Lawyers crying out for new image, says research

SOLICITORS are craving for more help from the Law Society to restore their battered reputation, according to major new research commissioned by the Law Society.

The research was based on interviews with focus groups of lawyers carried out by the independent Business Research Unit. It has also found that solicitors want more practical help from the society and an end to in-fighting, according to the society's director of communications, Barbara Cahalane.

The society is keeping the results of the research under wraps until it has had time to present them to the Law Society's council but there have already been presentations to senior council officials and office-holders.

The Lawyer understands the report tallies with the results of a damning survey carried out by the Law Society's own research unit last year which found that solicitors viewed the society as unfriendly, unhelpful, poor at promoting and representing the profession and unwilling to listen to its members.

Cahalane said the society had commissioned the research in a bid to ensure the society was “listening to our members and delivering the right service”.

“What shines through from the survey is that solicitors feel their reputation has taken a battering recently and that the Law Society hasn't done enough about it,” she said.

She added that solicitors also wanted more practical help from the society “related to their own business” and that “the kind of help they wanted was not related to the size of their firm but to the type of work they were doing”.

The report will help officials and council members determine the best way to reform the society in order to make it more responsive to its members.

But a scheme to divide the professions up into sections reflecting the different practice areas solicitors work in has already run into trouble.

Last week, the chair of the Commerce & Industry Group, Martyn McCarthy, accused the Law Society of pushing through the sections policy “with little consultation or discussion”.

Writing in his group's newsletter, C&I News, he said the “inner circles” of Chancery Lane wanted to allow solicitors applying for their practising certificates to choose which section they want their money spent on.

He is fearful that the policy might lead to the abolition of his group.