LAW Society council members have provoked furious criticism by demanding payment for time spent in meetings.
Sole practitioner Wendy Gray storms: “In the current circumstances, I think it's unbelievable. Their decision on SIF is going to see solicitors going out of business, and now they're talking about paying themselves.”
Lawyers from the top 20 firms and high street practitioners were of one voice at Wednesday's full council meeting, as member after member sprang up to speak in favour of payments.
Cripps Harries Hall's Peter Raymond said the time commitment involved in being a council member was considerable and he did not know how lawyers at small firms coped. “I come from a partnership of 30 partners and still have comments made about time commitments,” he said.
Eversheds partner Lucy Winskell said a firm's size was irrelevant and the council was missing out through not being paid. “It's easier for partners to have control and be council members. If we remunerated firms, we'd have more bright young things coming on the council,” she said.
Essex council member Trevor Murray was the only clear dissenting voice. “I suggest we should not be paid. Coming here is a service, not a business.
“If we pay people to come here… you will have failed solicitors coming here in an attempt to earn some money. You won't have the best people serving here, but sub-standard people.”
Legal aid practitioner Kerry MacGill, of Bradford firm Lumb & MacGill, warned: “It's a very difficult PR problem at the moment. We're regarded as Champagne Charlies, and now is not a good time to go cap in hand to the profession asking to be paid.”
The issue will be decided at a later date.