The Law Society council voted last week not to give women their own seat on the council, despite the backing of the president and the Association of Women Solicitors.
The proposal, designed specifically to increase the representation of women solicitors, was defeated by 33 to 31, with the six women councillors present split equally for and against.
Although president Tony Girling and deputy vice president Phillip Sycamore have expressed support for the proposal, the membership committee, chaired by Margaret Anstey, has always been against it.
Anstey said: "This proposal is patronising. Women solicitors want to get to the council on their own merits."
Sycamore, who moved the proposal, stressed that women comprised only 14 per cent of council members, even though 33 per cent of solicitors on the roll and 52 per cent of last year's admissions to the profession were women. He said the seat would have been subject to a review after four years.
Edward Nally said it was up to council members to stamp out discrimination in their constituencies. Creating the seat "smacks of tokenism", he said.