BLS President Ben Tarrant’s speech to the Annual Dinner banner

BLS President Ben Tarrant’s speech to the Annual Dinner

  • Posted on

Annual Awards Dinner Speech

Thursday 23rd October 2014


Lord Lieutenant, My Lord Bishop, Deputy Lord Mayor, High Sheriff of Bristol, distinguished guests, ladies and gentlemen.

Welcome to Bristol Law Society’s Annual Awards Dinner 2014. I am proud to stand before you as the 143rd President of Bristol Law Society - I believe the youngest male to have held the post - the youngest female was of course Jo Clarke in 2004/2005.

My Year

This year has been a roller coaster, full of highs and a few lows, full of challenges (not least balancing this role with my day job as a partner at TLT and also the birth of my second son one month after taking office) but equally many exciting opportunities and great occasions. It has been a true honour and privilege to have been your president and an experience I will cherish forever. The friendships I have made both in Bristol and further afield and my insight into the UK legal sector is something I will take away for the rest of my career. The highlights of the year for me were (1) the Bristol legal walk in September when over 200 people took to the streets of Bristol and raised £8,000 for the South West Legal Support Trust (2) the World War 1 commemoration event held at the Law Library where we heard from past president Jack Lyes about role of BLS during WW1 and (3) attending the opening of the legal year in London which comprised a service in Westminster Abbey where I managed to sit on the front row followed by a reception in Westminster Hall which has witnessed many high profile legal trials including Sir William Wallace, Charles I, Sir Thomas More, Guy Fawkes then as I made my way down the steps I happened upon our Lord Chancellor Chris Grayling and he shook my hand…..a missed opportunity perhaps.

I have to thank two people in particular for their support and mentoring of me during my time both as a Council member and office holder of Bristol Law Society – John Moriarty and Robert Bourns – both past presidents of BLS.

The Awards Dinner

I would like to wish all those shortlisted for awards this evening the very best of luck and to all those nominated I congratulate you. I am proud to be part of a legal sector so full of such talented, hard working, dedicated and quite frankly outstanding people and firms. Thank you also to those who prepared and submitted nomination forms. I know it takes a lot of hard work and effort to produce something good and worthy of those individuals and firms you want to be recognised.

Tonight we celebrate and recognise excellence in and around the cities of Bristol and Bath - the remarkable work of individuals as well as the successes and innovations of practices and firms, both large and small. I said in my speech at the AGM last November that we do not shout loudly enough about this region and the competitive and vibrant legal sector operating within it.

We must not forget however that a range of pressures have taken and will take their toll on some of our colleagues who work so hard to serve their clients and the legal community. Collectively we must do our bit to ensure essential services survive and that people are not left to fight for justice on their own. I am distinctly uncomfortable about the direction our justice system is headed and I pay tribute to those in this region who work so hard to engage with politicians, the national law society, government, the public and others on a daily basis to try and maintain the principles we value. 2015 sees the 800th anniversary of Magna Carta – a chance for us all including our leaders to reflect perhaps.

Without wishing to take anything away from the achievements you will hear about this evening I must make mention of one achievement of note - Robert Bourns senior partner of my own firm TLT has been elected deputy vice president of the national Law Society will be President in 2016. Robert I know that you will not thank me for doing this but I and the rest of this room are proud of you and wish you all the best.

Bristol Law Society

This year has been an incredibly busy year for BLS - a year of transition and growth. Our membership has grown and the number of firms to join our corporate scheme has increased. We have hosted more events than ever (which I am now starting to feel) - over 25 events on top of all of the 20 or so joint events, meetings and events at the national Law Society, Joint IV (Birmingham, Liverpool, Manchester and Bristol, ASWLS (Monmouthshire, Gloucestershire and Wiltshire, Devon & Somerset, Plymouth, Cornwall and Bristol) where we share views experiences and expertise and promote this city and all we do.

