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Law Society governance review

20 April 2016

As many know, a review of the governance of the Law Society is underway. We are keen to hear from our members as we consider any changes, writes vice president Robert Bourns. 

Alongside agreeing a new strategy last year, your Law Society Council also decided it is the right time to review the way your organisation is governed. Before you can comment, you will want to understand how the structure works now.

Elected representatives 

We have a Council of 100 volunteer solicitors representing geographic and special interest groups which meets in London seven times a year. These seats are open to election on a four-year cycle. The Council agrees the strategic direction of the Society's work, including the annual business plan and budget, changes to Law Society policy and rules, and the focus of our efforts on behalf of our diverse membership.

We also have four boards covering Management, Legal Affairs and Policy, Membership and Regulatory Affairs. These are populated by Council members who elect one of their peers to be chair of the committee.

Council also elects a president, vice president and deputy vice president from their number each year. Each holds the role for a year with a general rule that the post holder moves up each year, so for example, other things being equal, I would move from vice president to president in July. As the outcome of the review is likely while I am president, I am taking a keen interest in making sure we talk to our members as we go. 

Find out more about our current governance structure

Supporting the profession with expert knowledge

In addition to Council and Boards, we have a range of policy committees who provide the specialist expertise to enable us to support our members. These committees are made up of volunteers who bring their detailed knowledge of an area of law. They help us develop best practice notes and consultation responses to offer support to the practice of our members and inform the legislative environment.

The review

The governance review is timely, partly because of the new strategy and partly because of the forthcoming government consultation on the proposed separation of the Law Society from the Solicitors Regulation Authority. 

While we haven't yet seen the detailed proposals, we have set out some principles we think should apply to the future model. This includes better, simpler regulation for the legal sector (language used by the government) with professional standards, professional titles, and entry to the profession being owned and driven by the profession.

In January, Council appointed Dr Nicola Nicholls as an independent with relevant experience to support the review. She has been meeting with members, stakeholders and staff as part of the process. The brief for her review includes:

• securing wider member involvement

• the role of the Council

• the right structures to support the Council

• the representativeness of the Council as the profession changes, and 

• the role of the office-holders.

Dr Nicholls is also looking at best practice from other organisations across the membership and not-for-profit sectors in order to make recommendations for consideration, first by a working group approved by Council and then by Council itself, with changes to the Society's constitution being referred to the Membership board. 

The fact of the review is widely known and a number of members and local law societies have asked for an opportunity to comment. There will be opportunity for local law societies to engage at the conference of Presidents and Secretaries in early May. We want to widen the dialogue and invite you to participate, via your Council member, local law society or by email. 

We are not posing any specific questions at this stage as we are interested in any and all views. These comments will be fed in to the review group and will help us to efficiently and effectively represent, promote and support our members through the changes ahead.

Please email with your views.

Download our strategy (PDF) 

Find out more about our Council

Tags: Law Society | members

About the author

Robert Bourns was the 172nd president of the Law Society. He is a senior partner at TLT Solicitors, where he specialises in employment law. Robert is one of five representatives for the City of London constituency, a member of the Law Society's Equality and Diversity Committee, and a member of the Regulatory Affairs Board Regulatory Processes Committee.
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