Birmingham Law Society bicentenary logo A WOneProfession oneregion onevoice

Sponsor offer for members

The mortgage market has recovered from the shock of the financial crisis and is now more innovative and competitive than it has been for a number of years. This can offer particular opportunities for members of the legal profession, as some lenders place additional weight on your expected career path, which may result in you securing special terms whether it be a first time mortgage or re-mortgaging existing properties.

There are a number of crucial points to emphasise when you are seeking mortgage advice:

  • Decide if you want to do it yourself, although be aware that some lenders do not make all their products available direct to members of the public
  • If you decide to use a mortgage broker ensure they are fully Independent – some that state “whole of market” are not necessarily Independent and may not deal with some of the main lenders
  • It is often possible to secure  better terms for higher earning professionals, allowing you to borrow up to 5 times your income in certain circumstances
  • Mortgage offers cannot be made subject to you also buying the lenders own home insurance or insurance products – better terms for these can be found through an independent financial adviser.

Redbourne Professional Mortgages is a fully independent and impartial mortgage broker, specialising in advising members of the legal profession. As part of our ongoing sponsorship of the Birmingham Law Society we are offering a £100 fee discount for all new mortgages arranged for Law Society members.

Please contact This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. or call 01527 888 990

 

 

Legal leader wins award

A University of Wolverhampton law graduate is celebrating after clinching a top leadership award.

Sandra Wallace graduated in 1991 with a LLB Law degree from what was then Wolverhampton Polytechnic.

She is now Managing Partner of DLA Piper UK and recently won the Leadership Award at the Birmingham Law Society Awards. The award was sponsored by the University of Wolverhampton Law School.

Sandra, who qualified as a lawyer in 1994, said: “Winning anything always makes you reflect on what you have achieved and in my case how far I have come. I was so worried about going to University and if I would be able to make a legal career. Then I look back and think not only did I achieve that but I have been given so many opportunities at DLA Piper besides. 

“I am not keen on the limelight and I recognise that little happens without support around you. Nevertheless this award is special because it was colleagues at DLA Piper pushing me to go for it and they submitted the commentary in support of the nomination.  So it feels like people appreciate what I do, even if I think it's no big deal!”

She added: “The University of Wolverhampton (Polytechnic when I was there) was quite a revelation for me.  It was the first time I enjoyed my education. At college I was the odd one out being from the wrong part of town and generally it was not very diverse.  I didn’t attend the universities that I actually got accepted for because I felt I would be like a fish out of water.  Looking back that was probably because nowhere I visited had such a diverse population of students as Wolverhampton. 

“The course was challenging but the teaching was good and fostered independent learning. It was not stuffy but it was no easy ride either. I am one of six children and sitting at number 5 I was the first person to go to University in my family. As you can see with my career I am glad I did.”

Head of the University of Wolverhampton Law School, Sukhninder Panesar, said: “It was great to see Sandra win the Leadership Award and it was fitting that the Award was presented by the University of Wolverhampton.  Every year we see professionals who have graduated from the University of Wolverhampton win awards at the Birmingham Law Society Awards Ceremony and this is testament to the strengths of the Law School in producing highly qualified lawyers.”

The Birmingham Law Society Legal Awards have been showcasing the best of the region’s legal talent since the inaugural event in 2002.

Now in their 17th year, the Awards celebrate the success and achievement of both individuals and firms over the last 12 months.

For more information about studying Law, visit: www.wlv.ac.uk/law

largest ever survey on gender equality in legal profession

The largest international survey of women in the law has been released by the Law Society of England and Wales, shedding light on the road to gender equality in the legal profession.

“People working in law across the world have spoken out about the challenges the profession faces in achieving gender equality,” said Law Society vice president Christina Blacklaws.

“I am a passionate believer in equality. Where there is inequality, I will not flinch from tackling it. I know I’m not alone in this - justice, fairness and the rule of law are what drew most of us to the legal profession.

“Unconscious bias in the legal profession was the most commonly identified barrier to career progression for women, while flexible working was seen as a remedy by an overwhelming 91% of respondents to our survey.

“Interestingly while half of all respondents said they thought there had been progress on gender equality over the last five years there was a significant difference in perception by gender with 74% of men reporting progress in gender equality compared to only 48% of women.”

