CJCH History Month: Wales’ oldest law firm, Gaskell and Walker, joins CJCH

By Myles Thomas

As Wales’ oldest law firm, the acquisition of Gaskell & Walker is a matter of pride for those working at CJCH Solicitors. Given the continued growth and success of the tech-centric Consulting side of CJCH’s business, it is also apparent that the firm still holds true to the values and ethos of a community based high street practice.

E.W. Miles Solicitor on record for a probate matter, 1921

The origins of Gaskell and Walker go back to Ebenezer William Miles, who practiced as E W Miles & Co. in Cowbridge. Ebenezer was born on 8th June 1852 to Thomas Miles of Cowbridge, where he was later educated and admitted as a Solicitor in 1878. He practiced alone from 1878 until 1932 and was succeeded by Mr Morgan, who was admitted in 1900 and died in 1934.

At this point, the practice was taken over by Francis (Frank) Gerald Walker who was born in 1881, admitted as a Solicitor in November 1929, and practised in partnership with John Clare Gaskell. At the end of the Second World War, Frank handed the practice on to John Thornley Taylor, who acted as a sole practitioner until he was joined in partnership by Ian Jewell, Ray Nicholson and Anthony.

Following the unfortunate demise of Mr Jewell, Gwyn Davies joined Ray and Anthony in partnership in 1988 and upon Ray’s retirement in 1999 they were joined by Mel Butler. Up until the point where CJCH acquired Gaskell and Walker, astonishingly, that had only been a total of nine partners in over one hundred and thirty years.

John Gaskell record of Admission, 1902

When CJCH took over Gaskell and Walker in late 2014/early 2015, the two firms practiced from their offices in Caroline Street and Park street, respectively. Speaking with current members of CJCH Solicitors in Bridgend (the majority of whom worked for Gaskell and Walker previously) at their relatively new office in Dunraven Place, they indicate the new premises are just one of the many welcome changes they have seen since joining the CJCH family.

Rebecca May, Solicitor at CJCH, originally began her training with Gaskell and Walker under Gwyn Davies, who, despite his retirement remains a mentor to her. Originally, she had trepidations of CJCH’s takeover as she was only four months into her training contract and was worried for her future. Her fears were calmed by Nick Wootton, CJCH’s Chief Financial Officer who informed her she would remain a trainee with the practice. A few years on, Rebecca has flourished with CJCH and says that the takeover benefited her greatly, allowing her more opportunity.

Original Gaskell & Walker letter head on a conveyancing matter, 1946

The rest of the team who also worked for Gaskell and Walker collectively have almost one hundred years of service between them. Nigel Daniel, now Head of Employment at CJCH commented that the team is built on “good old-fashioned loyalty” and they are “incredibly tight-knit”. It is apparent that this is true, with stalwarts Hollie Wood, Louise Watts, Cathy Leyden and a more recent appointment, Caroline Jones regaling and laughing over their experiences in the office together. They insist that they are friends before anything else, there are no secrets between them and they love coming to work every morning.

One of Gaskell and Walker’s main focuses was their client-centric approach, aiming to provide full transparency with ‘friendly, professional and approachable advisers’. Their historic advertisements speak of not being just a ‘faceless law firm’ which they would be proud to see is still apparent today. The Bridgend Office oozes friendliness, charm and personality whilst remaining successful, efficient and professional.

CJCH History Month: Clarke & Hartland shaking up Cardiff

By Charlotte Bardet

In 1982, former prosecutor Brian Jones contacted Stephen (Steve) Clarke to ask him to form a new law firm under the name Brian Jones & Co. Steve, currently Senior Partner at CJCH, had completed his training contract under the supervision of Brian at the Crown Prosecution Service (CPS). Steve qualified in 1980 and two years later joined forces with Brian to establish a mainly Criminal Defence law practice in Canton, Cardiff. Brian Jones & Co. then opened its second office by partially moving to Clifton Street in 1983 and then fully moved to Clifton Street in 1985, when the firm changed name to Brian Jones Clarke & Co. It was at this time that Tim Hartland, now CJCH Managing Partner, joined the practice as a trainee solicitor and would later go on to become Partner when Brian retired in 1988. The firm became Clarke & Hartland Solicitors in 1990, with a staff of 16, and made its final move to The Parade, in Cardiff, in 2001.

