I caught up with their new Director, Paul Wilson, who explained a bit about his new role, what the Westminster team does and how it can help local law societies.
As a starter I asked Paul to sum up the team in three words. He said ‘Influencing for impact’ He goes onto explain further.
The Westminster public affairs team lobbies the UK Government and Parliament on behalf of the profession. The Law Society recently launched a campaign on criminal justice, which is an example of the work they do. We recently launched a petition for members to be able to show their support for the campaign here.
The overall aim of the team is to highlight problems to decision-makers and propose realistic solutions that work for members and for the public. The nine strong team include:
- Alexandra Cardenas - Head of Public Affairs and Campaigns
- Rebecca Goshawk - Public Affairs Manager
- Vicki Butler - Campaigns Manager
- Emily Cooper - Project Manager (women in law symposium)
- Lauren Thornton - Project Co-ordinator
- Miki Bhalla - Public Affairs Adviser
- Joe Ferreira - Public Affairs Adviser
- Hugo Forshaw - Public Affairs Adviser
- Sam Lamont - Public Affairs Adviser
Paul in his new role has responsibility for the Law Society’s Welsh Office, which delivers the Law Society’s activities in Wales. The team works with the Welsh Government, the National Assembly for Wales and legal and business communities across Wales as well as working on the developing law of Wales. There is a Commission on Justice ongoing now, on which the Law Society has spent a great deal of time in ensuring that members’ views are heard.
Also, the International Team and Brussels Office. The international team supports members who are either based in other jurisdictions or looking to expand their operations there, as well as promoting the rule of law internationally. The Brussels Office is, unsurprisingly, focused heavily on Brexit at the moment, on which the Law Society has done a huge amount. If you haven’t seen it, have a look at our website which provides clear and comprehensive guidance to help legal firms and solicitors prepare for the eventuality that the UK leaves the European Union without a deal.
I asked him how his team fits into the wider Law Society structure and how it can help local law societies? His directorate sits in the same bit of the organisation as the policy directorate and the communications directorate. He said, we work very closely together to ensure that we are influencing to achieve the policy goals which are of greatest importance to the members, then communicating this both to decision-makers and to members in a coherent way. This is a constant process of improvement, and we’re always keen to hear feedback from members.
In terms of helping local law societies, there are some great resources on the Law Society website. The campaigns section gives local law societies tools they can use when lobbying decision-makers. Wherever possible, the team try and get the wider profession to support Law Society campaigns. Recently the Law Society lobbied against an increase in probate fees, which was supported by over 2,500 people writing to their local MP to raise concerns about the proposals (https://www.lawsociety.org.uk/news/stories/take-action-against-probate-stealth-tax/)That shows the value of the Law Society working in partnership with local law societies and the profession more widely.
I asked him what words of advice he would give to local law societies to help them with their own lobbying?
He said, when it comes to influencing, keep it simple. Whether you are looking to persuade the Solicitors Regulation Authority or the Government to make a policy change, the most effective way is to present a simple problem and a simple solution. That way, it’s far more likely to be taken on board.
Finally, on a lighter note, I asked him If he had to liken his team to an animal – what would it be and why? Describing this question as the hardest on the list, he said a dog. One of the nice ones, not one of the scary, bitey ones.
He believes the team approach every problem and challenge with huge enthusiasm and energy. When you’re trying to persuade Government or Parliament to change course, sometimes you’ll be successful, and other times you won’t, often for reasons outside your control. But if you don’t start each new piece of work with the same levels of enthusiasm and belief, then you’ve got no chance.