I spent the weekend in Prague celebrating with colleagues the 20th Anniversary of the re-establishment of the independence of the Czech legal profession. Out of a small bar, of only 8804 members, over 500 members attended a one day conference dedicated to ethical issues – and ordinary members of the bar seem to have a real passion for this subject. I think that this must be down to their recent history. It is strange to think that most of the people at the conference could remember a time when the rule of law and democracy was absent from their lives. After all, this is a country that is only a two hour flight away from London. It was a salutary reminder of how the independence of the judiciary is fundamental to a functioning democratic society.
I doubt a conference dedicated to ethics would attract a similar proportion of solicitors in England and Wales. However, I do think there are now a number of practical and managerial issues that are important to all solicitors whatever their individual area of practice, including increased competition from non-qualified providers and the complete change in the regulatory system, and I therefore intend on reinstating our annual conference in the summer. This project will be led by the Membership Board and they are expanding the project board which is already organising the Presidents and Secretaries Day. I hope that you will all be supportive of this project and participate.
Returning to the Czech Bar celebrations, it certainly caused me to reflect on the freedoms and privileges we have enjoyed in this country and I hope it provides some comfort to you as you face yet another week facing the demands and pressures of the ordinary working week.