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Postal voters have rejected the Law Society's plans to include non-lawyers as fee-paying society members.
Around 17,500 valid postal votes were cast, with 40.5 per cent in favour of the changes and 59.5 per cent against. More than 138,000 papers were distributed to members but only 12.8 per cent were cast as votes.
The postal ballot is understood to have cost the Law Society £90,000.
Paul Marsh, Law Society president, said: "It's disappointing but understandable in these difficult times that there was such a low turn out for this vote. However, the steer from the voters is clear and we will take account of that as we continue to develop the society to support solicitors."
As revealed in The Lawyer last week (27 October) the Law Society was accused of holding an unfair ballot on the proposed charter overhaul.
A group of members claimed that the society tried to influence the postal ballot by including a glossy Law Society brochure with its submission for the proposals. The group alleged that this breached the society's bylaws, which state that when a vote is required either side must make their case in a submission of no more than 1,000 words.
Along with 19 other members, sole practitioner Vivien Stern had requested the postal ballot take place so that members could vote on the changes rather than having them passed by the Law Society Council.