Brian, Steve and Tim all specialised in Criminal law. The firm delivered prosecution work for the British Transport Police in South Wales throughout the 1990s, as well as defence criminal work, and acted for the Police Federation of South Wales. In the mid-1990s, Steve was one of the first solicitors in Wales to be given Higher Rights of Audience owing to his extensive experience, and about 5 years later Tim acquired Higher Rights as well. Both Partners appeared regularly in the Magistrates Court and conducted Crown Court proceedings. When the opportunity to develop the CJCH licence compliance programme came about, the skills both Steve and Tim had developed in criminal practice at Clarke & Hartland were ideally suited for what the project would require.

As well as Criminal law, the firm had experts in Commercial, Conveyancing, Matrimonial and Family law. Clarke & Hartland classed themselves as a high street practice, “providing local services to local people” Steve remembers. They developed their client base upon recommendations from previous clients and acted for many local families. In contrast to the work CJCH now does, Clarke & Hartland acted for very few corporations or companies, even throughout their commercial cases. Their work ethic was very personal and the strength of their team was grounded in excellent people skills. Steve noted that, unfortunately, this aspect of legal work is not as relevant anymore, with an ever-growing reliance on technology and big corporations.

Stephen Clarke & Tim Hartland

Around 2010, Clarke & Hartland recognised that the days of small high street practices were numbered. When the government threatened to introduce changes to the way legal aid would be administered in England and Wales, the firm decided to anticipate any future problems this would create by expanding its volume of work to ensure a criminal contract and merging with Colin Jones Solicitors, in 2013.  CJCH become one of eight firms appointed to do criminal work in South Wales and one of five in Gwent, where there had previously been a total of 65 and 25 respectively.  The changes to legal aid never ended up taking place and therefore the newly establish CJCH had to consider what new opportunities were available to them as a bigger firm.

Clarke and Hartland had been built upon Brian and Steve’s close working relationship at the CPS, as well as Brian and Tim’s regular tennis matches at Penarth Lawn Tennis Club. This theme of forging a working relationship based upon knowing someone for a long time would continue with the Colin Jones merger. Although Steve and Tim knew Colin Jones professionally as a criminal solicitor, they also knew him socially. Steve had also played rugby with Nick Wootton, CJCH Chief Financial Officer, for years and knew Jacqui Seal, CJCH Senior Partner, through the CPS, and had previously worked with her brother. This work ethic mixed in with a comfortable environment gave them the incentive to grow and gain more experience as a firm.

In moving from a well-respected, experienced high street practice to a global business providing legal and corporate services, Steve and Tim have tried to carry across one element of Clarke & Hartland in particular to the new business. “Clarke & Hartland was very much in our images and our personalities” claims Steve. They wanted a happy working environment and were able to have one for 30 years thanks to having a staff of no more than 20 people. With a staff of over 130, CJCH have tried to maintain this convivial, hard-working and conscientious atmosphere, all within a welcoming environment.

Tim admits that it is very difficult to say exactly where the firm is headed in the future, especially given its extraordinary expansion in the last 4 years. They are confident that CJCH has only just started its growth pattern and in the next five years it could be three times the size it is now. CJCH Consulting has already established itself as brand leader in a niche market, and nobody else is currently replicating what we’re doing, nor the way we do it.

Your Idea or Copyright Theft?

Ana Kocmut-Saunders

“La propriété, c’est le vol!” (All Property is theft!).  So said French anarchist and capitalist Pierre-Joseph Proudhon in 1840.  Proudhon was not actually criticising individual entitlement to privately owned land. He was attacking landowners and capitalists whom he believed “stole” profits from labourers.

