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The Law Society has pushed its own European Group into the red after forcing it to pay corporate rates for Chancery Lane room hire, a minimum of £300 per night.
The Law Society European Group (LSEG) is a professional body of the UK Law Society made up of members specialising in European law. It carries out duties for the Law Society such as helping and advising Continental lawyers established in London, but it no longer receives any subsidies for its work. Diana Guy, LSEG honorary chairperson and Theodore Goddard partner, said: "Last year was a bad year for us, mainly because the Law Society stopped subsidising our meetings. We have some financial reserves but the official budget is in deficit. While we do a lot for the Law Society, and have to be members of the Law Society, we receive no help or subsidies. We will probably have to hike up our subscription fees to keep going." The LSEG may have to leave Chancery Lane altogether to stay afloat. LSEG chairman and SJ Berwin partner Tom Usher said: "We're meeting in a couple of weeks to discuss holding our meetings in our own firms." If the LSEG leaves Chancery Lane, the Law Society could have less access to developments in its European group, but LSEG members do not think that the Law Society will consider this a problem. "The Law Society's council certainly does not prioritise European matters," said one LSEG member. "It doesn't even have a European lawyer or an expert in European law dealing with European matters on its council." The Law Society plans to expand the number of seats on its council from 75 to 125 in September. There is currently one seat devoted to European matters and there are no plans to add any more European posts. The council member in charge of European matters, former Ipswich Borough Council principal solicitor Pauline McBride, has just resigned from the four-year post after only two years. She was not a member of the LSEG.