The Law Society appears likely to rule out introducing a fellowship scheme in the near future, but may consider extending membership in light of the introduction of alternative business structures.
Introducing a fellowship scheme for solicitors ‘who reach an agreed professional standard’ was one of the recommendations of the recent Chancery-Lane commissioned review of regulation conducted by Lord Hunt of Wirral.
The Conservative peer suggested such a scheme should be ‘significantly superior’ to the mandatory minimum set out by the Solicitors Regulation Authority.
Fellowship schemes are common at other representative professional bodies, such as the Institute of Chartered Accountants in England and Wales, and the Royal College of General Practitioners. The Icaew, for example, allows ACAs to call themselves FCAs (fellows) if they meet certain standards and have been members for 10 years.
The RCGP, meanwhile, allows members of five years’ standing to apply for fellowship based on their experience in one of six relevant categories.
However, in a paper prepared for Council, the Society’s membership board states that a ‘badge of excellence’ in the form of fellowships would be inappropriate for Chancery Lane.
‘While this would be constitutionally feasible, members believed that a fellowship scheme would create an unwanted and unnecessary hierarchy.. and would be divisive,’ the paper says. Council will consider the paper at its meeting next Wednesday.
The board said it would prefer to explore the concept of extended membership to respond to new factors such as ABSs, expected in 2011. ABSs will allow members of other professions to partner with solicitors. Extending membership will be considered as part of the Society’s business development strategy.
In a referendum last year, existing members rejected changes to the Law Society model that included creating an affiliate category for non-solicitors.