When modern day capitalists start up their own business they can quickly, easily and unwittingly ‘steal’ other peoples’ property.  How?  By using or adopting patented inventions or processes, trademarked logos or copyrighted material in their own business offerings or marketing.

Patents and Trademarks are easier to check out to avoid falling foul of them.  You can do that by a simple search of the online registry for each.

Beware and do your due diligence to check it out however.

Big brand retailers and service providers can be very aggressive indeed in their pursuit of anyone allegedly breaching their trademarks

Click here for the the latest reported instance and potential salutary tale.

What about copyright though? 

If material is not patented or trademarked, how do you know that your song, marketing concept, literary feature, clothing design or advertising pitch hasn’t already been created and protected by someone else?

Gareth Thompson

If you create something isn’t it yours?  So what if it’s not?  Does it really matter and should you worry?  Potentially yes if it steps hard enough on a business rivals’ copyright protected toes.

Uber was recently sued by Waymo (Google) for allegedly stealing technical information about itsLiDAR self-driving car system.  Ed Sheeran was recently sued for £16m for ‘stealing’ notes from ‘Amazing’ sung by Matt Cardle in his top 20 hit ‘Photograph’.  Marvin Gaye’s estate successfully sued Robin Thicke and  Pharrell Williams for $7.4m for ‘stealing’ from Gaye’s music to create ‘Blurred Lines.

In the fashion world the number of fashion shops claiming damages from rivals for copycat  designs has increased dramatically.  All Saints attacked River Island for copying items from its men’s and women’s collections.  Jimmy Choo pursued Marks and Spencers on the same basis.  Top Shop was forced to pay an undisclosed sum to French design house Chloe for copying a dungaree *

Original ideas invariably borrow from old ones. Even Voltaire admitted that “Originality is nothing but judicious imitation” **.  So how is a fledging entrepreneur supposed to know when their own inspiration becomes appropriation?  What’s the difference between being legitimately creative and original and illegally copying someone else’s work?  When does an idea become copyright protected material anyway?

Copyright arises automatically when material is first created.  However it has to be recorded not just remain an idea in someone’s head.  Once it is recorded though, any copying or adaptation of it can amount to an infringement.  An example would be lifting or adapting content ‘word for word’ from a business rival‘s promotional material or website to promote your own business.  However creating your own work based on someone else’s similar idea would not be an infringement of their copyright.

If recorded material is in the ‘public domain’ then it can be freely used.  Material published on the internet may be freely accessible to anyone. Perhaps surprisingly, that does not mean it is in the public domain.  Recorded material is only in the public domain if its copyright protection has expired.  How long does that last?  In the UK and for mere mortals, it currently lasts for the life of the author plus 70 years but not always. In the case of JM Barrie’s Peter Pan copyright protection has, (rather like Peter), an indefinite life span.  In JM Barrie’s case that was achieved by a statutory amendment made especially for that purpose in 1987 before it expired.

Different countries have different copyright expiry periods.  In the USA for ‘applied art’ material it can be as (comparatively) short as 25 years.  In Mexico, it is 100 years after the death of the author.  Once it has expired you can freely use, copy and adapt it.  However think twice before incorporating ‘Singing in the Rain’ into the marketing materials for the launch of your new retail umbrella outlet or ‘That’s Life’ for your positive thinking consultancy.  The copyright in the song or lyrics composition may have expired. However the copyright in the recording itself is separately protected. That could make it a highly successful but potentially very expensive launch party.

If there is any doubt about whether material you intend to use is copyrighted, whether anything came of it might ultimately and actually depend on how commercially successful you were.  How do you protect yourself against copyright infringement anyway?

In short create don’t copy or adapt someone else’s material.  Literally start with a ‘blank page’ and just what’s in your head.  Also go online and see what else has been created and recorded.  A simple ‘Google’ or ‘Bing Search’ will be highly informative.  It might be depressing to discover that your unique idea sadly isn’t but far better to be safe than sorry.  If in doubt always acknowledge the author’s contribution.  Apply otherwise to the author for a licence, grit your teeth and pay them a license fee.

