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Ten years of success as awards get bigger and even better; Dean Parnell, President of Birmingham Law Society, highlights the success of a decade of Legal Awards.

The Legal Awards has always been the premier event for Birmingham Law Society and this year is no different. In fact, being the tenth anniversary, this year's awards promises to be bigger and better than ever.

To mark the success of the last ten years, Birmingham Law Society has commissioned this special supplement.

Not only does it focus on the last ten years of awards it also celebrates our great legal community, which despite the current challenging times moves from strength to strength. We are all facing uncertain times and if ever there was a time to stand together, united as one legal community, then that time is now.

This is what the Legal Awards has come to epitomise; the region's legal community coming together as a collective group to celebrate the achievements of firms and individuals over the last 12 months.

We have introduced some changes to the Awards this year, such as abandoning the term "solicitor" for many of the individual categories and replacing it with "lawyer" to acknowledge the many barristers who are now part of our membership.

We have also included an interview process for all short-listed candidates, which I have always felt to be an important part of a judging process. We also have ensured that the judging process keeps all BLS professional officers (president, vice president and deputy vice president) and directors at arm's length. I can say with certainty that the judging process has been completely independent and Birmingham Law Society has had no influence over the selection of the winners.

This year we have had considerable success in promoting and achieving the notion of "one legal community", with all of the barristers from St Philips Chambers, No5 Chambers and St Ives Chambers joining the society. This means that the vast majority of barristers within Birmingham are now members of Birmingham Law Society. Our motive for focusing on the barristers was simple. They are part of our legal community and encouraging them to join Birmingham Law Society meant that the society became stronger and as such our local legal community became stronger. I do hope that future presidents are able to harness the considerable talent and expertise that we have within our local bar and use this for the benefit of the society and our region.

Despite the difficult trading conditions it is worth noting that the society's membership has increased by some 25 per cent over the last 12 months, thanks to both the barristers and a number of law firms rejoining the Society after many years of not being members. As a result, the scope and extent of our membership within the city is outstanding and most of the leading firms are now members.

As those of you who know me will know I believe that just being a member of Birmingham Law Society is not enough. Yes, you will get your monthly bulletin and you will qualify for our membership benefits package (coming soon) but there is so much more you can get out of the society by playing a more active role. There are many ways that you can get more involved with the society such as sitting on council, becoming a member of one of our specialist committees or just being a regular attendee at our events. I have had people come up to me and say that they have experienced both personal and professional development as a result of sitting on our Council or having an active role on one of our committees. Sharing time with like-minded lawyers who take themselves away from the insular roles within their respective law firms to serve the legal community is quite refreshing. Realising that one person's contribution can make a real difference is enlightening and people who do get involved with Birmingham Law Society tend to stay involved with us for many years.

Birmingham Law Society has had an outstanding 12 months and it is stronger, leaner and keener than it has been for some time. We have delivered an ambitious schedule of events that has included two high profile lunches with the Lord Chancellor, Kenneth Clarke, and the Master of the Rolls, Lord Neuberger, as well as a very high profile conference with Lord Justice Jackson, where we secured a record attendance of more than 140 attendees.

We also held a fascinating conference on alternative business structures where Craig Holt (Quality Solicitors), Stephen Mayson and John Wotton (vice president of the Law Society) shared their views on how the legal landscape may change after October 6, 2010.

We held our first ever Legal Eagles quiz in conjunction with the Birmingham Solicitors Group and the event sold out in record time.

In addtion, we held a number of networking events throughout the year, which proved extremely popular with members.

It is also worth noting that BLS has been incredibly busy introducing various initiatives throughout the last 12 months, which have included the membership benefits package, which will be launched in the near future, You Tube videos, university debating competition, the launch of the BLS student membership, closer working relationship with the Chamber of Commerce, which includes an honorary seat on their council for the BLS president, and the increase in BLS membership from the local bar. We are also looking to expand our structure by setting up a pro bono committee and an events committee for the Society.

It has been an honour to preside over Birmingham Law Society during such an exciting time in its history. The society is in a great place right now and our legal community is stronger for it. However, we must not spend too long reflecting on our achievements. We must look forward, build upon our success and seek to raise the bar that little bit higher each year.

I do hope you take the time to read the various articles within this excellent supplement and hopefully I will see many of you at our Legal Awards.


Dean Parnell
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Title Annotation:Features
Publication:The Birmingham Post (England)
Date:Mar 24, 2011
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