Member needs have changed with the pandemic, technology and the emergence of issues where they need to be equipped to succeed; for example, around their own environmental policies and sustainable practices. We have multiple channels to support these members and will build on the excellent pilot of Law Society Connect, we will improve the website with a dedicated 'hub' and aim for a new digital conference targeting this group to become a flagship event of the year
  2. create additional online networks on Law Society Connect. Our first member segment to benefit from this will be our in-house members. We will increase the content we provide and offer to in-house members together with more opportunities for them to connect with each other, the wider membership and relevant stakeholders. In-house members come from many sectors and work in small firms to global corporates. We know some of the areas where we can support them are in diversity and inclusion, in international markets and with their pro bono work. Improving and deepening our understanding of the needs of this key member segment will be a priority this year. We will further improve our community offer by opening up Law Society Connect to junior lawyers to support them engaging with each other and providing peer-to-peer support
  3. for our medium and larger firms and those who operate globally, our value is in our role representing them and the profession in the corridors of power, ensuring their voices are heard around domestic policy, regulation and during international negotiations. Our leading firms should be seen as champions for the sector, they are highly visible and we must do more to ensure they have the influence and impact to create the right conditions for England and Wales to remain a global legal centre and a competitive and attractive market to do business with. We also have a significant role in bringing our members together around issues of common concern, including diversity and inclusion

Supporting individual interests, characteristics, specialisms and careers

We will offer a full package of support for our members depending on their area of law, career stage or characteristic.

In 2021/22, we will:

  • expand our education and learning content and courses to support our members in their career and skills development
  • continue to provide a range of free and paid-for digital events to ensure we are as accessible as possible to as many members as possible
  • transform the way we present some of our most valuable resources to ensure they are more accessible and reach as many members as possible

Commercial strategy

Our focus for commercial activity in the coming year is to build on the success in maintaining and growing our income through the pandemic and continuing to modernise the way we monetise our products and services and partner with industry to bring insight and knowledge to our membership.

This year, we will:

  • implement digital onboarding of our accreditations, vastly improving the member experience, as well as expanding the options for members to become accredited with two new accreditations, including a multi-module risk accreditation
  • continue to work with industry partners to digitise our portfolio of forms and bring efficiencies to the conveyancing process
  • implement a new events management system and platform, again improving the experience members will have when booking and attending events whilst enhancing events management capabilities
  • overhaul the commercial opportunity presented by 113 Chancery Lane in order to modernise the marketing and services offered by our building as a respected and versatile London venue
  • manage the transition to a fully digital Gazette whilst maximising the opportunities presented by our new digital publication to offer a more feature-rich proposition to advertisers and recruiters
  • invest in the development of new learning and development offerings that support the accreditations portfolio and build on the examination capabilities that have been developed during 2021

Promoting the profession and the issues members care about

Successful promotion has a number facets that will underpin our ambitious programme for 2021/22:

  • we will promote the solicitor profession as a critical contributor to every local community and economy across England and Wales. There is a real opportunity for us to increase the visibility of members and their role in supporting local businesses and families and the part they play in the local economic and community ecosystem
  • with the Brexit settlement and government ambitions to create a 'Global Britain', we will champion the profession and the legal sector as a heavy-hitting British success story, a net exporter and the source of high-quality and productive jobs
  • we will promote the role of the solicitor in upholding British values of justice and fairness – this unites every solicitor and sets it apart from the competition

This promotion is not delivered by advertising at bus stops. It is by being engaged and influential with a much broader range of stakeholders and in different forums than before

This means:

  • reaching out and collaborating at a local level to promote the profession across our cities and communities outside London
  • punching our weight in the services sector, with the City and in trade and economic policy
  • championing leadership in practice (for example, pro bono)
  • holding firm and visibly challenging when justice is under threat, at home and abroad

These are the messages and the solicitor 'brand' we will weave through all our work – touching stakeholders, policy makers, regulators and the wider public ensuring this also serves as a key part of our role delivering public legal education.

We work on a number of themes that our members care about and will focus our work as follows:

Access to justice

At the heart of the profession is a values-driven commitment to champion justice.

We work hard to make sure the justice system is fit for purpose and this year we will engage widely to represent and support our members' work.

We ensure members' voices are heard in key areas such as the Criminal Legal Aid Review, the Means Test Review and court reform and on important projects around civil legal aid including civil sustainability and early advice.

With a system under pressure for so many years, whether through funding cuts or policy decisions, we believe it is time to think again.

The Law Society and our members have an opportunity to develop and advocate for a new vision for access to justice that both protects the public while upholding the standing of the profession and the unique role of regulated lawyers in the litigation process.

This is no small ambition and this year we will establish capability within the team to commence the project for developing a new vision to ensure the British justice system, and our members' role within it, is protected and fit for the future.

Rule of law

The fundamental principles of British justice underpin society and yet there is a concern from our members that too few people understand or actively appear to value it, the way it works or the way it benefits everyone, whoever they are.

If we can secure funding, we will launch an ambitious project of evidence-based strategic communications on 'reframing' to inform and influence how people think about justice and the legal system.

