President's Letter (February 2011)
WHAT WILL 2011 HAVE IN STORE FOR PRACTITIONERS IN
I suspect that the answer to this question will depend a lot on whether you are a solicitor in a high street practice or in a medium to large regional or national firm.
Those who are engaged in advising solicitors’ practices, predict a large number of mergers throughout
Solicitors, accountants and bankers that I have spoken to argue that firms, particularly sole practitioners, 2 and 3 partner firms, have begun to recognise the need to consolidate, either to remain financially viable or to become competitive. Indeed that is my own experience, having merged with three other practices in the last 9 months.
It remains to be seen whether such consolidation will protect those firms from competition from organisations with an established consumer brand – the so called Tesco Law. We know that the AA and SAGA have already unveiled their new on-line legal shop, allowing both members and non-members to access legal services via the Web; this I understand includes telephone advice which can be free or at a competitive price. More importantly, it is available in the evenings and at weekends. How many solicitors’ practices are open for business at such times?
Solicitors working for central and local government in
ACCESS TO JUSTICE
The concept is more often than not mentioned in relation to the availability of legal aid or, rather, the lack thereof. I fear that as more and more citizens lose their entitlement to legal aid and, in effect, legal representation, there is a distinct possibility that this could lead to a break down in law and order in many of our communities. That statement sounds dramatic and I have no intention of making a drama out of a crisis. However, as a profession, we have a duty to inform and educate our coalition government that they are ploughing a dangerous path. I fear that our elected politicians, and more importantly the decision makers amongst them, have not understood the implications of what they are proposing.
I fear that it is too late for the tens of Magistrates and County Courts that either have or will be closed during the year ahead – many of which are on our doorstep.
If the pressures mentioned above are not enough to cause practitioners to consider retirement (assuming they can afford to) I understand that the SRA are contemplating removing cover for mortgage lenders from the minimum terms and conditions of solicitors’ indemnity insurance. If this happens, and assuming firms want to act for banks and building societies, they will need to arrange their own top up cover. This, again, is a direct threat to the existence of conveyancing firms – perhaps that is what the regulator intends, by softening up practices before Tesco, AA, the Co-Op and others begin to hoover up domestic conveyancing from October 2011.
Notwithstanding all these threats, the number of practising solicitors in
VOTE FOR CHANGE
If 2010 was the year of surprise in
In May, the National Assembly elections will take place. Before then, on 3 March, a referendum will be held on whether the Assembly should have the power to make laws on the devolved subject areas, without first having to ask
You may not subscribe to or support the concept of devolution for
Finally, I was pleased to note that the Law Society Gazette on 20 January 2011 decided to reflect on the forthcoming referendum and the impact of granting full law making powers to the Assembly. The article also deals with the potential impact on such developments on solicitors’ practices in
I wish you all well for this year ahead and hope that you will join us in celebrating the Society’s 125th Anniversary at the Dinner on 13th May - don’t forget to put in your nominations for our two Awards – see page 9!