I have written before about our ongoing review of governance and I would like to set out our concrete progress on this journey. Council met in Cardiff on 17 May and emphatically agreed the next steps to establish the new Main Board.
The Law Society works for members day after day, promoting the dynamic and diverse profession that acts across England, Wales and the world, to provide clients of all types with valuable advice.
Our elected Council and our community of expert committees undertake important policy work in developing law and promoting the jurisdiction and public interest at home and abroad. In an increasingly competitive environment, with the uncertainty created by Brexit and in the context of regulatory change, it is essential that the Law Society is in good shape and is representing and promoting the profession as effectively as possible.
I have set out some of the main aspects of what has now been agreed and how we will implement the changes below. I welcome your comments to firstname.lastname@example.org.
The Implementation Board will settle an appropriate structure of sub-boards, sub-committees and committees along with terms of reference for each. To give some idea of the scale of the task, there are currently four Law Society boards, six Council committees, and 25 policy advisory committees.
This time-limited Implementation Board will include the president, vice-president and deputy vice-president (office holders) and the deputy vice-president elect, the treasurer, the chair of the Membership Board, three other members of council, the chief executive and executive director of delivery and performance. Council will consider proposals in July. Assuming its proposals find favour with council, the Implementation Board and the current Board and committee structure will cease by February 2018 and new governance arrangements will then be in place.
Role and responsibilities
Our new governance arrangements will rightly focus on horizon scanning, policy, strategic direction and oversight of delivery against plans and performance against targets. Four emerging key themes of work for next year will be Brexit, education, communicating more effectively and business transformation. Our executive will be tasked with implementation and support. Clarity around the roles of the Board and the executive will also enable us to move forward with the recruitment of a permanent leader for the staff. We are very pleased that Paul Tenant, our interim CEO, will remain with us during this review period.
We have already agreed that the Board will include an appointed chair, the office holders, five other council members elected by Council, two appointed solicitor members who are not council members and up to two appointed lay members. The chief executive and executive director of delivery and performance will be non-voting board members.
We know that there is also the need to review the role of Council to provide confidence that it reflects the demographic of our profession. We are actively considering how we take this forward and will say more in July. As this aspect of the review is about how our members are represented rather than how the elected representatives work, we will naturally be seeking member views on any proposals for change. I have put up a model and asked the Council Membership Committee to consider it.
Meanwhile, the Society continues with its work to promote the profession and elections are currently under way for a range of Council seats. Those members eligible to vote in these elections will be contacted by the Electoral Reform Society who run the elections on our behalf.
As the review progresses, we will keep you informed through the Gazette, Professional Update and our wide range of member communications.
Robert Bourns is president of the Law Society