The Law Society is gearing up for a wholesale corporate governance review, driven by fears that the chief executive has become too powerful
The review is a result of grass roots lobbying by the Westminster and Holborn Law Society. It will look at the governance of the Law Society, addressing issues such as the powers of the main board and the council, with the powers of the chief executive already a strong cause for concern. It is the first review of corporate governance at the Law Society since October 2000, when the current management system was carved out. A working party is now in place to conduct the review, chaired by Paul Gilbert, a member of the main board. President of Westminster and Holborn Law Society Richard Henchley is also on the working party. He said the review will focus on the role of the chief executive, a post currently occupied by Janet Paraskeva. Henchley said one issue that prompted calls for a review was that Paraskeva had talked to the national press about the liberalisation of legal services in advance of council meetings. "The feeling among some members is that the statements Paraskeva made to the press pre-empted Council debates on liberalisation," he explained. The Law Society Council voted on issues such as allowing employed solicitors to advise the public directly in March this year. Paraskeva was quoted in the press talking about the subject as early as January. Henchley also cited Project Engineer, the Law Society's much maligned IT project, as having caused concern about the society's corporate governance. The Law Society has paid out nearly £800,000 in penalties to the project provider since January this year. Council members only found out in April, after being told in March that nothing was wrong with the project. Carolyn Kirby, president of the Law Society, said: "The council took a deliberate decision to recruit a chief executive with a higher-profile role in representing the society, working in tandem with the elected officeholders. That arrangement has been a great success."