LAW Society president Phillip Sycamore has been attacked for failing to turn up at the society's flagship Labour conference meeting at which government rising star Home Office minister Alun Michael spoke.
Although some Law Society officials were present, none of the three key elected council members - Sycamore, vice-president Michael Mathews and deputy vice-president Robert Sayer - attended the packed meeting on crime and punishment, despite the fact that Sycamore was originally billed to chair it.
The president's absence from the conference at a time when the Government is poised to announce sweeping reforms of the legal system raised eyebrows among lawyers at the gathering. Sycamore was also absent from the Law Society's Liberal Democrat conference meeting.
Former Law Society head of communications Sue Stapely, who now works for the PR firm Fishburn Hedges, said: "I think this is the first time since the Law Society started holding fringe meetings six years ago that not one of the office-holders has attended either the conference of the governing party or a party in opposition."
She added: "I think they are valuable opportunities to meet and discuss issues of interest to the profession with MPs, ministers and a wide range of interested groups."
A Law Society spokesman said it was not felt that Sycamore's presence at the conference was necessary. Sycamore had had a "busy" week filled with ceremonial duties because it was "the start of the legal year". He was attending the launch of the Law Society quality mark scheme, Lexcel, on the morning of the meeting, added the spokesman.
Mathews did attend a later fringe meeting held jointly by Liberty, the Bar Council and the Law Society.