Business Plan Summary 2019/20

The Law Society – a professional body serving the modern solicitor and upholding the rule of law

Foreword

The 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. 

You can see more on our website www.lawsociety.org.uk or by following us on social media.

Simon Davis
Law Society President

  • Growth of the profession – an increase of 26% in practising certificate (PC) holders overall in the 10 years to 2019
  • More outside private practice – the share of the profession working in-house up from 20% to 23% in 2019 due to growth in solicitors working in commerce and industry (29,000 solicitors now work in-house in total)
  • Greatest growth in business to business work – the share of solicitor firm turnover from work for businesses rose to over 60% in 2018 from 54% in 2012
  • Overall growth in consumer work has been sluggish, with turnover in personal injury declining and in social welfare static
  • The number of female PC holders has exceeded male solicitors since 2017
  • The share of solicitors from BAME groups has continued to increase to 17% in 2018

More change is coming for the profession

  • Increased use of tech, especially in process driven areas
  • Outsourcing to technologically adept suppliers
  • Technology putting the role of solicitors at risk in facilitating transactions and reducing employment in the sector
  • Market reform such as price transparency, technology and new ownership models will increase competition
  • Changes to regulation with routes into the profession changing

And for the wider economy

  • Uncertainty over Brexit
  • Changes to London’s position as a global financial centre
  • Political agenda considering funding for the justice system and increasing technology use

How the profession needs to change

  • Anticipating and planning for the changes that are coming
  • Developing future leaders with communication, change management, influencing and people management skills
  • Focusing on work that cannot be outsourced or automated
  • Staying resilient

We will measure our impact through improved satisfaction and greater efficiency.

We will achieve this by enhancing member value through organisational efficiencies, growth and developing our people.

We will review our five year plan to ensure we are focused on delivering what our members want and need.

In 2019/20 we will be improving how we serve you. We will begin to make a genuine difference to how our members experience the Law Society in 2020. Key to this will be:

The launch of our new website

Our current website suffers from disjointed content, poor search, poor navigation and minimal personalisation. It is hard for members to see the relevant work we do to support the profession and their practice. The new site will have effective search, clear navigation, improved content and look and feel, all based on engagement with members. In spring 2020 we will launch to members with:

  • significantly improved My Law Society (My LS) registration and membership journey
  • personalised content based on browsing history, searches and My LS data
  • in-house, small firms and junior lawyer content on our main site

A clearer member offer

Our new website will be designed to have:

  • open access content
  • content that simply requires an e-mail address and password so we can tailor content
  • content that is for members only - to demonstrate the value of membership content that is available at a premium, with different prices for members and non-members
  • will help us display relevant content and have a clearer journey as we renew and review our offer to members

Engagement with members

We will improve the relevance and targeting of our communications, raising awareness of the activities we carry out on behalf of the membership, using our new website and refining our communication channels. This will support our work.

A focus on groups of members

We will improve our relationship with members one group at a time. In 2019/20 we will focus on junior lawyers, as well as those who will be our members longest, and in-house lawyers who constitute a large and growing segment of our members. We will think about everything we do for these groups; how they access our work, how we tell them about it, and how much they pay for it. This will enable us to create a package that gives members a clearer journey through the products and services we offer them. Identifying what we can do better for members in this way will in turn help to inform further technology and process improvements.

Improving our learning and development offer

We will build on the work done during 2018/19, launching our new learning management system, delivering new digital education resources for in-house and compliance and commissioning personal development and career workshops.

Influencing the issues that matter most to our profession

We look ahead to the big issues for the year and prioritise those that matter most to our members.

Criminal legal aid

This work is intended to improve the performance and fairness of the Criminal Legal Aid (CLA) system. As well as delivering better access to justice for users, it would result in a more sustainable funding model for our members undertaking criminal legal aid work, which in turn will mitigate the broader crisis in the criminal justice system. 

Civil legal aid

To mitigate the paucity of legal aid in areas of law and improve access to justice, this work will result in some categories of work coming back into the scope of the legal aid system, and more clients being financially eligible.

HMCTS programmes (court digitalisation)

To ensure that the impacts of the programme are positive we will represent member and public interests as the changes are developed. We will provide advice on how to adapt to the changes as they are rolled out.

Solicitor, judge and advocacy work

To encourage diversity within the judiciary we will promote solicitors as high-quality lawyers fit to undertake higher court advocacy and judicial office. We will engage with key stakeholders, including the judiciary and the Ministry of Justice to influence application processes.

Pro bono

To enhance access to justice, we will support and expand the delivery of pro bono services and promote the solicitor brand.

Major incidents response plan

To enhance the reputation of the profession, we will have a comprehensive response to any emerging legal need as the result of any major incident.

Justice Week

To promote access to justice, we will take our campaigning and messages to a broad audience through Justice Week.

Lawfare

Government's use of the term Lawfare, and its expressed willingness to derogate from the European Convention on Human Rights (ECHR) in the event of future military action, risks undermining respect for the rule of law. It is essential that we respond to try to mitigate that risk.

Access to justice – Wales

The Law Commission project on Welsh tribunals is a precursor to a distinct approach for Welsh courts and tribunals. We will represent the Law Society’s and our members’ views. 

Wales – commission on justice

The commission has implications for our members, for access to justice in Wales and for the future of the jurisdiction of England and Wales. We will influence the development of new policy on justice in Wales.

International – Lawyers at Risk programme 

We continue to see instances of lawyers who are hindered in carrying out their professional duties. We raise awareness of these incidents and intervene.

International – International Women in Law programme 

To achieve gender equality within the legal profession and the judiciary, we will create solidarity linkages and collaborative projects around the world.

