So, here we are. The newly appointed president of Leeds Law Society and a column to write. What to say? How to say it? Seeking guidance, the Editor advises that he needs seven hundred words or so and suggests that I discuss "a current legal topic".
Friends and colleagues urge me to "write about something that you feel passionate about or at the very least, you are interested in". Helpful? Not really. There seems to be no shortage of words at the moment regarding the current legal topics of Alternative Business Structures and Outcome Focussed Regulations and many a roadshow has trundled into Leeds and onwards to spread the word from Chancery Lane and in the alternative, I very much doubt that the readership of this journal would welcome my views on the current state of rugby (both codes), boxing and all things Italian.
Passionate about the law?
Well, I am and always have been exceedingly proud of being a solicitor but by no stretch of the imagination could I label my interest in my profession as being "passionate".
Interested in the law?
For sure. More than an interest. The study of and application of the law is interesting to us all, we are after all, lawyers but for most of us a quick glance once a week at the Law Society Gazette or the Lawyer and of course, an avid read once a month of the Leeds and Yorkshire Lawyer, sates the thirst for further knowledge and information regarding recent developments and our curiosity as to what is happening with the profession. What about Compulsory Professional Development ("CPD") I hear you cry. Notwithstanding the strict requirement to acquire CPD hours each year having been with us for decades who among us has not been gripped with panic come October when realising that to date only three hours CPD has been earned? What follows is a mad scramble for qualifying hours attending law courses that are often neither appropriate nor informative. In times past when simple self certification of attainment of CPD hours came via one's application for the renewal of a practising certificate there were many who had not been near a law seminar for years and who just continued year after year in practice. It comes as no surprise, therefore, that the Solicitors Regulation Authority has revealed plans to undertake the first review into CPD for over 25 years. I for one welcome it. The more we can make our continued training, our skills and our interest in the law relevant, the better the profession.
Does this lack of passion, this lack of interest, amount to apathy?
Perhaps so. It seems as lawyers we all have strong opinions and lots to say about almost anything (and here I include the legal profession) as that comes as part of the territory of being a lawyer but few are minded to actively take part in the legal debate or to question or challenge the decisions made and actions taken by Government which affect us all as lawyers. It’s a bit like shouting at the television really, it might well make you feel better but no-one actually hears you other than those within immediate earshot. The Legal Services Act, the introduction of Alternative Business Structures, changes to civil legal aid and more, regularly arrive and will affect our professional lives in one way or another and do we take the time to challenge, to oppose or even engage? Very few of us do. The President of the Law Society only this last week appealed to us all, regardless as to whether you are a legal aid solicitor or not, to "show your MP the strength of opposition to government proposals". I believe the opposition is there but will we voice our views in a way that the same will be heard by Government? I hope so. If apathy reigns we shall all be the poorer for it.
After almost thirty years as a member of the Law Society, I took the decision eighteen months ago to stop complaining about the Society and instead, to actively take part. To see if my voice could be heard and to see if I could make a difference, regardless of how small. I was elected to the Committee of Leeds Law Society and have enjoyed every minute since. I would encourage you all to do the same.
Take a real interest in 'your' society, join Leeds Law Society and take part!