New Law Society president Paul Marsh has vowed to make the business of law the overarching theme of his 12 months in office.
In his first interview since taking up the presidency, Marsh told The Lawyer that solicitors need to take a business approach to their law firms.
“This isn’t mutually exclusive with the law being a profession. You can be very, very professional and still be businesslike,” said Marsh. “Having a hard nose in business itself will provide clients with a better service, especially in the current economic climate.”
Marsh said the Law Society will be on hand to help lawyers and firms during the economic downturn. That said, he pointed out that firms should have been aware that a downturn was coming and should have made contingency plans for dealing with it.
“It’s openly acknowledged that life’s going to be difficult and firms have to make tough decision to protect their businesses,” said Marsh. “Every business goes through it and I want solicitors to look to other industries and look at what they do – what would Coca-Cola do, for example?”
Marsh said firms such as Bevan Brittan have already been making these tough decisions. “They’re reacting and replanning to ensure a robust business. You can’t simply do something one day and stand still for 10 years,” he said.
For Marsh, legal aid will still be on the agenda over the coming year as the Law Society works with the Legal Services Commission to plan out “a route map for the next 12 months”.
“In ;my ;overarching theme of business, legal aid practitioners can help themselves by taking a more businesslike approach to the public purse,” said Marsh.
“The Government spends in a business way – why should legal ;aid ;lawyers ;be different?”
Marsh will also be taking on board former Law Society presidents Andrew Holroyd’s and Fiona Woolf’s passion for more diversity and equality within the legal profession.
“Women ;and ;black minority ethnics are an asset for Law UK plc as they have skills and talents that can be utilised,” said Marsh. “By not bringing in diversity and equality we’re losing half of our assets.”
Marsh also wants to see more pastoral care for youngsters trying to enter the profession.
“Education these days is very much like a computer game,” he said. “Youngsters get to one level, then they keep working through to the second and third levels and so on. This doesn’t happen in the working world any more. Some find it difficult to adjust and it’s these that we need to help.”
Marsh, a consultant at ;Surrey ;firm ;Downs Solicitors, took over from Holroyd on 17 July, with Beachcroft partner Bob Heslett becoming his vice-president and Action Against Medical Accidents in-house lawyer Linda Lee deputy vice-president.