As the dust settles on another annual conference, Ian White looks back on a turbulent 2016, and ahead to the Property Section’s plans for 2017

As is often the way in life, no sooner has one activity taken place than the planning for the next one begins.

As I’ve said before in Property in Practice, it’s the uncertainty which is the killer. Lawyers and the law depend on a high degree of certainty, and most of us don’t welcome unpredictability

The 15th annual National Property Law Conference took place at the Victoria Park Plaza in October, and plans are already afoot for the 2017 event. Deciding on themes so far ahead is, of course, a considerable challenge, but with keynote speakers to be booked and breakout sessions arranged, time is of the essence.

In this edition of Property in Practice, Philip Askew reviews the 2016 conference (see ‘Talking points’ in related stories). You’ll see our approach was a little different this year, and further significant changes are planned for 2017.

To those delegates who gave feedback on this year’s event, we are more than grateful. Detailed analysis has taken place and views taken into account. The feedback has been widely positive, although, inevitably, there are some lessons to be learned.

The potential for interaction in the more open-plan conference room was generally met with approval. The increased number of breakout opportunities was also well received. We are committed to keeping those breakout sessions focused and relevant in future conferences.

We have been busy looking in detail at the Property Section membership offering for 2017, and while all of our successful constituent parts will again be included, we are looking to add new benefits. We are currently planning our first ever Annual Conveyancing Convention in the spring, which will focus on technical aspects of property work. We will keep you informed about this. We remain committed to supporting property lawyers in all issues of working life, big and small, and providing the best available training through online learning, seminars, magazines and conferences.

Let’s face it, we live in interesting times. Interesting may, in many senses, mean uncertain. People are saying that Brexit hasn’t had much effect – others are pointing out that it hasn’t actually happened yet! The chancellor’s autumn statement gave more than a few hints of the economic battles ahead. The result of the US presidential election may have ramifications for us on this side of the ocean too. As I’ve said before in Property in Practice, it’s the uncertainty which is the killer. Lawyers and the law depend on a high degree of certainty, and most of us don’t welcome unpredictability.

The anticipated regulatory changes proposed by the Solicitors Regulation Authority (SRA) may well put increased pressures on how we as property lawyers manage our practices, with much less guidance from the SRA – inevitably, this will be a blessing for some, but a concern to many. These long-awaited changes to the SRA Handbook have been the subject of consultation over quite a period of time. The realities of those changes will become clear to us all in 2017, and the Property Section will be providing support, guidance and training to enable practitioners to understand the implications of the new regime.

There are two questions we constantly need to revisit. First, what benefits does membership of the Property Section provide? Second, what is the Property Section for? As the Section is a membership organisation only existing for its members, these questions are ultimately the same. It is in striving for excellence and absolute relevance in the provision of services that the Section will grow and further develop.

Involvement in the Section, hearing the views of members and developing better communication, is the way forward. We are very keen to develop our social media presence into a working forum for sharing ideas and views. We invite you to share and exchange ideas with us on LinkedIn.

The Property Section Committee meets six times a year, and a sub-committee holds a number of telephone conference calls to discuss new ideas for features for this magazine. In early 2017, we will be seeking new committee members, and I would encourage you to consider applying to join us so that you can have a direct influence on the future direction and activities of the Section. If you have ideas as to how the Section can help you as a practitioner, then put your name forward. The time involved is not extensive, but your influence may be.

The one recurring theme since the Property Section was founded in 2002 (unsurprisingly) is change. The Law Society and the profession itself have faced massive change in the intervening years. Finding direction and guidance in times of uncertainty is why the Section exists.

I hope that 2017 brings you personal and professional satisfaction, and that despite all the challenges we continue to face, we can find the vision we need to see us through.