Blog by Bryan Johnston, Chair of the PLA

 

 

Reflecting on our recent Annual Conference, I, like many of you, were impressed by the line up of speakers and the quality of the seminars they delivered. Indeed, in some respects it is a shame that the pressures of our professional lives are such that Conference cannot be a longer affair.  All of the breakout sessions would have been enjoyable and engaging to attend.  The format and layout of Conference is always under review and your feedback does help to shape the following year’s event.  It is worth mentioning the hard work and dedication put into the organisation of Conference by Rebecca Campbell and the Education and Training Committee, as well as TPS.  I hope you enjoyed Conference and look forward to your comments when the feedback is collated and reviewed.

At Conference, I elaborated on three themes: relevance, revolution and relationships.

The PLA is relevant to the real estate industry. We stand at the cutting edge of real estate law and practice.  We have the best feel for what works and what is failing.  It is incumbent on us to challenge government where the law isn’t working.  It is not enough to react to proposals devised centrally.  Instead we must be relevant, lead the charge and agitate for change.  This indeed is what we are doing and will continue to do.

This is evidenced by the increased publicity accredited to the PLA within the media and it is heartening to see the traction achieved by the organisation in this regard. If other industry bodies or the media need a legal view on key property issues, the PLA is to the go to body to provide insight and expertise.  This is vital for enhancing our profile.

From an internal perspective, I hope that you have enjoyed reading our ‘Perspective’ blogs. This series of blogs form various industry figures highlights how the PLA is relevant beyond private practice.  We’ve heard from a High Court judge, a law commissioner, a mediator and leading barristers.  There are other insightful blogs in the pipeline, so watch this space.

We also continue to increase our presence on social media. We welcome your comments and views on matters relevant to our industry.  Our LinkedIn page is https://www.linkedin.com/company/property-litigation-association/ and our Twitter account is https://twitter.com/pla_org_uk?lang=en

In terms of revolution, the results of the Law Reform Survey clearly show how engaged you are with the reform agenda and how many areas of what we do are ripe for reform. We have publicised the results of this survey as part of a media and PR campaign to highlight where the law is not effective, draconian or unworkable.  The Law Reform Committee continues to agitate for change and is liaising with key stakeholders to drive the PLA’s position home.

It is also worth mentioning the call for change so eloquently advanced by Philip Sheppard in his Alan Langleben Memorial Prize essay which picked at the uncomfortable scab of assured tenancies. Philip’s essay will be available on Estates Gazette and the PLA website and is well worth reading.  Indeed, all the entries received were of a very high standard making judging difficult to say the least.  Alan would have been proud of all of the entries and the enthusiasm by which the case for change was put forward by all entrants.

Our revolution continues internally. I was pleased to announce at Conference that we are looking to digitise and overhaul the administration interface for members in respect of renewals and new membership applications.  This benefits members by having an easier interaction with the PLA and benefits the organisation by swiftly sorting out the administration each year and realising income quickly to help us fund the events you enjoy attending.

On this, we held over 20 regional events last year alone and many national events. Effective administration ensures this happens and will continue to do so.

The PLA’s newsletter has also been completely revolutionised. The “PLA Post” is much fresher and more engaging.  We hope you like the format interactivity and layout of the PLA Post.

Finally, in terms of relationships, we as an organisation continue to build new relationships and develop and deepen existing ones. The Law Reform Committee has good links to the Law Commission, Ministry of Justice and HMCTS as well as Court User groups and other bodies.   The PLA itself has very close ties to the PBA, the Chancery Bar Assocation, the BPF, RICS,  Arbrix, CRELA and all of the various Property Chambers.  The JPLA are very active in strengthening ties with the Junior PBA and MatRics.  All of these connections help fluidity within industry and promote ideas, exchange and collaboration.

On a more individual level, Conference always affords members the opportunity to get together to renew acquaintances and make new ones. It is always wonderful to meet new members at Conference be they first-time attendees or regular conference-goers.  We are a relatively small area of wider real estate practice.  However, there is strength in our size and cohesion. Our credibility rests on our ability to resolve disputes.   Yes, we fight fair and hard but ultimately, it is about the resolution, the end game.  Knowing your fellow practitioners can make it easier for us as lawyers and human beings to broker that resolution.

There will be further opportunity to connect with members at upcoming events. I would just highlight the Northern Training Day in Manchester on 13 June and the Summer Party on 27 June in London. The Northern Training Day has already made itself a key event in the PLA calendar and this year’s event will offer insightful training from leading practitioners in relevant legal areas.  The event will be well attended, so please do reserve your place for it.

Our relationship with our Academic Members continues to evolve. Simon Cooper for example is working with the Law Reform Committee to help shine a light into Commonhold, something a House of Commons Committee has recommended be the preferred means of flat ownership in England and Wales – a potential Commonhold revolution.

This takes us full circle to where we started on relevance. We the membership of the PLA are our industry. Collectively we make our voice heard.  Together, we can continue to lead industry in education and law reform.  Our brand is strong and it is incumbent on us to protect and promote it.  We should be rightly proud of what we do and what we achieve.  We are not a distressed purchase or a poor relation support function to a transactional practice.  The PLA is a leading player in our industry and the work that our members put into developing and evolving the organisation will ensure that this will remain the case for many exciting years to come.

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