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THE LAW Society has lost the confidence of the country's opinion formers and decision makers, according to the Legal Aid Board's new deputy chair Henry Hodge.
The appointment of the former Law Society deputy vice-president and prominent legal aid practitioner to the newly created post was announced by Lord Mackay last week.
The move has been welcomed by legal aid lawyers who remain deeply concerned about the Government's proposed legal aid reforms.
They will be hoping Hodge's well known opposition to exclusive contracts will rub off on the board and the Government.
Meanwhile, a defiant Hodge, who was defeated by Martin Mears for the presidency last year, has issued a dire warning to the profession.
"I think the Law Society is in a very parlous state at the moment. I'm troubled that it has lost the confidence of most of the important opinion formers," he said.
"The Woolf reforms and the legal aid reforms could have a very serious effect on the high street practice - the Law Society has got to keep its eye on these issues and stop looking in on itself."
But Hodge gave a strong indication that his new post on the Legal Aid Board would not prevent him from continuing to press his own concerns over aspects of Lord Mackay's Green Paper.
"I still don't believe that exclusivity is the way forward," he told The Lawyer.
The appointment of a prominent supporter of the Labour Party to a senior post on the board at such a sensitive time will be viewed by many as a brave move.
"I would have thought he will make a very good appointment. The Lord Chancellor appears to have had more sense than the members of the Law Society," commented Roger Smith, director of the Legal Action Group.