All Change at the Law Society Council

The Law Society has today announced that the result of the National Ballot of Members has been to support the reform of the Law Society Council .

It was several years ago that the Law Society commenced a reform of its governance and this saw firstly the estabishment of a Management Board together with two key committees the Policy and Regulatory Affairs Committee and the Membership and Communications Committee .

This part of the structure has now been operating for some time and as a member of the Scrutiny Performance and Review Committee I have been able to observe our new governance structure in operation from its early days to a position where today we have seen this tier of governance operating very effectively in a membership focussed way - never more evident than during the Covid-19 Crisis .

However the pivotal reforms of the Council itself were left to last , no doubt due to the fact that previous atttempts at reform of the Council had hit the buffers as it was the Council themselves who had to vote for their own reform .

It is a mark of the serious way the Council approached these issues therefore that on this occasion the Council Members did in the end support reform , which was then approved at the AGM . Members exercised their rights to call for a full membership ballot and the decision has now been approved to reform the Council Structure to a format more aligned to the make up of the profession as it is now . This is so even though the turnout for the ballot could have been higher .

Council had originally chosen to decline a resolution to limit the term of existing Council Members to 12 years . However some members were unhappy with this and exercised their right to advance a motion to the AGM where the resolution was proposed as a matter of good governance . The AGM supported it and now the National Membership have decided that such terms will be limited .

This proved to be the more controversial issue because a signficant number of  Council Members who have provided valued service to the members over many years will now as a result of this decision leave office as their current terms expire . The Law Society will no doubt issue transitional arrnagements soon setting out how this will work .

For my part I think this was a mistake and we will suffer from the loss of the collective knowledge that will no longer be available in the Council Chamber . Others would take a different view and have .

However it is clear that the clock on reform and progress cannot be turned back , So it is incumbent upon us all to now embrace our brave new future .

It will only be acheived however if the Society can quickly move to make sure all lines of communication are available to our new Council and in the forthcoming first round of new elections . The good work the society has done during Covid 19 for our members will be quickly undone if we now get the transition to our new structure wrong .

There are many complex issues looming including the fallout of Covid 19 , The CMA Report and the Regulation challenges in front of us . We need to hit the ground running and do so with a Council which is free to set policy and to communicate effectively with all of our members ........securing the vote for reform is only the first step 

Mark Newby

Yorkshire Council Member