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Members’ Forum

The Law Society is a sleeping beauty

Fraser Whitehead’s well sourced article, published in the November 2018 issue of London Central, said it like it is. He examined how the Law Society fails to reflect the make up of the profession. He highlighted the need for real changes in the Society. He tactfully did not say that this is a fish rotten from the head down.

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decision by the government actually illustrates the failures of the Society in stark reality. In July 2013 the decision to impose fees on employees seeking justice in the Employment Tribunal, hurt hundreds of thousands of employees and thousands of solicitors who lost clients. By April to June in 2014, claims had reduced by 81% compared to the year before. What was the response of the Law Society? Did it mount a campaign for access to justice extolling the expertise of its members? No. Instead, it vacated the floor to the trade unions. Unison mounted a legal campaign and eventually won a case in the Supreme Court to overturn fees. Staggering, given that lawyers are the single biggest grouping in the House of Commons. Yet, even a small trade union like the RMT is able muster its MP trade union sympathizers to greater effect. The Law Society did not adequately represent employment lawyers and didn’t know its mission. Fraser identified its structural problems but there is an issue with the leadership. Democratic deficit The President isn’t voted in by the membership. He (usually he) emerges from a magic circle of grand elders like the Conservative Party of old. They are from the large firms who hog the places on the Council. So, upon selection, the President in waiting is put into a two-year quarantine until his time for elevation. Each year a Deputy Vice President is selected by the Law Society Council and the previous office holder is elevated to Vice President and that years’ Vice President to President. Not once do the members vote for any of these participants in this game of musical chairs. This means that the President is not accountable to its membership – there is a democratic deficit. The Society is set up so that its President is an amateur. His law firm is his real job and he is on a gap year as President of the Law Society. Members are presented with a Lady Bountiful who does his presidency bit with ‘compensation’ paid to his firm. If the Society does not have a representative leadership, it cannot develop an advocacy role. Yesterday, this did not matter because the Society’s main function was enforcing its regulations. Today, in more austere times, the Society has lost its role and has not found its mission. To gain leadership and purpose, it needs a full-time President, elected by the whole membership for a term of five years. To have a mission it must reflect its membership and its memberships’ needs. Only democratic elections can achieve that. The Society is a sleeping beauty that needs to wake up or the members need to start acting up. ■

Paul Sharma Members are welcome to send us their personal views or comments on Council Reform or other professional matters.

18 CENTRAL LONDON LAWYER

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Central London Lawyer May 2019  

The Official Law Journal for the City of Westminster Law Society. Featuring the latest news and features on International events, property a...

Central London Lawyer May 2019  

The Official Law Journal for the City of Westminster Law Society. Featuring the latest news and features on International events, property a...

Profile for benham