My term as President of the Law Society of England and Wales has ended. At the Law Society’s Annual General Meeting on 9th July I handed over my badge of office, a number of very positive valedictory speeches were delivered (including from Dominic Grieve, a former Attorney General) and my portrait, which had been painted by a local artist, was unveiled. I am now referred to as the “Immediate Past President”, a role which means that I still have some responsibilities. And I am in possession of the “Past President’s medal”, presented to me to mark the last 12 months.
It has been a challenging, but exciting year. To have been chosen from all the Solicitors qualified in English and Welsh law – 166,000 of them – to lead the Profession is a tremendous honour.
There were a number of very special events during “my year”. The 100th anniversary of the commencement of the First World War involved me visiting the Belgian battlefields and laying a wreath in Ypres Town Cemetery, at the grave of the first Solicitor killed in the Great War. I was also privileged to be asked last October (by Army Legal Services) to take part in the evening remembrance ceremony at the Menin Gate, also in Ypres.
The Magna Carta celebrations were also a highlight, commemorating 800 years since the agreement between King John and his rebellious barons at Runnymede. Further, there was a small matter of a General Election, which meant that I was able to meet and speak to a number of senior politicians, seeking to explain the importance of the legal services sector, together with the Law Society’s views on current justice issues
I had the opportunity to travel extensively, visiting 16 different countries on 4 continents. These trips were generally to speak at international legal conferences. The speeches were on a wide range of subjects -from Human Trafficking to the importance of Corporate Governance. In Tokyo, I even had a personal audience with the Emperor and Empress of Japan!
Now I am back at Heppenstalls. It is good to be in Hampshire again, where I was born, brought up and have spent just about all of my working life. I have been looking forward to my return.