The 143rd AGM of Bristol Law Society took place on Tuesday 26th November 2013 and members heard about a busy and successful year for the society and saw the election of the new Executive and the appointment of new members of Council including the election of myself as President. It is an honour and privilege to have this opportunity to represent the Bristol legal sector as your 143rd president of what is the oldest law society in the country for the next 12 months.
I would like to introduce the new Executive to you:
Michael Gupwell of Gregg Latchams – Vice President
Melissa Conway of Kelcey & Hall – Junior Vice President
Becky Moyce of Temple Bright – Honorary Treasurer
Leon Smith of DAC Beachcroft – Honorary Secretary
I am pleased to say that Ashley Palminteri of The Family Law Practice will remain a key part of the team as Immediate Past President.
We also have 7 new members of Council – Gary Lightwood of Pattison Brewer, Dagmar Steffens of UWE, Stephanie Nunley of Bower & Bailey and also chair of the local Women Lawyers Division, Ligia Bob of TLT, Scott Silbereis [soon to be] of Foot Anstey, Jo Campbell of Connect 2 Law and finally Heledd Wyn of Pardoes.
I would firstly like to pay tribute to Ashley Palminteri our now immediate past president who has been an outstanding president this year and I am sure you will all join me in thanking him for his drive, commitment, energy, and sheer hard work over the last 12 months. His achievements have been significant in the history of BLS. He leaves BLS in a positive place in terms of its engagement, relevance and profile.
Secondly I would like to thank my firm TLT for supporting me over the last 3 years and for their support over the next 12 months.
The next 12 months
What next for BLS? 2013 has been a year of massive change in the legal sector : LASPO reforms, changes referral fees, introduction of a portal for PI claims, difficulties with PII cover have all had an impact. There will not be any miracle cures over the next 12 months and I fear that more firms in Bristol are going to find it difficult to stay open for business. This should raise serious concerns about public access to solicitors and to the justice system. BLS needs be to ready for this. For this reason one of our main areas of focus next year will be on engagement with sole practitioners and firms with practice areas at risk. It is essential that people feel they are supported.
One thing which has struck me over the last few years is that the public do not appear to be on the side of the profession on the issues I have mentioned and I think that means they do not generally value the work of the legal sector. My view is that it is about time the legal sector fought back and shouted about its value to clients, society and the economy.
Scope for optimism?
I saw some statistics recently which stated the UK legal services market contributes almost £30bn to the UK economy . I attended an RBS seminar last week in which we were told that legal services industry is currently one of the strongest performers as the UK emerges from recession and how Bristol and the southwest are well placed to capitalise on that growth. Whilst I make no attempt to hide from the fact that we may face a difficult year in Bristol I am also convinced that there are also opportunities for the sector in Bristol as for the first time in 5 years we have economic growth and it is up to each and every one of us to get out there and promote Bristol as a fantastic place to do business and as a legal centre of excellence.
Thank you all for attending the various events this year and for your ongoing support of BLS. The team here is very much looking forward to the year ahead and to working with you. We have an exciting programme of events during the year which I hope you will attend. I would encourage as many of you as possible to engage with us, tell us your thoughts on what you would like to see us do and issues of concern to you. This is your society and we are here to listen and act in your best interests.