A bird? A plane? No, it's an abseiling solicitor
Next week the Law Society marks 150 years since the founding of its charter. To celebrate, it aims to put on 'a human face'. Sharon Wallach reports
Wednesday 17 May 1995
Meanwhile, in a move that officials insist is not connected to the fact that the candidates in the upcoming presidential election are united in their determination to introduce administrative changes, the society itself is undergoing an extensive internal reorganisation.
John Hayes, the society's secretary-general, says the restructuring, announced last week, will provide "the most practical and useful support to a profession facing many challenges," as well as making the most effective use of staff talents.
The Law Week event, described by the society as its largest public awareness campaign, aims "to help the public understand their legal rights and to put a human face on the law". The society's president, Charles Elly, says he wants the public to recognise the contribution of solicitors to the justice system and to the local economy.
The latest update on Law Week activities at local level is as thick as a paperback novel. Much is being done in the pro bono spirit as local law societies as well as individual firms throughout the country are offering free advice sessions along with wine or coffee. Many charities and local communities will benefit, too, via sponsored walks, five-a-side football tournaments, quizzes and cricket matches. One Southampton solicitor plans to abseil down a building and the Birmingham trainee solicitors group is donating blood (though presumably not to the Southampton solicitor), as well as visiting schools with a video aimed at getting sixth-formers interested in law.
The courts also feature in Law Week, with open days and mock trials organised by at least two local law societies and the Institute of Legal Executives, whose new council chamber will be opened by Charles Elly in front of regional TV cameras.
Radio phone-ins are a popular choice with several law societies, including Devon & Exeter, which is planning to run a limerick competition on air along the lines of "There was a solicitor from ..." What the prize will be remains unclear.
The West End climax to Law Week will be a show on Sunday at the Duke of York's Theatre, with proceeds going to Amnesty International and Justice. The programme includes scenes from the Royal National Theatre's Murmuring Judges, a monologue written by the Drop the Dead Donkey writer Guy Jenkins, and performances by The Archers' own solicitor Usha Gupta and the Crown Prosecutor cast.
Who knows what the performers will make of the changes at the Law Society's London-based operation, which will see the creation of four new departments, to be run by existing senior managers.
Corporate and regional affairs will be in the charge of Andrew Lockley, currently head of the legal practice directorate. "We have to be better about getting over what we are doing," says John Hayes. This includes creating a central resource encompassing the press and parliamentary unit and the president's office. A review of the society's constitution will also be the responsibility of this department.
Walter Merricks, the current head of communications, will take charge of a professional and legal policy directorate working on law reform, international relations and legal practice policy, and resource management and forward planning will bring administrative matters under the control of Jane Hern.
For the first time, membership services will be brought under one roof. According to Geoff Bignell, who will head the directorate, these have been "desperately neglected." The provision of services for its members is one of the core activities of a professional body but, in recent years, he says: "All the expansion has been in regulation and compliance. No wonder people identify the Law Society as purely a regulatory body."
According to John Hayes, the society's finance committee has been "sorely tempted" to establish a commercial division. "I'm against that," he says. "If it were purely money-making, it would mean getting rid of services like the library."
He says that the new directorate will be judged not on whether it makes a profit, but by how much members appreciate the services, the efficiency of provision and its ability to improve contacts with individual practitioners.
According to Walter Merricks, the reorganisation will be "cost-neutral". "It is designed to focus responsibilities in different ways," he says. "As we are approaching a time of change, we wanted to make sure the society had a management team capable of responding to new challenges. It is better to plan and implement changes in advance of those challenges."
The challengers for this summer's presidential elections have all included in their manifestos varying degrees of review of the Chancery Lane bureaucracy. In theory, a president has no more power than any other member of the council. But this year whoever wins the elections does so on a mandate from the profession as a whole, and will thus acquire a different status and standing in council than in the past, although the precise extent of his or her powers will depend on his or her majority.
But John Hayes is adamant the changes are coincidental to any growing mood for bureaucratic reform. He says he has been planning changes for 18 months, but wanted to wait to implement them until one of the senior managers has been in her current post for three years.
Phoenix Life: Chance of a refund for overcharged policyholders has risen
10 tips for taking out a personal loan
Has your Premium Bond won the £1million jackpot?
There are 'dark corners' of the investment and pensions industry, says Pension Minister
Simon Read: You're guilty until proven innocent when HMRC sends in the tax credit detectives
- 1 What happens to your body when you give up sugar?
- 2 Licence fee: What is the BBC charge – and how will the changes affect you?
- 3 This is what the photographer has to say about the picture of a weasel riding a woodpecker
- 4 Delhi bus rapist blames dead victim for attack because 'girls are responsible for rape'
- 5 Have sex with your iPad thanks to the new sex toy no-one asked for
'Jihadi John': CAGE representative storms off Sky News accusing Kay Burley of Islamophobia
Durham Free School: 'Creationism taught at' free school facing closure
Ukip would cut billions from Scottish budget to fund English tax cuts
Nearly 100,000 of Britain's poorest children go hungry after parents' benefits are cut
End of the licence fee: BBC to back radical overhaul of how it is funded
Ukraine crisis: Top Chinese diplomat backs Putin and says West should 'abandon zero-sum mentality'
iJobs Money & Business
£15000 - £18000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is a great opportunity for...
