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The Law Society is unfriendly, unhelpful, poor at promoting and representing the profession and does not listen to its members' views enough, according to a survey of solicitors from various areas of practice.
The survey of 1,120 solicitors in private practice, local and central government, and commerce and industry, was carried out for the Law Society by IFF Research in January this year.
The damning results revealed that only 8 per cent of solicitors in private practice agreed the society did a good job of promoting the profession to the public, with 69 per cent disagreeing and 23 per cent not choosing either way. And only 21 per cent agreed that it did a good job of representing the views of the profession to decision-makers and Parliament.
The results contrast with a similar survey in 1989, which found that 32 per cent of solicitors thought the society was good at promoting the profession and 53 per cent agreed that it was good at representing the profession.
Barbara Cahalane, director of communications at the Law Society, said: "Since January there has been a great deal of work undertaken to improve communications. I fully accept that the Law Society must bat more strongly. Individual solicitors must do so too. The Law Society cannot single-handedly guard and promote the reputation of the profession."
Chris Philipsborn, head of the parliamentary unit at the Law Society, said his department had lobbied successfully for amendments to the Police Bill and Civil Procedure Bill.
"It's not practicable in resource terms for the unit to communicate our successes to 80,000 solicitors."
John Heller, senior partner at Hammond Suddards, said he was not surprised by the results. "The society is a vast expense from which the profession does not get an adequate return."
John Thorpe, senior partner at Shoosmiths & Harrison, said that the society was helpful at giving advice on regulatory issues and was trying hard to get its act together on complaints. But as the profession's trade union, he said it could improve its representational role.
"Firms of our size would not rely on the Law Society to represent our interests," he said. "We recognise that we've got to look after ourselves."
David Hunt, senior partner at Beachcroft Stanleys, said many people were impressed by the way the new presidential team had raised the society's profile with decision-makers.
Other findings for solicitors in private practice include:
only 53 per cent know Tony Girling is president ;
only 25 per cent know who their local council member is;
55 per cent do not attend events and do not belong to committees of with the Law Society or local law society.