Emma Beazley, the outgoing President of Doncaster Law Society, talks about how the society has managed to rise up from the brink of closure
To say that the last two years have been a bit of a journey for Doncaster Law Society would be an understatement.
Almost two years ago, the society looked as if it was nearing its end, yet here we are in 2017, able to share our story as my year as Doncaster President draws to a close. I have had a fantastic year at the helm of a revitalized Society and I hope our story may encourage other local law societies in Yorkshire.
Back in early 2015, the society was on the point of closure, we were effectively left with a committee of four, made up of two past presidents, our then secretary and myself. It was fair to say that we were out of ideas and that the local membership had seemed to have given up on us.
Understandably, they did not feel that they were getting anything from the society.
That is when it was agreed that we should put the commitment of some members to the test. We issued a formal closure motion as we asked ourselves, ‘would they really want to see such an old and historic society meet its end?’
The response was overwhelming. At the meeting chaired by our then secretary Mark Newby, it was resolved that the members did want to see the society saved – if it could be.
The AGM was postponed until September 2015. In the run-up to the AGM we engaged with the younger members of our profession and from that September meeting an almost new society was born, with a newly formed young committee led by Mark Newby as our president.
It was to be a pivotal year. We started to build momentum and began hosting and getting involved in a series of key social events, including taking part in the South Yorkshire Legal Procession in our hometown.
The magic formula
So, how did we do it?
Well, we stopped discussing things at committee and started delivering them. We relied on our enthusiastic officers and empowered them to succeed. We played an active part in consultations, making Doncaster Law Society relevant.
We stopped worrying about firms that were not supporting us – and concentrated on the members that were. We provided free training to our members and signed up new members at every event. And most importantly – we started believing in our success, not in failure.
The journey continued
But the end of Mark Newby’s Presidency was only the start of the journey.
As I took the helm, we drove forward in our 80th year to build on those successes and we held further great events for our members, which attracted a number of VIPs.
Joe Egan, the President of the national Law Society, attended our 80th anniversary ball, along with our own supporting local judiciary. And local MP Rosie Winterton came along to our birthday BBQ.
We built on our training programme and have driven forward with the start of a scheme of membership benefits. We have also been strong supporters in the rejuvenation of the Yorkshire Union of Law Societies. We continued, both on our own, and alongside the Yorkshire Union, to respond to consultations – and we are now well represented on the Law Society Council by Mark Newby.
Mark also provided training at the National Presidents’ and Secretaries’ conference to other societies on how to develop a website on a shoe string budget and on what Doncaster had achieved in a very short space of time.
What does the future hold?
Following our 2017 AGM, we can look forward to the presidency of Sarah Naylor, who we know will build on the good work of the past two presidents in conjunction with the strong succession plan we have in place. We will also drive forward with our training programme, social events and membership benefits. Everything is geared to improving our members’ experience.
The outcome of all our hard work has been plain to see. Those who had no interest in our Society are now re-joining as there are now good reasons to become a member, and, more importantly, to stay a member.
We have shown that it is possible to re-create a vibrant local law society. We owe it to our future generation of members to do the very best we can to ensure they have strong societies to support them through their professional life.
We are all looking forward to a great 2017-2018 and I wish Sarah good luck in her role as President.
This article was originally published in Issue 148 of Leeds & Yorkshire Lawyer