Reform yes, but whose reform?
24 October 1995
Legal Notebook: Hunt & Hunt Lawyers v Michell Morgan Nominees Pty Ltd (ACN 108 571 222) — High Court appeal
27 June 2013
25 October 2013
9 January 2013
10 July 2013
4 February 2013
Last summer the Law Society Council fielded its second most attractive presidential candidate to attempt to keep things nice and clubbish. What is described as a "caucus" to support Mr Hodge is in reality an unelected opposition to the elected president.
The Lawyer last week reports Mr Hodge as asserting that the president is unrepresentative of the profession. This is absurd. To deny the legitimacy of the position of an elected president is to reveal contempt for the democratic process. Mr Mears obtained nearly half as many votes again as Mr Hodge did.
For two years Mr Hodge and the caucus consulted the profession at roadshows, spent £60,000 and has come up with what? Apart from an ambition to topple Mr Mears, what does Mr Hodge offer the profession? A man with 11 years on the council as a nominee of others on the council. Style certainly, but where is the substance?
Does he have the degree of steel and ruthlessness to govern staff and a profession in an age where Her Majesty's Government wants to make radical changes?
Mr Hodge was appointed high street champion before Mr Mears come onto the council. Every single high street issue has been ducked and shelved. Or just discarded and forgotten.
The present chair of the Sole Practitioners Group David O'Hagan wrote round robins to sole practitioners advising them to vote for Mr Hodge on the basis that he would be better at negotiating with the Government over legal aid rates of remuneration.
Unlikely if one thinks of what happened to the champion of high street firms. A small firms attitude and a motivator of the small firms has yet to appear on council. That is the message of the election.
Significant savings is what he promises. But eleven years on the council, an election campaign lasting three months, and where are the constructive proposals three months later?
Does he seriously claim the presidency for himself as a pre-condition for constitutional reform and savings in costs of running Chancery Lane?
I would like to indicate where savings can be made without detracting from standards. I will match pound for pound any saving he can suggest. I do not ask to become president, just the opportunity to participate in the way my profession is governed.
I think the chances for this under Mr Mears and Mr Sayer are greater that under Mr Hodge. When considering the chances of savings in Hodge's regime let us consider his role in consenting to the pay-off to the director of the SCB? According to the secretary general, he was the only council member consulted in advance. Payment by instalments would have enabled the payee to stop receiving money if she were to find another job. This is one of the recommendations of the Greenbury Report.
What has he done since this payee complained to The Guardian that she was muzzled from speaking against dishonest solicitors and Green Forms? Do we reward disloyalty? Does he?
Once at a reception last year Mr Hodge spoke to me when I was with my wife."I know how I shall handle you, when I am president, Arnold," said Mr Hodge. "I shall ignore all your letters". If only the job of president involved problems as straightforward as myself he would be everyone's choice.
Mr Hodge is nowadays emphatic that he believes in reform. His reforms really have to be attractive to the general body of solicitors not merely to a small number of council friends who have not yet given Mr Mears and his 12,000 constituents a fair chance.