An update from president Robert Bourns on progress so far.
As many members will know, a review of the governance of the Law Society is under way and work has continued over the summer. We are still keen to hear from our members as we consider further changes.
Alongside agreeing a new strategy last year, the Law Society Council also decided it is the right time to review the way your Society is governed.
The first stage of this has been to look at our board structure before we look more widely at the Council to ensure it continues to represent our diverse profession.
There was a wide-ranging debate at Council last week as we considered and agreed proposals for change to some of our internal arrangements. As you might expect, there were a variety of views from those representing the profession. None of the agreed changes is radical, but they are the next step in ensuring that the Society serves its members efficiently and effectively.
Council has agreed:
We will establish a main board – this board’s first task will be to review the form and function of other boards and make recommendations to Council for further changes as necessary. We currently 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.
The main board will include solicitors who are not currently members of Council – this will help us bring a broader perspective to the way we work; our current structure does not have this built in.
The board Chair will be appointed by reference to their skills – there will be a formal and open process to ensure the best candidates come forward from across the solicitor profession.
The board will have up to two lay members – they will bring their experience to the benefit of the Society, but will be non-voting. We do not have lay membership on our existing boards.
The board will also include the three Law Society office-holders (president, deputy and deputy vice-president), five other Council members and the chief executive.
Before we implement these changes, we now move on to the broader review of the Council itself to ensure we take the opportunity to strengthen Law Society’s connection with our changing, diverse and dynamic profession.
So that you can comment on the representative structure, I would like to explain how the current structure works now.
We have a Council with up to 100 seats for volunteer solicitors representing geographic and special interest groups. It meets in London seven times a year. These seats are open to election on a four-year cycle. (One seat, for a two-year term, is reserved for someone to represent LPC students and trainees.)
The Council agrees the strategy 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 have been seeking input from individual members, local law societies and others as we have begun to consider changes. We will continue to take this open approach as we look at the representative role and how best to connect with the profession, to ensure that the development of policy is grounded, but also anticipates the changes members are to deal with.
The email address email@example.com remains open for your thoughts.
I will say more about how to get more involved in the next stage of the review soon.