David is senior partner at Edwin Coe, and deputy vice president at the Law Society.
How many years have you been a council member? (and which constituency)
I think I joined in 2009. My constituency is international practice.
What other roles have you held at the Law Society?
Where do I start. I am chair of the International Committee. I was chair of the Legal Affairs and Policy Board, but now I am chair of its replacement the Policy and Regulatory Affairs Committee. I am on the newly created Law Society Board. I am the Law Society’s delegate to the CCBE. I am chair of the Brexit Task Force and the Law Society’s nominee on the Lord Chancellor’s Brexit Law Committee. As below I also run a practice!
What's your most memorable achievement as the head of the international committee?
There has been a period of turmoil since I became chair, largely as a result of Brexit. The EU Committee and the International Committee have been particularly powerful in allowing the Law Society to set itself in the forefront of providing evidence and opinion, on the law that will be affected by Brexit. We’ve established ourselves as one of the first ports of call.
Why did you want to be the Law Society's president?
The profession is often castigated but I have huge pride in the day to day job that solicitors do; oiling the wheels of society and business. The Law Society is the main communicator of the great job solicitors do, from the high street and law centres to the international City firms. I want to press home the message of the part that solicitors play in day to day life of citizens and businesses.
I have spent much time in other jurisdictions particularly in sub-Saharan Africa working with lawyers and courts. That work has centred round civil justice and human rights including aided work. The Law Society of England and Wales is held in the highest regard and has the ability to influence and campaign for lawyers and their work across the Globe and I want to ensure we use our brand and reputation to that end.
What are you hoping to achieve in your three years in office?
Unfortunately access to justice has come under intense pressure over the past 10 years with legal aid cuts and the Legal Aid, Sentencing and Punishment of Offenders Act 2012 (LASPO). The Law Society has always fought for equal justice and access to enforce rights. I want to invigorate that work against the increasing challenges.
We’ve made great strides to build an inclusive profession reflective of the communities it serves but there is more to do particularly with education and regulatory changes to retain and develop the rigour of the profession and its constitution.
The Law Society of England & Wales is a foremost international brand. It remains to be seen how that brand, built in part upon this jurisdiction being a jurisdiction of choice, will be affected by Brexit. We may have the task over the next few years to burnish the brand and promote ourselves once again.
To repay the trust placed in me to lead the Law Society.
In your day job, you are the senior partner at Edwin Coe and you have pioneered group action in this jurisdiction. Why is group action important?
I have been representing groups since the late 1980’s. Organising groups is often the only way that citizens and consumers can gain access to the court. The costs can be aggregated, and it is the way to achieve cost efficiency for the pursuit of relatively small individual claims which build into large collective claims.
You have some 'Brexpertise'- what has the Law Society done to make sure the legal profession is taken into account in the Brexit negotiations?
The Law Society from both London and Brussels has done fantastic work on Brexit. We have set ourselves as the ‘go to’ institution when it comes to legal issues arising from Brexit. The Law Society is consulted by the government, MPs, MEPs, select committees and European bodies for guidance and evidence. Helena Raulus in particular in our Brussels office has an insider’s knowledge of the politics and personalities of the EU institutions. I am proud of our work and it shows what the profession can do to ensure solid sound advice in times of uncertainty and change.
You represented one of the applicants in the Article 50 case. What did it mean to you, to be able to work on this case?
Because of the nature of my work I have worked on many high-profile cases but never one of the national and constitutional importance of the Article 50 litigation. It was a privilege to be involved. With much litigation we become swift experts in the areas of law which we litigate. It was fascinating thus to have the opportunity to learn and consider in depth the major constitutional issues that arose in this case.
What would your advice be for aspiring solicitors today?
Be bold. Step out for what you want to achieve and have fun doing it. Remember those less fortunate, and if in your practice you can help them, go the extra mile to make that happen.
In rare moments of calm, how do you relax?
Sadly, at the weekend I relax often by catching up on the week’s work and preparing for the next, I can then start the next week relaxed.
When I do get out I love seeing people performing live, theatre, music, opera. It’s a thrill to see their work and performance in front of you. On occasion I take up the challenge to dance and sing in public.