A BELLIGERENT Law Society Council has cocked a snook at Martin Mears' electoral mandate by voting through a quality accreditation scheme for firms despite his stiff opposition. Mears described the voluntary scheme variously as "banal, bureaucratic and absurd" and said it would be an expensive burden for smaller firms, the bedrock of his electoral support.
The clash at the council meeting on Thursday, before Mears formally took office, is the first indication of the trench warfare that can be expected in the coming months between Mears and the council, whose candidate, Henry Hodge, was trounced at the polls.
During the meeting Hodge warned Mears and his successful vice-presidential running mate Robert Sayer "not to confuse politeness for approval".
But since the election Mears has bent over backwards, publicly at least, to win the backing of Law Society staff and council members. And he will be delighted by the conciliatory tone of deputy vice-president Tony Girling, the council's
unopposed candidate for the third office-holder job. "I want to see the society succeed and
if the climate of reform which has been created means greater opportunities for reform I
welcome that," says Girling.
Apart from his continued and uncompromising assault on what he describes as political correctness, which has horrified the Society of Black Lawyers, Mears' acceptance speech at the society's agm on Thursday saw a softening of his tone.
He went out of his way to refute claims his agenda was to put solicitors first at the expense of clients, and paid tribute to staff and council members alike.
"Someone said to me that the result was a 'revolution'. This is not so. The president is not a dictator," he said.
The speech was notable for its absence of policy commitments. Mears appeared content to see the motions he had tabled on communications, entry into the profession and indemnity approved with scant opposition.
The council felt unable to oppose motions on issues that formed central planks of Mears' election manifesto, despite fears that the three working parties he can appoint bypass their own constitutional powers.
It is likely, however, that the council will join various outside interests groups and institutions in opposing specific Mears manifesto commitments, such as an insurance levy on conveyancing clients, a dramatic reduction in the number of training places and an end to the Solicitors Complaints Bureau's semi-independent status.
Mears has called a council meeting in September to tackle these and other commitments, such as his plan to cut the Law Society budget by 10 per cent.
In the election, Mears polled 11,550 votes, Hodge 8,254 and Eileen Pembridge 3,515. Robert Sayer received 12,834 votes for the vice-presidency, comfortably ahead of official candidate John Aucott who managed 9,987 votes.