If you’re otherwise sure that you’ve created your own original material don’t keep it to yourself.  Cast modesty to the winds and make sure you record and publish it.  Go ahead, be inspired and creative. Feel free to stand on the shoulders of others.  Just avoid picking their intellectual pockets in the process.

* Rachel Shields, Independent

** Daliah Saper, business.com

If in doubt and for safety always ‘look before you leap’ by getting specialist IP advice first.  Consult Ana Kocmut-Saunders, a member of the rapidly expanding IP team at CJCH solicitors.  Ana specialises in intellectual property protection.

CJCH Solicitors Corporate (including IP law) team is lead by Gareth Thompson, supported by Ana Kocmut-Saunders, and offers a obligation free consultation contact for new matters – 029 2048 3181 or e-mail on commercial@cjch.co.uk

Happy #InternationalWomensDay

It’s the 8th of March, which is International Women’s Day, and although we celebrate our rich diversity and inspirational team everyday, we take some time today to stop and recognise the  immeasurable contribution made by the Women of the world.

1918 – Contance Markiewicz – First Woman elected to British House of Commons.

1921 – Edith Wharton – First Woman to win Pulitzer Prize.

1928 – Amelia Earhart – First Woman to fly a plan across the Atlantic.

1973 – Sybil Phoenix – First Black Woman to be awarded a MBE (35 years later in 2008 she was awarded an OBE).

1976 – Mary Joy Langdon – First Woman to become a fire fighter in the UK.

1981 – Baroness young – First Woman leader of the House of Lords.

2006 – Margaret Beckett – First Woman to become Foreign Secretary for the UK.

2017 – Lady Hale – Appointed first Female President of the UK Supreme court.

These are but a mere snapshot of the endless contributions and advancements Women have made throughout our history. We asked a few of the inspirational Women in our own team to reflect on their careers and share their experiences.

Amy Roberts-Rees, Solicitor and Partner: Head of Mental Health Law and Court of Protection Department

Amy has been with CJCH solicitors for 5 years and has been instrumental in growing the Mental Health Law practice, and establishing our Court of Protection service line. When asked what her proudest achievement has been in her professional career, Amy said:

I’m proud to be recognised as one of the leading female solicitors in the area of mental health law in South Wales, as well as having become a partner at the age of 29 to the largest mental health law firm in South Wales. I established the court of protection for welfare department at CJCH Solicitors who now lead in the area for Court of protection cases in relation to Deprivation of Liberty (Dols) and welfare matters. I am also a panel accredited member recognised by the law society in the area of mental health law.

We asked Amy what advice she would give to the next generation of young Women seeking to join the legal profession:

Becoming a solicitor is an aspirational position to obtain, long hours and extensive time in progressing in the area of law you wish to specialise in involves hard work and determination. If you have qualities such as being ambitious, driven and most importantly passionate about your work, your career will flourish. In order to achieve in life you get out what you put in.

Jodi Winter: Solicitor and Partner: Head of Family, Matrimonial and Child care Law Department, and Partner in charge of our Barry office

Jodi’s career in law boasts an impressive array of achievements. She joined CJCH Solicitors in 2013, and prior to this spent 14 years in the Public Sector, with half this time as a Chief Legal Officer.

We asked Jodi what barriers she has had to overcome to achieve success:

Being a female from a working class family in the Rhondda Valley ( of which I am very proud), with an ambition of embarking on what was a predominantly middle class male profession was something that was discouraged by careers advisors at my school. I recall the careers  questionnaire that I completed in 1991 where I clearly set out my preferences to be a solicitor, produced the most suitable job match for me as a librarian! Fortunately, apart from that I have always been supported in my career by those who have managed me, worked with me and for me regardless of gender.

