Message from the Chair - Edward Sparrow
For circulation within member firms.
The closing months of 2018 have been a very busy time for the City of London Law Society.
We have continued to participate in the two committees we helped to establish in 2017 to provide the Government with single points of advice from the legal professions and their clients about the effects of Brexit on the English and Welsh legal system (the Brexit Law Committee (BLC)) and the legal professions (the Mutual Markets Access Working Group (MMAWG)). These committees are non-political but their contribution to informing the Government about relevant legal and professional issues are clear and gratefully acknowledged by Government.
The CLLS (along with the CityUK, GCIOO, the Law Society and others including our member firms) have also been active in communicating to Government and other interested parties the important issues for business from Brexit.
I met with other City Bar Leaders in Chicago in September and delivered the message that, whatever happened to Brexit, London would remain open for business and English and Welsh Law would remain a sensible choice for international business.
Earlier this month, I went to Brussels to meet a number of MEPs, representatives of the CCBE, the umbrella body for the European Bars, and of the Law Society of England and Wales in Brussels and an influential journalist. I listened to their views on Brexit and delivered some key messages. I emphasised that the current regimes for civil justice cooperation and for mutual professional recognition and practice benefitted businesses across the EU and would, if those benefits were to continue, need to be replicated. I said that the choices of law to govern contracts; of the jurisdiction to determine disputes; and of which lawyers to use, where and when, should be a free commercial decision for businesses not a matter of legislation or professional regulations.
Also this month, the CLLS and senior partners from a number of our member firms met with the Lord Chancellor and senior members of the Ministry of Justice. He briefed us on the Government's approach to Brexit and received a number of key messages about the impact of Brexit and the negotiations on business.
A spin off from the Brexit Law Committee are the working groups that we have established consisting of collaborations between our specialist committees and those of the National Law Society to respond to requests from Government Departments for advice on the 800 or so pieces of secondary legislation to implement the 2018 EU Withdrawal Act. This is not the only source of advice on the subject for Government but a number of committees have already been consulted.
CLLS Specialist Committees
The CLLS Specialist Committees have continued with their very valuable day to day work. Some examples of their work include:
The Company, Finance and Insolvency Law Committees liaised with the Government over the proposed Business Contract Terms (Assignment of Receivables) Regulations 2018 and secured a complete re-draft of the regulations. They have also responded to BEIS’ Insolvency and Corporate Governance Consultation. The Training and Professional Rules and Regulatory Committees have been very active in assessing the SQE proposed by the SRA, preparing toolkits for City law firms to prepare for the new system, and looking at the handbook reforms. The Planning and Environmental Law Committee has responded to consultations on the Revised Corporation National Planning Policy Framework, while the Land Law Committee has set up, in conjunction with the City of London Corporation, a Digital Fixed Line Infrastructure Wayleave Agreement precedent document for the new Electronic Communications Code 2018. Indeed, the Land Law Committee is the first of our specialist committees to have received an award for its work. The Regulatory Law Committee continues its formidable work on the implementation of MFID II.
The Chair of the Corporate Crime and Corruption Committee has given oral evidence to the House Of Lords Select Committee on The Bribery Act: and the new Data Law Committee, under the chairmanship of Jon Bartley, has commenced work.
Looking at the scope of the work carried out by the committees is a constant reminder to me of the level of expertise which all the committee members bring to the benefit of the Government and so many other stakeholders. I remain grateful for all those on the committees for their work on such a wide range of issues.
Brexit has not been the only source of our work. Colin Passmore, Senior Partner of Simmons and Simmons, is leading a CLLS initiative aimed at co-ordinating the work of our members in the field of social mobility. As has been recognised by many public bodies and the Government, City law firms are among the leaders in encouraging and improving social mobility in the workplace. However, it is recognised that much of the effort, with exceptions such as the Horizons programme and membership of Prime, is particular to individual firms and service deliverers. The aim is that by increasing communication, co-ordination and cooperation across the sector, including firms, service deliverers schools and universities and Government Departments, the benefits of existing and future work and resources can be increased. As part of this initiative, in the New Year, City firms who have supported the first three-year programme of Horizon will be encouraged to renew their commitment for a further three years and other firms will be encouraged to add their support.
Access to Justice
We are also discussing with the MOJ how City firms can use their skills and human resources to improve access to justice. Again, the existing contribution of City firms is acknowledged. However, we have suggested that the Government could make better use of the problem-solving skills of City lawyers. Again, greater communication and cooperation between firms and across the sector would likely deliver dividends.
The discussion with the judiciary continues about how City solicitors in their 50s might be encouraged to apply for High Court appointments. We participated in a discussion session this week organised by the Law Society and involving the Lord Chancellor, the Lord Chief Justice, the Chair of the Judicial Appointments Commission and Senior Partners from a number of our member firms. Some interesting ideas emerged and the CLLS was aksed to play a role in pursuing those ideas.
Lifetime Achievement Award
For those who missed the announcement, the CLLS Lifetime Achievement Award for 2018 was presented to Janet Legrand QC.
Finally, I would like to thank our member firms for their continued support; our Committees for their outstanding work; and the staff of the CLLS for their dedication to the Society and their sterling work in keeping me out of trouble.
With all best wishes of the Season.