SCB chief announces plans to quit amid furore over reforms

SOLICITORS Complaints Bureau head Veronica Lowe says that she knew she was writing herself out of a job when she drew up plans to reform the bureau.

Lowe has told staff she expects to resign in summer 1996 with the conclusion of the Law Society's two-year review of the bureau, which she believes will require a non-lawyer to take charge to boost its public credibility.

The future of the bureau, however, has been thrown into even greater uncertainty with the forthcoming Law Society elections.

Staff are unable to comment on election issues, but they are believed to be seething at a front page article in the Law Society's Gazette based on Martin Mears' proposals for the bureau's abolition.

Mears says the bureau should be brought back in-house – but the other two candidates, Henry Hodge and Eileen Pembridge, say it can be reformed.

In her memo to staff, Lowe said proposals to put a strong supervisory board in charge of the bureau would be put to the society's council in October.

“My own personal belief is that the next chief executive of the bureau or its successor should not be a solicitor,” she wrote.

Commenting on her memo, Lowe says: “I knew I was writing myself out of a job when I drew up the proposals.”

She says the Quo Vadis review is designed to relieve outside pressure for complaints processing to be taken out of the hands of solicitors.

“Self-regulation is so important, we cannot afford to make a mess of it.”

A further paper on proposals to reform the bureau, drawn up by Lowe and the Law Society's secretary general John Hayes, was due to be considered by the adjudication and appeals committee on Monday.

Chair of the adjudication and appeals committee Chris Heaps says that the profession owes a debt to Lowe and comments that he is proud to have worked with her.

John Malpas