Sir Dennis Stevenson, the leading Blairite troubleshooter, has told the Law Society to shed its burgeoning bureaucracy and appoint a dynamic chairman if it wants to win back the respect of the profession.
At a secret Law Society council meeting earlier this month, Stevenson – chairman of Pearson and close friend of Tony Blair – said the Law Society would continue to underachieve unless it started to run itself like a successful company or law firm.
He said the president should become a figurehead and the society should be run by a small executive committee modelled along the lines of a company board and led by a chairman with a fixed term of office.
He urged the society to sweep away its cumbersome committee structure – there are said to be around 140 committees and sub committees – and said its 75-member council should meet less often to make only the key strategic decisions.
Stevenson – famous for his ability to rescue ailing companies and institutions – was called in by the society's secretary general, Jane Betts, and its new office holders, to help it improve its dire image and reputation.
Barbara Cahalane, the society's director of communications, said: “Sir Dennis' view was that although there are lots of excellent things being done in the Law Society and there are centres of excellence, the whole decision-making system has become clogged up.”
Following Stevenson's presentation the council told the office holders to come up with a blueprint for delivering the changes.
Law Society president, Michael Mathews, his deputy, Robert Sayer, and Kamlesh Bahl, the deputy vice-president, will present their plan behind closed doors this Wednesday.
Sayer said he would not give details of the office holders' proposals before the meeting.
But he added: “We have reached a state where there is a consensus that change is needed. Everybody accepts things have got to change.”
Council member David McIntosh, Davies Arnold Cooper's senior partner, supported Stevenson's analysis.
“What is being proposed is not radical, it is no more than adopting a business-like approach.”