Key figures:

  • 7,781 people responded to the Law Society’s Women in the Law survey
    (5,758 women, 554 men and 1,469 unknown or other)
  • 74% of men and 48% of women reported progress on gender equality in the last 5 years
    (overall 50%)
  • Main barriers to career progression perceived as:
    - Unconscious bias (52%)
    However, only 11% said unconscious bias training is consistently carried out in their organisation
    - Unacceptable work/life balance demanded to reach senior levels (49%)
    - Traditional networks/routes to promotion are male orientated (46%)
    - Current resistance to flexible working practices (41%)
  • 91% of respondents said flexible working is critical to improving diversity
    - 52% work in an organisation where flexible working is in place
  • 60% are aware of gender pay gap in their place of work
    - Only 16% see visible steps taken to address gender pay gap

Christina Blacklaws concluded: “With our women in leadership programme, the Law Society is committed to giving women and men in law the tools to make positive changes towards gender equality.

“Every law firm, lawyer and client will benefit from greater equality in our places of work. I believe the justice system will also be stronger if the legal professions better reflects the values we uphold.”

Screen Shot 2018 03 15 at 11.32.22

 

8 March 2018

Top honours for anthony collins solicitors at annual legal awards

BLS002

Anthony Collins Solicitors was the big winner at last night’s Birmingham Law Society Legal Awards, picking up four gongs.

The city centre firm was named Law Firm of the Year (16 partners or more), beating rivals Gateley Plc, Irwin Mitchell, Mills & Reeve, Shoosmiths and VWV (Veale Wasbrough Vizards).

Anthony Collins Solicitors also collected awards for Business Team of the Year and Private Client Team of the Year – two new categories for this year – while the firm’s Letitia Ait-Tales won Paralegal of the Year.

In the other categories, there were awards for Greg Fearn, Mills & Reeve - Trainee Solicitor of the Year; Jeremy Weston QC, St Ives Chambers - Barrister of the Year; Kashmir Uppal, Access Legal – Partner of the Year; Kid Harwood, Wildings Solicitors – BLS Innovation Award; Rosie Banks, Irwin Mitchell – BLS Pro Bono Award; Sandra Wallace, DLA Piper UK – BLS Leadership Award; JM Wilson Solicitors – Law Firm of the Year (sole practitioner up to four partners); and Sydney Mitchell – Law Firm of the Year (5 – 15 partners).

The Birmingham Law Society Lifetime Achievement Award was presented to Mary Kaye, partner at Shakespeare Martineau and past president of BLS.

Presenting the award on behalf of the Society, president Andrew Beedham, said: “I couldn’t think of a more worthy recipient of this accolade than Mary. With a career spanning more than 40 years, she is a true champion of the city’s legal sector and an inspiration to the many who know her.”

Commenting on the category winners, Andrew added: “Many congratulations to Anthony Collins Solicitors, who were the runaway winners on the night. The judges were particularly impressed with the firm’s strong commitment to its staff and its approach to attracting and developing those who want to make a difference in society.

“In what was a tough year for the judges, there were some really stand-out candidates and both the winners and finalists should be proud of their achievements.”

Birmingham Law Society is celebrating its bicentenary in 2018. This year’s Legal Awards, which were attended by more than 550 people, were just one of a number of planned special events being held throughout the year to celebrate the Society’s 200th anniversary.

Sponsors of the Legal Awards included The University of Law, BPP University Law School, Birmingham City School of Law, Ortus Group, Midshire, The Law Society, University of Wolverhampton, Gallagher, Index Property Information, Redbourne for Lawyers, Landmark Information, St Philips Chambers, TitleSolv and Advantage.

Complete list of Winners on our website.

 

Address by Sir Andrew McFarlane, Lord Justice of Appeal on Birmingham Law Society's 200th Anniversary

x650Bicentenary02

 Address given at the Bicentenary Cathedral Service on 11 January 2018, Birmingham Cathedral

It is a true honour to have been invited to give a short address on this occasion to celebrate, almost to the very day, the founding, 200 years ago, of the Birmingham Law Society.

200 years seems or feels to be a long time ago; but, is it? Certainly much has happened in that time, and the Birmingham that existed three years after the Battle of Waterloo and two years before the death of King George III, is a world and more away from the great city that now thrives in this place. But is it SO long ago?

