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A NATIONAL campaign to oust Martin Mears from Chancery Lane received an immediate setback over the weekend when Michael Napier, the personal injury lawyers' leader, announced he would not be challenging the president.
The campaign for the Law Society presidency began in earnest last Friday with the launch of a national solicitors' group determined to boot Mears out of office.
The group, Campaign for New Leadership (CNL), says it is ready to support opposing presidential candidates who "can restore the profession's reputation and its faith in its governing body".
But one lawyer widely tipped as a possible challenger chose to rule himself out of the race on the same day.
Napier told the annual conference of the Association of Personal Injury Lawyers he needed to devote time to managing his firm, Irwin Mitchell.
But he used his outgoing presidential address at the London conference to urge solicitors to support CNL and topple Mears as a matter of urgency.
"If the negative public perception of solicitors is to be repaired, our profession needs strong and statesmanlike leadership," he said.
But Mears was dismissive of the group's national credentials and described its organisers as "establishment hacks".
He said: "These are the same people I beat last year, it is their attempt to make a comeback."
CNL chair Kevin Martin, a partner with high street Coventry firm KJ Martin & Co, said his only active involvement with society politics was many years ago on the committee of the Young Solicitors Group.
"This group should be seen as a grassroots movement. I don't know about all of us but some of us would be seen as natural supporters of the current president's regime," he said.
The group, whose committee is made up of 10 solicitors from across the UK is sending out campaign leaflets to local law societies and other law firms in a bid to drum up support.
It blames Mears and his deputy Robert Sayer for turning events at Chancery Lane into a pantomime. "Martin Mears and Robert Sayer thrive on conflict - but achieve nothing. They talk of economy - but waste the profession's cash pursuing mirages. They oppose progressive ideas from others - because they won't get the credit," the leaflet says.
The group's methods bear a striking similarity to those adopted so effectively last year by Bournemouth solicitor John Edge, whose conveyancing fees initiative attracted considerable support.
With Napier out of the running, deputy vice-president Tony Girlings is even more likely to stand for the job.