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Charles Neal reflects on his year as President of the Sheffield and District Law Society

06 April

Charles Neal reflects on his year as President of the Sheffield and District Law Society

On the 3rd April 2018 I handed over the reigns of the Sheffield and District Law Society to my successor as President Paul Singh. 

I have to admit that it was, in many ways, quite a relief as it has been a very busy year as President. It has been a great privilege to represent the local legal profession at various events during the year and to meet and discuss matters with Solicitors in and around the Sheffield region and beyond.   

One highlight which occurred early on in my Presidential year was the Centenary Dinner of the Herbert Hughes Memorial Fund.  Herbert Hughes when he died in 1917 was hailed as one “Sheffield’s Greatest”.  He was a Solicitor, President of the Sheffield District Law Society, Aldermen and Mayor as well as working for the Cutlers Company.  When he died he was working with others to establish a chair of Spanish at the newly created University of Sheffield.  The Memorial Fund was set up a year after his death in his memory and still supports Hispanic studies at both the Sheffield Universities.  He was instrumental in protecting the use of the term “Sheffield” in the name of Limited Companies and today if you are setting up a Company with the word Sheffield in it you still need permission from the Master Cutler.   

I think the reason I was struck by this event was that it was in many ways understated but celebrated both the history of Sheffield in many different aspects but more particularly because it celebrated the life and work of a Sheffield jobbing Solicitor. The impact of his work is still with us and I believe the impact of the work of many Solicitors in Sheffield today will be with us for many years to come. 

The Law Society has had its usual round of events, wine and gin tasting, dinners and of course the Annual Yorkshire Royal Banquet at the Cutler’s Hall.  They were great fun and were enjoyed by many.  We also had the usual series of courses and training which are both well attended and well received.  We are all now aware of how much we need to continue to learn and develop our skills throughout our legal career.  The Sheffield and District Law Society plays and essential role in supporting that work across the profession.  

During my year as President we have responded to a number of national consultations on behalf of our members. The one close to my heart was the proposal to update the law on Wills.  We were able to submit a comprehensive response and I was also invited to provide a response on behalf of the Yorkshire Union of Law Societies representing Solicitors across the whole of Yorkshire.   

At one meeting I was amazed to learn about the plans to reform the qualification route for becoming a Solicitor. This is something which Solicitors have, I think, generally been unaware of.  The proposed changes are radical and fundamental. They will have a profound effect on the profession for the future. Despite significant opposition gaps in the overall proposals these are starting to be implemented and by 2020 we should have a new training regime. Having woken up to this fact I have tried to use every occasion possible to raise awareness of these changes. I was pleased that Clare Grant of BPP was able to join us at our recent AGM and give a short presentation about the proposals. The reaction from members present convinced me that I was right to bring this to everybody’s attention.  

Bell & Buxton have always supported the local Law Society and we believe it is good for the profession to have this lively organisation representing and supporting us in our work.  It enables us to network and to learn from each other and enhance our contribution to the life of the City and the region.  It has been a privilege to be President for the last year.  It has been a great and busy year and I wish Paul and the team an equally busy and equally enjoyable year ahead.