My connection with the Birmingham Law Society goes back some 45 years to the time when, as a first year law student at Durham I used to come into the Law Society Library in Temple Street during the holidays to catch up on all the work that I had somehow missed during the term time. Under the avuncular and kindly supervision of Mr Lahiri, I spent many days there and I can still picture, and even recall the musty smell of, the old place. During the intervening 45 years I have spent much of my professional life in or connected with the Midlands.

I suspect that I am not alone amongst those of us here this afternoon who can count up 40 or 50 years of ‘Law in Birmingham’. Half a century! Looked at on that basis, 200 years does not seem such a long time. Those who were ending their careers when we were starting could no doubt recall back to 1918, and the people they recalled will in turn have known the previous generation. Thus, although none of us is, of course, so old as to recall the first President, Mr Thomas Lee and the first Secretary Mr Clement Ingleby, we can, I think, feel some true connection with them, especially this afternoon, and to have some good idea of what they were ABOUT all those years ago.

But what were they ABOUT? What are we, as lawyers today, ABOUT? Why is it at all important to celebrate 200 years of continuous service by lawyers to society in general and, in particular, to this great City of Birmingham?

Some 4 or 5 years ago, I had the privilege of being a member of the Court assigned to sit on the appeal of the various groups and individuals who, as ‘Occupy London’, had camped outside St Pauls Cathedral for several months. As a judge, it is not often that you get to converse and interact directly with a group of anarchists! It was, for me and, I think my two colleagues, Lord Neuberger and Sir Stanley Burnton, a most interesting and very largely positive experience.

We read a good deal about how the protest was being conducted on a day to day basis. Through all the detail, one thing stood out and struck me, at least initially, as astonishing. Almost from ‘hour one’ on ‘day one’, and throughout the occupation, this disparate group of anarchists had agreed to organise their lives in accordance with a set of very strict rules. Rules about territorial space; rules about waste and sewage disposal; a strict curfew on noise after 10pm; firm rules about who was, and who was not, to be allowed to take up residence in this very limited space; and so on. They established their own police force, called, I think, ‘Prefects’, whose job it was to ensure that these rules were adhered to. Breach of the rules might lead to expulsion from the site.

Of course, the more I have thought about this initially astonishing revelation, that a group of anarchists would devise and firmly implement such rules, the less astonishing it has seemed. In order to live and to co-exist with our fellow man in any form of society, we need to have rules. We need to know ‘where we are’ and ‘where we stand’. We need to have Laws.

That this is so is evident throughout the known history of man. Last night I watched a play about Cicero performed by the RSC in Stratford, where, before the naked power of Caesar broke the mould, adherence to the law and the importance of the Rule of Law were at a premium. Within a few decades of Cicero’s time, the Apostle Paul is recorded on more than one occasion in the Acts of the Apostles as relying upon Roman Law, and his status as a Roman citizen, to escape trial before the Jewish authorities. Some 500 years earlier, the writer of Psalm 119 was, as we have just heard, extolling the virtues of The Law.

In our own time, the premium that is put by our society upon strict adherence to rules, protocols and the Law is, I would suggest, at an all-time high. In the ever more sophisticated and complicated world of the 21st century, it is all the more important for individuals, organisations and companies to know where they stand; what they can do and how they can do it or what they cannot do. People have a real and significant interest in the Law and how it affects them and their ability to conduct their lives, whether that be claiming benefit simply to exist, or arranging multi-million pound deals in the most efficacious way, or moving abroad with their child, or losing their employment, or erecting an extension to their house: I could, as you know, go on and on and on!

In a different context, the importance to people of rules, and adherence to those rules, is amply demonstrated in the world of Sport. Only this week, we have seen the introduction of a Video Assistant Referee system to professional football, with the aim of evaluating whether any controversial move of the ball during a game either is, or is not, within the rules. It is important to people to have the rules and for them to be followed.

Domestically, I suspect almost everyone here this afternoon will, during the course of the last three weeks, have either witnessed or joined in some board game or other around the family Christmas tree. Once again, the rules are always important and, unless they are adhered to, the game ceases to be enjoyable.

So far, I doubt that very many people in the community at large would disagree with anything that I have said. They would, I think, recognise the importance of having, knowing and using a set of rules by which life is to be lived in any human society. In so recognising, they would be acknowledging the importance of law and the crucial role of the Rule of Law in any society; in our society.

I suspect, however, that my last sentence, were it to stand alone, and without the chatty preamble, would not register with or be taken up by the public in general as something that they valued or were particularly interested in.