International – capacity building programme 

We want to maximise the individual and collective capabilities of law societies, bar associations, lawyers and judges. We will support, develop, and facilitate academic, practical and professional opportunities.

Influencing the UK-EU negotiations:

We will argue against no deal, if still an option, and lobby for steps to mitigate the impact of no deal on our members and their clients

We will argue for our priorities in the UK-EU future relationship including market access, practice rights and civil judicial co-operation

We will seek improved practice rights and market access for our members, lobbying priority jurisdictions in the EU/EFTA.

We will support members and give guidance on significant changes relating to Brexit, in the event of a no deal or in understanding the implications of any proposed deal on market access, practice rights and civil judicial co-operation

We will provide further business opportunities for our members outside the EU by influencing UK Government.

To increase market access and practice rights in non-EU priority jurisdictions, we will influence foreign governments, bars and law societies.

To encourage the use of English law, England and Wales as a jurisdiction of choice and the use of English and Welsh solicitors we will use our Global Legal Centre campaign and wider promotion of the jurisdiction.


'Core' civil litigation – whiplash reforms

New proposals will transfer 95% of road traffic personal injury cases into the small claims track. This will have a profound impact on the viability of all firms undertaking personal injury work and therefore access to justice, which is why it is vital that we engage with the stakeholder groups working on the implementation.

'Core' civil litigation – fixed recoverable costs, including low value clinical negligence cases

Fixed recoverable costs will fundamentally change the basis of costs recovery in almost all forms of litigation. This will impact on the conduct of litigation and on the relationship between solicitors and their clients. If implemented poorly, the proposal could result in some forms of litigation being uneconomic for solicitors to conduct, thereby damaging access to justice. We will work to combat this.

The landscape is changing. We will ensure our members are equipped to deal with the changing regulatory landscape so they can continue to deliver excellence to consumers.

We will visibly influence the public policy and market environment for residential and commercial conveyancing and become the recognised advocate for conveyancing solicitors in England and Wales.

We will develop a new commercial member offer for property practitioners that harnesses opportunities to grow member engagement and corporate income.

SRA Handbook implementation

The SRA Standards and Regulations and will come into effect on 25 November 2019. We will ensure that our members fully understand the changes and are fully supported to comply with the new rules.

Mayson review

This review could have implications for our profession if implemented. We will ensure that any recommendations are supportive of our position and unhelpful recommendations are mitigated.

Price transparency

As these requirements bed in, we will assess the impact of these changes on firms in terms of cost and capacity to inform our future policy work in this area.

Professional indemnity insurance

The easing of restrictions on solicitors working in unregulated entities will create new risks and demand for new ‘adequate and appropriate’ insurance products. We will provide support and guidance to the profession.

Working with the insurance industry, we will ensure that the necessary protections are available to members.

Ethics and professional standards

We want to help the profession to better understand their professional obligations and make better ethical judgements. We will provide a range of products and services that will assist.

SQE (Solicitors Qualifying Examination)

The route to qualification must uphold the highest standards, preparing candidates for working life as a solicitor. In the interests of our members and society, we will work to ensure this is the case. 

Continuing competence

We will keep our members up to date with continuing competence developments as well as easy to follow guidance for compliance.

Minimum trainee salary

This will ensure that top talent is attracted to not just large or city firms but also helps SMEs keep their staff. Introducing an obligatory minimum trainee salary will also reduce the scope for abuse to our members and highlights to newly qualified solicitors that the Law Society is working on their behalf.

Communications

We will improve members’ compliance with their anti-money laundering (AML) obligations by communicating the requirements, demonstrating the Law Society and the profession’s commitment to tackling money laundering and economic crime, raising members’ awareness of economic crime threats.

Implementation of the 5th and 6th EU Money Laundering Directive

We will help members remain compliant by communicating changes to them and providing guidance.

As HM Treasury approved legal sector AML guidance is updated to reflect the changes, we will work to ensure it does not ‘gold-plate’ the legislative obligations contained in the Money Laundering Regulations 2019.

As the Sixth Directive is implemented, we will work to ensure that the UK takes a risk-based and proportionate approach to transposing it into UK law to avoid any unnecessary new burdens being imposed on firms.

Economic crime plan

As a member of the Legal Services Group we will

  • contribute to shaping and improving the UK’s response to economic crime.
  • ensure that any new measures implemented as a result of it do not have a disproportionate impact on members.

Suspicious Activity Reports (SARs)

There is the potential for a significant new cost to be imposed on members.

We will engage with the government and other stakeholders in order to

  • influence stakeholders at EU level.
  • influence EU proposals as they emerge.
  • inform members of the impact of Brexit on their AML and economic crime obligations.

Legal technology will transform the sector 

We will identify member’s technology needs and the best solutions by:
  • supporting members to understand their current strengths and weaknesses with regards to legal technology.
  • identifying and prioritising those areas and/or processes within their firms where technology can add the most value.

Procurement of technology

Technology can improve members’ careers, benefit their businesses and deliver better outcomes for their clients. We will empower members to adopt and leverage legal technology to realise this potential.

Using technology

We will help members to use the technology that they adopt.

Promoting legal technology

We promote legal technology by creating the right economic and political conditions for LawTech enterprises to develop products and services that are relevant and of high quality for firms and solicitors. We will raise the relevance of the legal sector and technology with parliament and government, and make the justice system more accessible through better uses of technology and innovation.

We will raise the profile of our profession as honest and honourable, approachable and accessible. We will promote solicitors as client-focused experts in their field, delivering value to clients and adding value to society. We'll do this through our ongoing media, social media and advertising campaigns.

We will protect and enhance the international reputation of England and Wales as a global legal centre through our international work to protect and open up markets and by creating and disseminating promotional materials connecting to the government’s Britain is Great campaign.

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