Law society presidential candidate Phillip Sycamore and his supporters have secretly plotted a negative campaign to discredit their rival Martin Mears while publicly calling for unity at Chancery Lane.
A leaked document seen by The Lawyer details the decisions of a secret February meeting of Sycamore's "Council Members Support Group" in London. According to minutes produced by campaign manager Simon Baker, chair of the society's education and training committee, the meeting suggested:
That Sycamore meet members of PR company Lowe Bell for secret advice on a "negative campaign" possibly led by David McIntosh, senior partner of Davies Arnold Cooper, and get across the message that Mears' presidency had been "disastrous for the profession".
To discuss with Lowe Bell a suggestion to hire private detectives to spy on rival candidates Mears, Robert Sayer and David Keating. The paper added: "It would be disastrous if any such initiative was discovered".
To ask new council members to lunches at president Tony Girling's residence and later ask them to express an "independent view" that Mears "was not a suitable leader".
To "manage" Law Society meetings so that embarrassing issues such as the High Street Starter Kit received minimal public airing and to consider issuing a public rebuke to Sayer "from the chair" if they could prove he had leaked confidential papers.
Sayer, the target of much of the campaign, is now a part of Sycamore's team. Sayer said the document contained nothing that would make him reconsider his new alliance.
Sycamore said that the minutes had not been approved by the group. He added that he had decided not to use Lowe Bell in the campaign and had dismissed "out of hand" the idea of using private detectives. The paper's author, Baker, agreed that many of the ideas had been dismissed. But Mears, who received the document from an anonymous source, said that they dismissed some of the ideas because they were afraid of being caught out.
A Law Society spokesman said it had not seen the minutes. But he added: "The society would in no way condone a dirty tricks campaign."