When asked what her proudest achievement was, Jodi jovially commented:

After years of hard graft, part time jobs, study and 30k worth of debt – being admitted to the Roll of Solicitors.

She went on to add:

The second followed on from  that by being made a Chief Legal Officer (in the public Sector) at the age of 28 and then at 38 being invited to join CJCH as partner

Lastly, when asked if she felt that Women have more opportunities within the legal industry now, Jodi said:

Absolutely – there are  more women entering the profession, more female partners and directors. Far more women Judges – after all 2017 saw  Baroness Hale’s appointment as the first Female President of the UK Supreme Court …. YAY!

Amy Palin, Paralegal: Blackwood office, Private Law and Conveyancing

Amy is a recent addition to CJCH having started at the firm in 2017 after completing the Legal Practice Course at Cardiff University. She began with us in our Cardiff office in the Anti-Piracy and Licence Compliance research team, and has since been moved to being a dedicated Paralegal in the Blackwood office on the path to being a trainee solicitor with the firm.

When asked what barriers she has had to face, Amy replied:

Thankfully I do not feel I have faced nor have had to overcome any barriers so far. I do feel that I am very early in my career, and this may be something that is encountered later, however I do not believe or worry that that would ever be something I would experience in CJCH. It is great to be able to work for a firm that clearly holds no prejudice, with so many women holding important positions in the firm, not only several partners but also a senior partner.

Advice Amy would give aspiring lawyers looking to enter the profession:

I would say to not believe it is a profession which is dominated by men, as it may have been in the past, as this is not the case anymore. I also believe it is important to remember that men and women may have different qualities to bring to the profession. I am sure many women have believed they weren’t as outspoken or assertive as their male colleagues and superiors, so would never progress, so think “why should I bother?”. No one should feel that they don’t have what it takes because they don’t fulfill the classic idea of a lawyer, the intimidating “shark” in the big office, that always knows best. I believe times are very different now and as well as considering yourself equal to males in your profession, you must consider yourself equal to your client, so any arrogance or believing yourself as superior is unlikely to be a positive quality for a promising career in law in the future.

Sally Perrett, Solicitor: Child care Law

Sally has been with CJCH Solicitors for two and a half years, and although she represents clients throughout South Wales, she is based in our Barry office. Sally acts, mainly, on behalf of parents in child care proceedings brought by the Local Authorities.

When asked what her proudest professional achievement was:

For me, this would have to be being accepted on to the Law Society Children Panel.

We asked Sally what advice she would give to women starting out in the field:

The Legal profession isn’t easy, however if you work hard the rewards will follow.

Lastly, in reply to whether she thinks Women now have more opportunities within the legal industry now, Sally said:

Yes definitely, there are more women than ever before in senior positions both within the private and public sector and the judiciary. However, they have worked incredibly hard  and made sacrifices both professionally and personally to be there. Hopefully in the future these sacrifices will not have to be so great.

 

We would like to thank each of our team members who contributed to this post, and wish a happy Women’s Day to all.

 

 

Need to recover debt from an individual or sole trader? New protocol in place from October 2017.

By Nerys Thomas – Solicitor (Head of Litigation and Dispute Resolution)

From 1st October 2017 a new Pre-Action Protocol will be introduced which sets out the steps needed to be taken when looking to pursue a debt claim (The Pre-Action Protocol for Debt Claims). 

All businesses (including public bodies and sole traders) seeking to recover a debt from an individual will need to comply with the Protocol.   

The Protocol will not apply to business-to-business debts unless the Potential Defendant/debtor is a sole trader. 

As is the case with all Protocols, the intention is for the procedure to provide a way of filtering through potential claims, possibly facilitating a resolution where possible, or if the matter could not be resolved the parties will hopefully be in a position where the issues have been narrowed and/or a clearer understanding of the issues in dispute will be known.    

It is the intention that the Protocol will complement any regulatory regime to which the Potential Claimant/creditor is subject and should any conflict arise between the regulatory obligation and the Protocol, the former will take precedence.   