We know public perceptions on 'big issues' can be influenced and change – public attitudes towards mental health have transformed over the past five years – and nothing short of a major public programme led by us will shift the status quo.

As we approach our 200th anniversary, we want to inform and influence the public view so that our justice system is cherished and defended.

We will build coalitions to support the justice system and mobilise the voice of our members in visibly championing our support for the rule of law.

Modern, diverse and inclusive profession

We know how important the diversity of the profession is to all members.

This year, we will deliver a new framework and resources to help members embed diversity and inclusion in their businesses.

We also need to step up our visibility around social mobility and make sure we amplify our networks, role models and programmes that provide support for marginalised groups in the profession.

Supporting members' businesses at home and internationally

The pandemic has shown how much we can support our members' businesses.

This year, we will continue to offer support, guidance and influence to promote and support our member firms.

This includes targeted support for smaller firms, sole practitioners and freelancers to access the guidance and support to make their businesses successful and international influence to promote and support our largest firms in their growth and practices overseas.

Overall, for the benefit of all our members, we want to ensure England and Wales is an attractive and competitive place for member firms to 'do business' and its position as a global legal centre is maintained and promoted.

Supporting members navigating regulation and AML

As a regulated profession, a large focus for our policy, influencing and member support work centres around regulatory change and this year is no different.

The future of SIF is being considered by the SRA, the LSB is considering new approaches to consumer empowerment and a review of professional indemnity insurance, and HM Treasury is consulting on revisions to the Money Laundering Regulations 2017.

Our smaller firms, freelancers and sole practitioners need specific support around regulatory change and AML, whilst our in-house members benefit from advice and support on legal ethics and regulation and a network to support them.

Strengthening our capacity to deliver

We have been driving our transformation programme to make sure we have modern, flexible and digitally capable systems to support the complex business we run and the member experience.

These new platforms and capabilities are important but so is ensuring we keep our overall cost to serve down and drive greater value from our team.

We will aim to reduce our staff costs this year through targeted action and service/function reviews.

Shaping our Future

Our current transformation programme, SoF, represents a significant investment that modernises and builds organisational resilience and provides the platform for building a financially sustainable organisation delivering an excellent member experience.

The projects we will implement in 2021/22 are:

  • digitising our accreditations process – enabling online application forms and payment to improve members' experience
  • introducing a new finance system and a new e-commerce system that ensures a seamless member experience
  • introducing a new events booking and hosting platform – making sure members can easily book through My LS and a 'single sign on'
  • improving the member experience of our learning and development platform with new features
  • rolling out greater access to Law Society Connect to make sure more members can connect to and learn from each other
  • improving how we handle customer service queries through the new CRM

Investing in our people

We will continue to adapt and futureproof our organisational capability to be able to anticipate and respond to the challenges, uncertainties and opportunities that impact our people's ability to deliver a great member experience.

We will do this by supporting leaders, managers and their teams to be able to embed our future ways of working, enable a great employee experience and create an inclusive culture.

Initiatives this year include delivering the initial phase of our management, leadership and team development programmes and to carry out a review of our reward framework to develop an offering that ensures our people feel valued, recognises high performance and enables us to attract and retain talent.

Since 2017/18, we have used a balanced scorecard as a key tool to track and manage business performance, providing updates to the executive and the Board.

This will continue in 2021/22 with some minor enhancements made to the version from last year.

In addition to this:

  • all teams will have local plans that map out their key priorities for the year, identifying how their work will support the business plan. These plans will inform staff objectives and will be reviewed by line managers on a regular basis
  • progress against the subject themes will be reviewed on a quarterly basis by the leadership team
  • the SOF and Membership Transformation programmes will be managed as projects with regular reporting on progress, planned work, spend and risk. Reports will be provided to the Board as appropriate

We will report quarterly on progress to the Board and update on theme plan progress via the CEO report to Council.

We will continue to review our risk registers regularly and, as we emerge from the pandemic, it is important to recognise how key areas of risk have changed.

This includes staffing issues, the economy, the international justice environment and public attitudes are, of course, always changing.

Managing our strategic and operational risks well has meant we weathered the pandemic in relatively good health, but the impact of the pandemic will have a long tail and we will remain vigilant.

Our focus on three-year planning and rebuilding our reserves is a key part of our risk management this year.

Our proposed business plan for 2021/22 represents a transition year as it brings to a close the current five-year strategy and provides a segue into the three-year plan from November 2022 to our 200th anniversary in 2025.

The plan is created in the context of the global pandemic that has impacted every business and organisation in the country and the plan reflects that the Law Society is no different in having to adapt and change to our circumstances.

Working within this most uncertain of environments mean needing to take a flexible and responsive approach and to stay as engaged and in touch with members as possible.

Listening to members and driving forward their priorities will ensure we continue to focus our work on the issues that matter to the profession and to promote the difference the profession makes every day to individuals, families, businesses and communities across England, Wales and internationally.

In summer 2021, we consulted with members on our proposed business plan. We thank everyone who took the time to share their views and experiences.

We've taken member feedback on board and adapted our plans – read the consultation response (PDF 490 KB).

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