Law Soc president claims Digby Jones is out of touch

The president of the Law Society Kevin Martin has responded to criticism from the director general of the Confederation of British Industry Sir Digby Jones by branding the former Hammonds boss out of touch.

Martin hit back at critics, who claim the Law Society is unable to meet the needs of the 21st century legal market, and in particular to comments made by Jones in an interview with The Lawyer(23 January).

Martin, who stressed that he had the greatest respect for Jones, said he believed his opinions were “historical and not entirely in touch with where we are now”.

Jones claimed the Law Society had an “impossible task”, as it was trying to be regulator and promoter to a legal market that consisted of three distinct groups of firms: high street solicitors, domestic businesses and international heavyweights. “I said this in 1995 and today nothing’s changed,” he said.

He added that there was more of a demand now than ever before for an effective national body to represent all solicitors.

Martin pointed to the significant expansion of the UK legal profession during the past 10 years. In that time the number of lawyers has grown by more than 50 per cent, from around 80,000 to 126,000. Since 1970, when there were just 25,000 UK solicitors, the figure has mushroomed by 404 per cent.

Martin said: “That growth is a huge tribute to many practitioners in many firms, but also to the way in which they’ve been governed and regulated by the Law Society to ensure a liberal and light-touch regulatory regime.”

Martin’s comments come three weeks before the conclusion of the Law Society’s ‘Have Your Say’ consultation on its future role, on 21 April. Martin’s interview will be published in full in the 10 April edition of The Lawyer.