Mears not impressed by reform plan

A RESOLUTION committing the Law Society to a closely timetabled reform programme has been described as “innocuous” by the president.

The motion calling for recognition of the need for reform and a “timetabled programme to produce proposals” was approved unanimously by the Law Society council at its meeting on Thursday.

A second resolution to establish an Activity Audit working party to examine the viability of all the Law Society's various functions was also passed.

The resolutions are an early indication of the council's determination not to let president Martin Mears dominate the reform agenda.

But the president seemed unperturbed. Referring to the reform resolution he said: “It does not commit anyone to anything.”

Mears wants to confine immediate constitutional reform to a shifting of the balance of power between the president and the secretary general decisively in his favour.

And during a disorganised debate on his presidential paper, which outlined some of Mears' plans for the year, the meeting agreed the successor to John Hayes should be more accountable.

But the council was divided over the need for reform. “There's nothing wrong with the current system,” said Roger Wilson, while Robert Winstanley said it had “responded well” during the elections.

But David Thomas, who tabled the reform resolution, said: “Whenever is the time for reform going to arise if it isn't now?”

The secretary general was later given the opportunity to defend his record.

In a clear rebuttal of Mears' persistent attacks on the level of wasteful bureaucracy at Chancery Lane, he said he had acted quickly in 1991 to head off an impending budget deficit.

Hayes also praised his staff and warned of the danger of plummeting morale.

v During the private section of the meeting the council debated Mears' nominations for the three presidential working parties to tackle conveyancing, communication and insurance were discussed.

The Law Society refused to release details of the working parties as The Lawyer went to press.