The likely impact upon the Potential Claimant/creditor in complying with the Protocol is the cost of preparing the required correspondence and responding to queries, should any be raised. 

Furthermore, the Protocol specifies deadlines, of mostly 30 days, which become relevant at various stages of the procedure, hindering the Potential Claimant/creditor from being able to issue the claim at their own discretion.

From a Potential Defendant/debtor’s perspective, a Letter of Claim requires a Reply Form being completed and possibly, depending upon the response being given in the Reply Form, a Standard Financial Statement which requests a great deal of personal information surrounding the person’s/sole trader’s finances, something a great deal of people/sole traders are likely to be uncomfortable with due to the imbalance this presents between parties.  

As with all Protocols, unless there is a justified reason for not using it, there may be cost consequences for failing to comply with the process.

Should you have any queries in relation to the above or any other dispute matters, please contact Nerys Thomas and the rest of the Commercial Law team on commercial@cjch.co.uk

Access to Justice: Supreme court rules to quash Employment Tribunal fees

The Supreme Court has handed down a game changing judgement relating to Employment Law. Seven Supreme Court Justices agreed, in the case of Unison v Lord Chancellor, that the Employment Tribunal and Employment Appeal Tribunal Fee Order 2013 prevented access to justice and furthermore was considered unlawful.

The result of this judgement is that fees structure for Employment Tribunals and Employment Appeal Tribunals has now been removed.

Nigel Daniel, CJCH Employment Law and HR Services Lead had this to say on the developments:

The implications of this decision are numerous. When the fee structure was in place (As of today, it no longer is), employers had a certain protection from vexatious claimants, who may very well have filed a claim hoping for an economic settlement, when in reality the claim may have had no prospect of success whatsoever.

CJCH represents both employers and employees in various matters, and we would predict that this development will result in a sharp increase in new instructions.

Immediately after the introduction of fees, claims to the Employment Tribunal dropped by 79%, so we would expect that trend will see an immediate reversal.

Claimants, who are at their most vulnerable, after losing their job, no longer have to worry about finding £1200 (estimated) to actually get a case to the Tribunal. I still feel, however, that we have a duty to advise responsibly, and inform possible claimants of potential costs penalties if that claimant persists in bringing a vexatious, or malicious case.

Our Commercial Law Lead, Gareth Thompson, considers the point of view of employers:

Since the run up to Brexit and its aftermath, the current government appears to have taken a semi-detached approach to their relationship with business and employers.  Following the election and its now precarious hold on power in parliament, it seems increasingly desperate to demonstrate its ‘People’ friendly credentials.

The announcement that employment tribunals are going to abandon the requirement for fees to start claims might be seen as the latest evidence of this.  The last upwards hike in fees slashed all new employee claims to tribunals by nearly 80%, almost overnight.  The removal of any fees promises to usher in a tsunami like wave of fresh claims.  From the employee’s perspective, this may be perceived as good news and the employment marketplace as a new happy hunting ground.

From an employer’s perspective, it may provoke a collective groan of despair and knee jerk defensive responses.  All may agree that prevention of claims is better than cure.  Some reactive employers may be tempted to simply look even harder than they otherwise have done at anyone employed by them for less than two years and pro-actively purge the ranks of anyone likely to prove problematic in the longer term.

However other employers will sensibly take a more enlightened approach.  They will look hard and long at their recruitment processes to ensure that they take on the right people for them in the first place.  They will also review their training and appraisal policies to ensure they become meaningful and valuable personal development tools instead of internal compliance-driven tick-box exercises.  They might consider giving them representation on management boards or simply have regular meetings to share knowledge and experience, air any issues and invite constructive suggestions for improvement.  They might also want to consider imaginative reward schemes to incentivise everyone employed by them and give them a real vested interest in the success of the business.

