Mathews grasps MDP nettle, but to what avail?

At last the Law Society makes a decision. Or at least half a decision. Law Society president Michael Mathews says multi-disciplinary partnerships (MDPs) will be up and running by the year 2000. For once there was little wishy-washy talk. Mathews clearly likes the concept of MDPs and wants to push them through. But he only has eight months left in office to achieve this.

Meanwhile, yet another society consultation paper – this time on MDPs – is going out to the profession. Chancery Lane adores consultation papers. The profession clearly does not. They take months to compile, usually receive a poor response and inevitably divide opinion.

Mathews has promised an executive committee to oversee day-to-day implementation of the Law Society Council's decisions – a good idea, although the new committee will be lucky if the 70-strong council makes one big decision a year.

In politics you have to put one finger up to test the wind of opinion and another finger up in response to your opponents concerns. Decisions need to be pushed through, the odd cage rattled, the vocal minority occasionally ignored.

Mathews taking a strong stance over an issue – albeit the thorny one of MDPs – is promising. But he and future presidents need a Law Society that can run with an idea. Not one trapped in the endless cycle of debate so beloved of some.

The Law Society annual conference in Bournemouth last month was attended by fewer than 700 paid-up delegates. It was a distinctly low-key and lacklustre affair.

The Society of Black Lawyers' week-long 25th anniversary conference starting 5 December will be joined by Deputy US Attorney General Eric Holder, OJ Simpson trial lawyer Johnnie Cochran, Rodney King lawyer Milton Grimes, the parents of Stephen Lawrence, Home Secretary Jack Straw, Lord Chancellor Lord Irvine, Cherie Booth QC and a host of senior judges and US government legal officials. This impressive cast-list should certainly make for a more stimulating event.