Huddersfield and Dewsbury Incorporated Law Society was created to match the changing face of the legal profession
Steeped in history, the Huddersfield Incorporated Law Society was formed in 1880. The Society is now in its 136th year, and has since become the Huddersfield and Dewsbury Incorporated Law Society, following a merger with the Dewsbury and District Law Society in 2015.
With both local societies having an excellent pedigree of support from legal firms in the locality, the merger was a real meeting of minds and it presented an opportunity to broaden the membership to allow licensed conveyancers, legal executives and paralegals to become members. This change reflected the current situation within most law firms who in turn are keen to recruit at all levels.
Sarah Cookson, the society’s current President, believes that the merger and the expansion of membership categories was the society’s way of acknowledging the changing face of the profession. These two factors were intended to widen not only the geographical reach of the society but also the membership’s sphere of influence.
Cookson is a solicitor and director at Switalskis. She first took on the role of vice president in 2015 – at the same time as the merger – and was extremely keen to join the newly formed society, having been an active member of Dewsbury and District Law Society. Since becoming President in
November 2016, she has wanted to ensure that the voices of those in Dewsbury were still heard and involved at a local level – and this has undoubtedly been the case.
Together with the team of enthusiastic committee members, Cookson is looking to further integrate the two regions and engage younger members of the profession to engage with the society and to develop their own networking potential – after all, many local firms have offices in both Huddersfield and Dewsbury.
During her term as President, Cookson has looked to engage others that haven’t previously been involved in the society by introducing events on a regular basis. A programme of training sessions has been organised with the assistance of external providers who have offered their support free of charge, and others that have been paid for by the society.
These have been at no cost to members and the programme continues with further training and social events planned for the remainder of the year. Other events have included the society’s annual dinner, held at Berties LaCachette, which is always very well supported by member firms. A cheese and wine evening was held in February and most recently the society held its inaugural ‘Round the Res’ run at Scammonden which it plans to make an annual event.
During her term as President, Cookson has nominated The Hollybank Trust as her charity of the year. Funds raised so far for the trust total over £1,000.
Pictured (L-R): Secretary Natalie Gibson presenting an award at the University of Huddersfield Law Schools awards with Sarah Cookson president of Huddersfield and Dewsbury Incorporated Law Society
Other notable members of the society include Ashely Iredale, the vice president, who is a partner at Schofield Sweeney, based in Huddersfield and Natalie Gibson, the honorary secretary and a senior lecturer in law at the University of Huddersfield. Patrick Hanson is the society’s honorary treasurer and is a partner at Oates Hanson; he has been a committee member of the society for many years.
The society is also very fortunate to have a full committee with posts including social secretary and social media officer.
The society is extremely proud of its long-standing subcommittee, the Uganda Twinning Committee, which has been established for over fifteen years. The Uganda Twinning Committee organise an annual training visit to Uganda, self-funded by a number of charity fundraising events such as an annual softball tournament, where local professionals compete to win the softball champion’s shield.
The Uganda Twinning Committee was recognised at the Yorkshire Lawyer Awards in 2016 (winning the Pro Bono Award) and was also heralded at the Law Society’s Excellence Awards in 2016, where it was highly commended for its valuable work.
The society also has a private client sub-committee that meets quarterly and provides a platform for lawyers practising in this area to come together to receive training and to identify issues affecting their work. In 2016 the sub-committee was one of only five local law society’s in the country that responded to the SRA’s consultation on proposed increases to probate fees.
Most recently, the society has established a website, where members can easily find information on upcoming social and training events and keep up with the society’s posts from its Twitter handle @Hudd_DewsLawSoc.
Cookson is proud that the society’s membership continues to grow apace and that its events continue to be supported by firms and that the society continues to be relevant to the needs of the membership.
When she hands over the presidential baton in November at the society’s 136th AGM, it will be as strong and well supported as it has ever been.