Law Society under attack by conveyancing chartists

The Law Society will be forced to face down a motion designed to abolish its powers to represent the profession at its annual general meeting in July.

Newly formed rival the Solicitors' Association is drawing up proposals designed to split the society's representative and regulatory functions.

If the motion is passed, the society will have the power to set regulations but will no longer represent the professional interests of solicitors. This would fall to the association under the chair of Anthony Bogan.

The association, which claims growing support from high street solicitors, is campaigning for a separation of the society's role as both regulator and trade union.

Launched in April, it is promoting itself as an alternative to the society which, it claims, has failed to deliver on issues such as minimum prices for conveyancing work.

Bogan, a partner at Saunders Palmer Ure, said: “There is growing support from the grassroots for the Law Society's role to be redrawn. I think we have every chance of pushing this though at the AGM.

He claims that the idea is supported by several council members but he admits that the society is unlikely to agree to dismantling itself. “That would be like asking turkeys to vote for Christmas,” he said.

The association claims that its support is growing by 50 a day and currently stands at 600. The target is for a membership roll of over 30,000 in six months time.

Bogan says he is particularly concerned that the society has failed to push though reforms on conveyancing. The solicitors' Association is planning to launch what it calls a Conveyancing Charter which will set minimum standards and minimum prices for conveyancing work.

“At some point there has to be a correlation between low fees and low quality work,” said Bogan. His campaign for a split in the role of the Law Society is supported by Labour MP and former solicitor Gerry Bermingham, who is acting as a consultant for the association.

Bermingham, former senior partner at Sheffield-based Irwin Mitchell, is to meet Society president Martin Mears to discuss the subject in the next two weeks. In the past, Mears and deputy Robert Sayer have made it clear that they oppose Bogan's plan. They want the society to retain its dual role.

But Bermingham said that a division of the two functions could be achieved on the same lines as the medical profession where the British Medical Association is the trade body and the General Medical Council is the regulator.

“If doctors can do it, then I am sure the legal profession can follow suit,” commented Bermingham.