Law Society policy restructure spells the end of postal ballots

The Law Society is planning to introduce sweeping changes to members' voting rights on society policy.

he Law Society Council is planning to hike up the minimum number of members who can call a postal vote on a society issue from 13 to 500.
Previously, members wanting a postal vote on an issue at a general meeting needed a minimum of 13 supporters, and members calling for a vote outside of a general meeting needed 100 signatures. Now all members will need 500 supporters, if the proposals go through. The issue will be discussed at a special general meeting on 13 December.
The decision follows the society's consternation at having to pay £50,000 to send out postal ballot papers for a vote on practising certificate fees, proposed by former president Robert Sayer. Sayer was against the society raising the practising certificate fee and called a postal ballot of the profession.
Although his view that the fees should not be raised was understood to be fairly popular, Sayer had nowhere near 500 committed supporters. There is some discomfort within the council, The Lawyer understands, that, by raising the requirement to 500 supporters, moves such as Sayers' will become near impossible in the future.
The society's management board is backing the changes as both a practical and a cost-cutting measure.
“The Law Society now has 105,000 members. When the policy to have 100 supporters for a vote was made, the society was a quarter of that size. We've simply raised the numbers proportionally,” Law Society chief executive Janet Paraskeva told The Lawyer.
A letter sent to society members concerning the proposals said: “During the last council year, £100,000 was spent in two postal votes called by small numbers of those opposed to reforms already endorsed by the Law Society Council.”
Paraskeva is also backing a move to replace postal ballots with electronic voting, which should make balloting the profession a lot cheaper. When asked if the costs argument was redundant, due to electronic voting being cheaper than postal balloting, Paraskeva said: “If you look at it the other way, electronic voting will allow members who want to call a ballot more access to potential supporters.”