This is the year that we have put the structure and mechanics in place to make BLS a business and team for the future. Great effort has been made to make sure BLS is visible, engaged and an integral part of the Bristol business sector. New partnerships have been formed. We have encouraged representatives of the Sole Practitioners Group, the Junior Lawyers Division, the Women's Lawyers Division, CILEx and lawyers in Bath firms to join us and work together to achieve our goals. We have forged and strengthened links with regional and national professional bodies and other organisations – WESCA, Junior Chamber, Business West and the CBI South West.

The work of BLS would not be possible without the contribution of the over 30 individuals from a wide range of firms and organisations who give up their time and work incredibly hard the sake of the legal profession. Apart from two members of staff BLS is a volunteer not for profit organisation solely reliant on the support of individuals firms and businesses in Bristol to survive. It is no mean feat keeping the society running from year to year in particular through what has been the worst recession most of us can remember and I must pay tribute to past presidents Nick Dell and Ashley Palminteri for their role in navigating the society through 2011 - 2013. In 2020 we will celebrate 250 years. To all of our members of Council, to our members, to those of attend our events during the year, to those individuals and businesses who sponsor and support us and pay subscription fees and to our strategic partners UWE, Smith & Williamson and Lloyds Bank – thank you.

Charities of the Year

This evening is also a fund raising event and I make no apology for that. As President I have the honour of choosing a charity of the year, promoting its work and using our events as a way of raising funds. While we celebrate the success of our businesses and individuals this evening please let us not forget that there is a great imbalance in our city. Child poverty is a significant issue and for this reason my chosen charities are the Lord Mayor of Bristol’s Children Appeal and Bristol Underprivileged Children’s Charity. I strongly believe that each and every child has a right to enjoy their childhood and receive basic provisions and get the best start in life. Sadly around a quarter of children in this city live in poverty.

Bristol Under Privileged Children’s Charity was created in the 1970’s and all of the money raised by the charity is spent helping Bristol children who reside within a twenty-five mile radius of the city centre in conditions of need, hardship or distress. The charity has given away over £1m since it was founded and funds are passed on to local children who need support, equipment and financial help to help improve their quality of life.  Terry Waite is the patron.

The Lord Mayor of Bristol’s Children Appeal is a year-round charity appeal which helps children in need at Christmas time, by providing vouchers of £40 each to around 1650 children that can be exchanged for food, clothes and toys. The Charity works all year-round to raise awareness and much-needed funds by running and attending many activities and events. The Charity needs to raise £66,000 each year to ensure that the number of vouchers does not reduce each year.

Thanks to the team

Finally I need to thank the team responsible for planning this evening’s event. I will not need to tell you that this awards dinner has not just happened on its own. There has been a team of people working with me since March and there has been a considerable amount of hard work and planning to get us here tonight. So thank you to Ceri Beveridge our event organizer, Ashley Palminteri of the FLP, Michael Gupwell of GL, Mel Conway of K&H, Scott Silberis of FA, Nick Lee of PC and Helen Read of BLS. I am told that we will know that the evening has gone to Ceri's satisfaction when she exits the room and comes back in a different dress… let's keep our fingers crossed and no pressure Ceri but our guests will be waiting.

Our host

Ladies and gentlemen that is enough from me. It is time for me to introduce you to our host for this evening. This person qualified as a solicitor in 1976 and began his career at the BBC in 1975 launching Radio 4’s Law in Action series in 1984. He was the BBC’s legal correspondent for 15 years until 2000 before moving to the Daily Telegraph until 2008. In 2010 he started writing for the Guardian’s online law page and those of you who actually read your Law Society Gazette will know that he writes a column twice a month.

In 2010 he returned to the BBC to present Law in Action, 25 years after starting the radio programme. He appears on Sky News, the BBC news channel and other news networks in the UK and the US. He has also been a guest on popular entertainment programmes such as the One Show and the Alan Titchmarsh show.

Well respected by lawyers, this person is known for his independence, his authority and his ability to explain legal issues with simplicity, clarity and wit. Put simply he is the UK’s best known and respected legal commentator.

Ladies and gentlemen it gives me great pleasure to welcome and please put your hands together and give a very warm (but not too Bristolian) welcome to Mr Joshua Rozenberg.

Thank you and have a great night.