Businesses don’t need to introduce truly radical human resource management to prevent negative confrontation.  All that is required to create a positive and productive working environment is good management practice and a healthy dose of common sense. Traditional hierarchies and old fashioned practices should be the first thing to be axed if any organisation is serious about success and growth.  Conversely, an inclusive and all-embracing approach to their workforce should be the first thing to be introduced as the best defence against negative and expensive grievances and claims.

 

Industry update – SRA announces confirmation of the Solicitors Qualifying Examinations

The days of legal qualifying programs such as the Graduate Diploma in Law (GDL) and the Legal Practice Course (LPC) are numbered as the Solicitors Regulatory Authority this week announced the confirmation of the long debated centralised qualifying exam for would-be lawyers – the Solicitors Qualifying Examination (SQE).

The merits of the new independent assessment are generating extensive discussion with the SRA positioning the SQE as an opportunity to offer a more inclusive and accessible route into the Legal Profession, while popular online legal commentators at Legal Cheek raise points for consideration concerning the reality of the cost and access benefits.

With aspiring lawyers in 2017 facing LPC fees of over £15,000 in some cases, the need to review the accessibility and inclusive nature of legal training is welcome, but only time will tell if this new assessment meets the needs of the market once it is rolled out, currently planned for 2020.

Paul Philips, CEO of the SRA, was quoted in their press release saying that the SQE will allow for assurance that new entrants to the legal profession consistently meet the high standard required for the profession. He further mentioned that it could help with recruitment of talent for law firms.

At CJCH Solicitors, we are constantly assessing ways to diversify and innovate within the legal profession. We welcome the opportunity to consider a new approach to legal training, and we look forward to seeing how this initiative will roll-out and how we can support young aspiring solicitors in entering the marketplace and developing their skills.

We asked a selection of CJCH Solicitors’ team members for their opinions on the new developments and encouraged consideration for both sides of the debate. Here are some of the thoughts they shared:

Rosa Fernandez – CJCH Head of Employment and HR Services

Having completed the LPC in 1998-1999, I would have welcomed combining practical experience with theory; whilst called the Legal Practice Course, most of it is not practical at all. I also think it is right to make all entrants to the profession sit the same finals to ensure standards and consistency.

If these changes serve to improve public trust and confidence, then they can only be positive for the profession.”

Gareth Thompson – CJCH Head of Commercial Law

“In my view anything has to be welcomed which:
mitigates the “training contract lottery” risk and exorbitant GDL & LPC course fees; 
makes it easier for aspiring lawyers to qualify as they grow in technical competence and experience and also get paid sensibly for their services; 
encourages firms with substantial paralegal workforces to reciprocate their investment of time, loyalty, and effort by facilitating qualification; and
maximise the prospects for lawyers hitting the ground running both professionally and in revenue contribution by the time they qualify.

Nerys Thomas – CJCH Head of Litigation and Dispute Resolution

Ensuring excellence within the profession will be favoured by all involved, but the concern with the new proposed procedure is that exams are not necessarily the best method of filtering “excellence” and may deter some students of high calibre who struggle with time-pressured assessments, especially ones which may determine their future career.  No information has been received in relation to what the costs will be for the new procedure.  Current fees for the LPC are eye watering, especially when this has followed a standard three-year degree.  It will be interesting to see whether the fees will be set at a more reasonable rate and how funding will be made available to pay for the new process.”

Stephen Clarke – CEO and Senior Partner

“We are facing an exciting time in the legal profession. Change is inevitable and it is the way in which we embrace change that defines our growth. There are strong arguments on both sides of this topic but as a firm CJCH supports equality, diversity and development. We are excited by the possibility of a dynamic industry which removes barriers to entry and allows for all to get involved. There are teething issues with all new initiatives, but we look forward to embracing the SRA’s SQE and including it in our planning for future employee development programs.”

There is much food for thought as the introduction of the SQE unfolds. As can be seen from the discussion above, many factors need to be considered, including balancing the ability to standardise assessment while also considering individuals learning and assessment styles. For now, you can review the documents relating to the consultation and discussions held by the SRA on the matter, here.