The Methodist Church’s Panel of Solicitors (‘the Panel’) has now been in place for three years and over this time the Managing Trustees have been able to instruct each of the firms for advice in a number of areas of law including, but not limited to:
- Property law
- Governance (charity law)
- Contentious probate
- Ecumenical matters
During the past three years, we have been pleased to see the number of instructions received by the Panel grow exponentially, and use of the Panel has brought many benefits to Managing Trustees through closer working with TMCP, a greater understanding of the workings of the Methodist Church and shorter turnaround times for transactions. As most of you will be aware TMCP have regularly held training sessions with the Panel during this time as well as quarterly reviews to monitor the efficacy of each firm and promote the services they offer to the Methodist Connexion.
The legal framework agreement between TMCP and the Panel governs the relationship between the Methodist Church and the solicitors’ firms on the Panel for the provision of legal advice to the wider Connexion. Recently, TMCP has been dealing with the extension of the framework agreement with each of the Panel firms. The agreement states that at the end of the third year the Church has the option of extending the contract for 12 months, and subsequently for another 12 months. There is then a full new selection process scheduled to take place in 2023.
Following the final quarterly reviews with all the firms on the Panel the offer of extending the framework agreement for a further 12 months was sent to all of them. Capsticks and Mills & Reeve made an internal business decision not to continue as an appointed member of the Panel. As Capsticks transition off the Panel they have assured us that they are fully committed to completing ongoing transactions in accordance with the terms and conditions set out within the framework agreement. However, please note that any legal advice pursuant to future instructions with Capsticks and Mills and Reeve will be not delivered under the framework agreement with the central oversight that the agreement provides. We are grateful to both firms for the work and time they have invested to date.
TMCP and the Connexional Team continue to strongly recommend that Managing Trustees instruct the firms that are on the panel and we are pleased that the Methodist Church will continue to work with Anthony Collins, Blake Morgan and Sintons whose teams provide specialist and niche advice to Managing Trustees. These three firms have spent the last three years working closely with TMCP. They have been able to use their existing charity law knowledge and experience with other denominations to develop both good relationships with Managing Trustees and a demonstrable understanding of the complexities of the Methodist Church. We continue to receive excellent feedback on the service provided by these firms and have already held conversations with them firms as to how they can further assist Managing Trustees who may have previously instructed Capsticks or Mills & Reeve. All three firms have confirmed they have capacity to take on further work and they are keen to do so.
There is a ‘legal clinic’ planned by Sintons which will take place on 3rd June 2021. This is a forum where Managing Trustees can attend and ask any legal questions that they need assistance with. We would encourage Managing Trustees to sign up to this event and if you have not instructed Sintons before then this event is a good opportunity to get to know them and see the quality of advice that they provide. Details of the event can be found here.
All three firms are also offering dates and times where they would be happy to meet with Managing Trustees who previously had or have ongoing instructions with Capsticks or Mills & Reeve to discuss how they can assist Managing Trustees going forward. We will be getting in touch with each Circuit and District, as well as individual managing trustees, regarding ongoing transactions or to discuss future instructions and how we can assist you through this transitional period.
The Legal Manager is in conversation with Blake Morgan and Anthony Collins about how their respective firms can assist with the preparation of the precedent documents which will sit alongside the new streamlining procedure TMCP is introducing for Managing Trustees. More information about the streamlining of transactions can be found here.
TMCP strongly recommends that the Managing Trustees instruct one of the three remaining firms on the Panel for any future instructions. Anthony Collins, Blake Morgan and Sintons continue to offer cost certainty with their fees, quality legal advice with proven knowledge on Methodist requirements and they also offer 30 minutes free advice to all Managing Trustees.
Given the recent pandemic, Managing Trustees, TMCP and the Panel firms have been faced with the situation of working remotely. The Panel firms have worked hard to ensure transactions run as smoothly as possible. The pandemic has demonstrated how effective relationships can be built through various technology mediums such as Teams / Zoom / Telephone and all the firms are happy to be contacted by Managing Trustees using these platforms. Documents have been signed electronically, been posted to Managing Trustees and transactions explained remotely rather than in person. Given how the Church has adapted to these new ways of working there is even less reason to instruct a ‘local’ solicitor as there are so many ways to be in touch with the Panel and speak with them about any legal matter that is affecting Managing Trustees.
Finally, TMCP will continue to monitor the Panel closely and, in consultation with the Connexional Team, if we feel that there is a need for another firm or firms to be added to the Panel, we will act swiftly to ensure that there continues to be enough support available to Managing Trustees.
If you have any queries in relation to the Panel do not hesitate to contact Laura Carnall, Legal Manager, via our Contact Form.