Law Society summer party, taking oaths and legal aid

What do you call a gathering of lawyers that isn’t a legal aid protest? That was the question SJ editor at large, Kevin Poulter, and I posed to our loyal Twitter followers last Wednesday as we waited patiently outside the National Portrait Gallery for the start of the Law Society’s annual summer party.

The responses we received were varied. Those I can publish, and free of any profanity or a stereotypical lawyer joke, include ‘WIP’ and ‘nonchalance’. Not bad efforts.

Once inside, we found ourselves surrounded by the great and the good of the UK legal profession. The evening itself was the usual mix of canapés, Prosecco, cocktails and networking that is synonymous with these types of events. But the surroundings of the National Portrait Gallery, and the two guided tours during the evening, added a little something extra.

Tongues began wagging in the alcoves of the Lerner Galleries as soon as the first drinks were poured. Between the portraits of Dame Judi Dench and a rather surreal looped video of a purportedly sleeping David Beckham, my keen journalistic ear heard the same question uttered over and over again among chews of bite-size, ice-cold avocado chunks and slurps of perfectly chilled mojitos: “Just how much is this all costing?”

The question of what the Law Society does with its portion of the practising certificate fee is never far from the thoughts of solicitors up and down the country, especially those that aren’t cordially invited to such events. If your presence wasn’t requested, you probably wouldn’t even have been aware the party was happening. There is no mention of it on the society’s website or official social media channels – it isn’t mentioned anywhere in the Gazette either.

But perhaps that is to be expected. These events are used by the society to thank specific members and partners and are a chance to network. It may be churlish to criticise something that countless other companies and organisations also do every year.

Law Society president Nick Fluck, who penned a comment in this week’s SJ about how much the society values its membership, spoke briefly to the audience and welcomed them to the reception. He said that “it’d been a difficult year” but that “throughout, the profession has shown resilience, creativity and a commitment to serving their clients”.

He noted that, during his time as an office holder, he had met many solicitors up and down the country and was inspired to see how committed they all were to their work. “The Law Society will be there to help our members compete and survive and continue to deliver services with real value to their clients,” he said.

Nick ended by wishing the incoming president, Andrew Caplen, the very best during his year in office, which begins on 10 July 2014.

Of course, questions about the Law Society’s entertainment policy were not the only topics of conversation on the agenda. I spoke to Lord Andrew Phillips of Sudbury, who believes that entrants to the solicitor profession should take an oath to remind them of the standards and ethics expected, as is done by our Atlantic cousins. Would the general public be more trusting of solicitors if they were seen to swear, or affirm, that they will uphold the principles and traditions of their profession?

The start of this week saw the SJ team take part in the Justice Alliance’s campaign to stop cuts to legal aid. Kevin, junior writer Laura Clenshaw and I posed and tweeted our support under the hashtag #iamforjustice.


This blog was first published in the Solicitors Journal on 18 June 2014 and is reproduced with kind permission.