£50000 - £60000 per annum + Excellent Salary: Austen Lloyd: An outstanding new...
£20000 - £21000 per annum + uncapped commission: SThree: As a graduate you are...
£25000 - £30000 per annum + benefits: Ashdown Group: A global leader operating...
Day In a Page
This six-bedroom Georgian home is on three floors with open fireplaces, a two-oven Aga, an annexe, and cottage gardens with outbuildings and a car barn
High Crest House covers an impressive 9384sq ft, with almost three acres of grounds including a tennis court and summer house enclosed by electric gates
A six-bedroom farmhouse with separate accommodation in converted stables. Situated in the village of Church Aston, within walking distance to the market town
A two-bedroom flat with under-heated walnut floors and bespoke built-in storage. The Tube and Clapham Common are a short stroll away
A refurbished seven-bedroom townhouse with staff quarters, cinema room, superb gym, steam room and plunge pool
A minimnalist four-bedroom home designed to the highest spec, featuring glass walls and a kitchen space lit by a glass roof
Hibernate during winter and make your living during the summer at this busy guesthouse with panoramic sea views, in the village of Lynton
A four-bedroom penthouse next to the Tate with direct views of St Paul's from two floors of luxurious living space
A four-bedroom detached home surrounded by spacious gardens and woodland, close to New Pudsey
An 18th-century, three-bedroom home near Langstone Harbour built from ships beams with vaulted ceilings and wood burning stoves
A five-bedroom semi-detached home with a mix of period and modern features in a popular and convenient location
This five-bedroom red-brick beauty overlooks the village green and sits in just under two acres of land
A three-bedroom villa with self-contained flat, minutes from Lake Windermere
A deceptively spacious, beautifully presented Georgian home with 3000sq ft of living space and five reception rooms
A five-bedroom Victorian home with four receptions, superb gardens and paddock in Pembury
An eight-bedroom house on the south side of the The Green with cinema, wine cellars and summer house
This 17th century beauty is full of rustic cosiness, while the detached home office means you can also run a business
Four exclusive apartments in a Grade II-listed former medical school with 2,275 sq ft of living space and 18ft ceilings
A five-bedroom terraced house on the popular Peterborough Estate, ideally located for both Eel Brook Common and South Park
A state-of-the-art farm-building conversion on the former Cliveden Estate, with 11,420sq ft of internal space, cinema and wine cellar
A three-bedroom, 15th-century cottage with original features in the picturesque village of Sissinghurst
A six-bedroom terraced house with large south-facing roof terrace, cinema room and wine cellar
A new seven-bedroom home built in Queen Anne-style with swimming pool and parkland views in Mortimer
A listed, four-bedroom farmhouse in the rural hamlet of Rushall with detached barn, four acres of gardens and paddocks
A first-floor flat with two bedrooms, a spacious reception room and communal grounds in a leafy part of London
A three-bedroom flat with a spacious rootop terrace and balcony, accessed from a private gated courtyard
A Grade II-listed pile with six bedrooms, stables and 39 acres of grounds in Standlake
A two-bedroom flat with boutique hotel-style interiors, close to the foodie haunt of West End Lane
A two-bedroom flat in a beautiful old vicarage, with many original features, close to the city centre
A three-bedroom 16th-century home with an aga kitchen, private gardens and heated outdoor pool, in Hadleigh
A three-bedrom home in sought-after Queen's Gate Mews, with Italian marble-finished bathrooms
Surrounded by glorious countryside in the village of Udimore, sits this impressive four-kiln oast and barn conversion
A five-bedroom house in the picturesque village of Kettlewell, north Yorkshire
An 18th-century former coaching inn with original staircase, open fireplaces and beams throughout
A Grade II-listed Georgian town house with three bedrooms and a south-facing courtyard, near Arundel Castle
Feel on top of the world at this über chic penthouse on the 37th floor of one of Europe’s tallest blocks.
A Grade II-listed Victorian villa with six bedrooms and two further cottages, all with spectacular sea views
A grade II-listed, Georgian cottage with mature 50ft garden, perfect for summer entertaining
A magnificent Georgian pile with turrets, seven bedrooms, a heated pool and four acres of gardens
Fairoak Farm has five bedroom suites, gym, outdoor swimming pool and golf course
Chic two-bedroom river-fronted flat with a private lift that delivers you directly to your home
A spectacular seven-bedroom Tudor pile, once owned by Henry VIII, with 18 acres of land
A seven-bedroom Georgian property previously used as a picturesque wedding venue
A split-level flat in a church conversion with two en suite bedrooms and 1,200sq ft of living space
A three-bedroom bungalow situated behind an impressive stone wall, £645,000
Windsor Castle overlooks this three-bedroom Victorian cottage located on one of Windsor's smartest roads