Council Report from John Perry, Surrey Council Member for The Law Society
Joe Egan was duly inaugurated as the 173rd President of the Law Society of England & Wales at our AGM in July. I think all would agree he has a hard act to follow as Robert Bourns represented the profession with great dignity and ability throughout his year. Joe will have an equally good year I am sure and as a Past President of Bolton Law Society and very much a hands on High Street solicitor he knows all the problems that we are faced with day by day. A weekly president’s update is issued by the Law Society which is forwarded on to all Surrey members. If you are not getting this do please let us know and it is easily rectified.
Legislative matters seem to have gone slightly quiet on our front, presumably because of the confused state of British politics. We should not be complacent about such matters as the huge price in probate fees being shelved, as instinct dictates they will come back in another form later on! We must be alert to renew our vigorous fight against such unjust Treasury driven measures.
Another particular bugbear is the continual rumblings about electronic signatures on Wills and Powers of Attorney which, in my book, means a fraudster’s charter. We have all experienced situations where vulnerable clients have had advantage taken of them by unscrupulous friends or relatives. In my own firm we have just recently had to chase such a miscreant who had misappropriated tens of thousands of pounds from his trusting relative. The safety measures in the Wills Act and Lasting Powers of Attorney Act are there for a good reason. The systems are not perfect but removing wet signatures will make them much easier to forge. I was reassured by the Law Commission statement recently that although they were allowing for the possibility of electronic signatures on Wills in the future it should only take place when it had been proved that adequate safety measures had been developed. On the other hand, I disagree with retired Judge Denzil Lush’s views expressed on the Today programme that he did not trust LPAs and would not make one himself. He appears to forget he was only asked to adjudicate on the ones that went wrong. The vast majority of LPAs are used properly and are an absolute godsend in the usual family situation. It seems to me that the Judge’s comments are about as sensible as saying that marriage should be abolished because there are divorces.
I will end with my usual plea to respond to consultations by the Law Society. Do send case studies where possible if they are looking for them, and do not give the Government the excuse that so few solicitors reply that they obviously do not feel strongly about a particular subject. We all do, but it is no good moaning about it in the pub if the Law Society are not given the tools to be able to show the Government that some of their proposed schemes are not in the public interest and sometimes downright dangerous. Also as usual, please use Sushila and I as conduits between you and Chancery Lane. We are always available to talk about what the Law Society is trying to do and why, and are very happy to take individual points to Council if information is required or clarification needed.
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