City firms to hold summit with Girling

THE PARTNERS of 25 medium-sized City firms are to hold a summit this week with Law Society president Tony Girling to discuss concerns that their needs are not being addressed by the society.

The meeting has been called by former Conservative cabinet minister David Hunt, senior partner at Beachcroft Stanleys.

Hunt said that when he returned to the legal sector after five years in the Cabinet he detected a gap between what medium-sized firms wanted from the Law Society and what the society was doing for them.

“We are keen to have a positive and constructive dialogue,” said Hunt.

Last week senior partners planning to attend the meeting were playing down suggestions that a rift was forming between the City and the Law Society – but one did concede that the meeting would act as a “safety valve” by letting them air their concerns about society policies.

Among the firms sending senior partners to the meeting are Baker & McKenzie, Charles Russell, DJ Freeman, Macfarlanes, Rowe & Maw and SJ Berwin & Co.

Girling, along with vice president Phillip Sycamore and deputy vice president and treasurer Michael Mathews, are expected to discuss education and training, multi-disciplinary partnerships, advocacy rights and the recent revelations that contributions to the Solicitors Indemnity Fund may have to increase by 30 per cent.

“I think many City firms have felt that a lot of issues the Law Society has been dealing with have not had direct relevance to themselves,” said SJ Berwin senior partner David Harrel.

He added that while medium-sized firms like his wanted the Law Society to play a greater part in issues relating to them, they also wanted to see how they could play a greater part in the Law Society.

Other senior partners said Girling was viewed positively in the City, while previous president Martin Mears had been seen as a “maverick”.

Girling admitted that while the Law Society had often heard the concerns of large City firms, such as Freshfields, as well as large regional firms, this was a chance to discuss the concerns of a vital sector of the legal community.

DJ Freeman senior partner Colin Joseph, who will also attend the meeting, said there was no agenda and the firms were not forming a pressure group. “I think it's important that there are good relations between the Law Society and the City,” he said.