Law Soc faces grassroots rebellion

A FRESH wave of grassroots anti-establishment protest is threatening to engulf the Law Society.

The British Legal Association and Bournemouth conveyancing fees campaigner John Edge are leading separate campaigns to stage special general meetings in order to force their agendas onto Chancery Lane.

The BLA, which has around 1,000 members, is about to circulate a petition calling for a special general meeting to secure the abolition of the Solicitors Complaints Bureau, or its successor, the Office for the Supervision of Solicitors.

Edge is threatening to oust all the sitting council members from the council to secure the election of a body more committed to the cause of his conveyancing fees initiative, which claims the support of 13,000 solicitors.

He has already secured an opinion from the leading constitutional lawyer Michael Beloff QC on the powers of a general meeting, which can be called by 100 society members.

“The bye-laws could provide for the existing council members to cease holding office following election of successors after a resolution declaring that they should be removed,” Beloff concluded.

Edge and the BLA, whose campaigns overlap significantly, have already discussed the possibility of working together to stage a joint meeting.

BLA general secretary Geoffrey Thomas said: “The general outline of our motion will be that the SCB or its successor be abolished and its disciplinary functions be handed back to the Law Society.”

Edge, a advocate of Law Society president Martin Mears and his small band of supporters on the council, said: “The council is weak and we need one of a different complexion.”

In an Internet bulletin issued to his supporters he suggests they could use their power to secure a “general election” or force the society to abandon its regulatory functions so it can adopt an overtly trade union stance, an idea which has been advocated by vice-president Robert Sayer.

Support for the Law Society to abandon its regulatory role is also emerging as a feature of yet another grassroots initiative which has been instigated by Richard Tyler, president of the Surrey Law Society.

In a move which has been identified by opponents of Mears as a sign the anti-establishment movement which swept him to power may be on the wane, the Reigate solicitor has written to other local law societies seeking support for a move to end the infighting at Chancery Lane.

Tyler said that he had received more than 30 replies supporting his view that the infighting should be stopped “to prevent further damage to the profession”.

But he added that there was also considerable support for the abandonment of the society's regulatory role, which some see as an unwelcome burden on Chancery Lane.

An SCB spokeswoman said: “The Law Society Council and the president have debated the issue and decided it is not feasible for complaints-handling to be brought back in-house.”