Candidates outraged by block vote memo

A PARTNER at City firm Field Fisher Waterhouse has been accused of organising a block vote for deputy vice-president Henry Hodge which his rivals say may jeopardise the election.

Rival presidential challengers Eileen Pembridge and Martin Mears expressed outrage at a leaked memo sent out by partner Caryn Mackenzie which inaccurately states Mears is a sole practitioner and describes Pembridge as a non-runner.

It asks staff “not interested in voting” to “let me have your voting form so that we can put in a block vote”.

Mears and Pembridge claim it is an example of pressure being put on lawyers to vote for the Law Society's official candidate but Hodge joins them in condemning it.

Pembridge's campaign manager Stephen Gilchrist has written to the Law Society calling for an investigation claiming the elections may have been jeopardised. He says if this “block voting” procedure is followed then it “could cast doubt on the validity of the count and the result of the entire election”.

But Mackenzie insists the memo has been taken out of context.

The former Young Solicitors Group member says she had been asked by staff about the election and merely wanted to encourage those who trusted her judgement to let her organise their vote.

But she admits: “In retrospect 'block vote' has awful overtones which I didn't mean. What I meant was send the forms to me and I'll send them back in one envelope.”

The firm's managing partner John Nelson-Jones does not object to Mackenzie's memo but he adds: “I'm not saying I would have used every word. I wouldn't have used block vote, that's a misnomer.”

Law Society director of communications Walter Merricks says there is a mechanism for elections to be challenged after, but not during, elections.