There is precious little newsworthiness in a headline such as ‘Law is important’ or ‘The Rule of Law triumphs again’ they are neither sexy nor interesting. There is certainly little press copy to be made under a banner reading ‘Lawyers are Good News!’, let alone … sexy!

Despite, as I hope my few anecdotes have demonstrated, the Law, and therefore lawyers, being essential for our, or any, civilised co-existence with each other, the profession and the Law itself seem to have a very negative public profile. Doctors, nurses, teachers, scientists, engineers, chefs and even journalists, seem to enjoy an altogether more positive approval rating. Lawyers are seen, at best, as ‘a necessary evil’; whereas, in my view, we are very much a ‘necessary good’.

So much may just be our lot. We are not going to change public perception; although I do think that we could, and should, do more to get the basic message across about the importance of Law, and of the Rule of Law, in our society. I say ‘should’ do more because there have been signs that, rather than just being ignored, the importance of the Law and the Rule of Law may be wholly misunderstood in some influential quarters, with the risk that its place in society and the constitution becomes dangerously eroded. The prime example that I have in mind occurred in November 2016 following the High Court ruling on Mrs Miller’s Brexit challenge: ‘The Judges versus The People’ ran the banner in the Daily Telegraph; ‘Enemies of The People’ was the headline in the Daily Mail.

The personal attacks on the individual judges that these and other stories contained were as regrettable as they were unwelcome, but the bigger point, the much bigger point, is that behind these headlines lies a fundamental misconception as to the role of judges and the importance of The Rule of Law which, for it to have value, requires the judges to determine cases that are brought to the court in accordance with ‘the laws and usages of this Realm’ (to quote the judicial oath) and not on any other basis. I could say more, but I am sure that the point is well understood by those who are gathered here this evening.

Before I conclude, I would like to return to a theme that I warmed up in the earlier stages of my address, namely the very real connection that we have with all those who have gone before us in these past 200 years and, for that matter, and it is for me of great importance, all those who are to come, whether they are just starting out in the law or will do so during the next 200 years.

Another anecdote may suffice to make the point. Last October I had the pleasure of processing down the Nave of Worcester Cathedral in full pomp, wearing, as I am wearing today, the big time Bling that adorns Her Majesty’s Lords Justices of Appeal. On Christmas Eve I made the same journey down the same aisle, but on this occasion I was simply following my wife and our donkey for the annual Nativity Service; my role being to carry the pooper-scooper in case of ‘accidents’ – I doubt that anyone even noticed me. Same man, same walk, down the same aisle. The point is that the ceremony and prestige, if that is what it is, that goes with all this [robes], is not about me, it is not about the individual man or woman, it is about the office and the system.

The point is firmly made to me every time I put on these splendid robes. The label between my shoulder blades does not display my name, but simply the words ‘Number 16’. I don’t know how many former Lords or Lady Justices have worn these very robes, probably a good number, but, like a baton in a relay race they have been passed from hand to hand, down the years from individuals who have each held the office for a time.

The same point applies to each of us who practices law. We are the custodians of the role that we undertake, whether it be offering advice to the most humble or the most high, locally or internationally, in a large firm or as individual practitioners. We meet today, and work as lawyers, at this particular moment in the continuum of time. Whilst it is easy to get involved in the minutiae of individual cases or of our practice as a whole, we should not lose sight of the big picture, the timeless picture and our role within it.

Those who founded the Birmingham Law Society had the foresight to look above their own desks and to see the need for the lawyers of this City to be served by an organisation that provided a ‘space’ in which all could come together for the greater common good of the profession and its clients.

Whilst we remember and give thanks for all that has gone before, we should not forget that our role in the profession is a baton that we hold and, although it is infinitely more difficult to find time and afford priority to doing so, a premium should still attach to lawyers meeting together, outside the tribal boundaries of their firms, to look at the bigger picture and the part that they might each play within it.

This leads me back to the main theme of this address.

There is a need, I believe, for lawyers and for society in general to celebrate The Law and the practice of Law, rather than, as is so often the case, for it to be denigrated or marginalised. This need to celebrate is not, in my view, an optional, formulaic or self-serving thing. The issues involved are, as I have sought to explain, fundamental to the effective and fair functioning of any civilised society and are, therefore, of a high order of importance.

In short, without The Law we would have anarchy and, as even the anarchists camping outside St Pauls might say: ‘we don’t want that, do we!’