The world ain't what it used to be

The Law Society cannot be all things to all men and it is plain from the pre-conference comments in this week's issue (pages 12 and 13) that it certainly is not all things to all solicitors.

Society-bashing is often endemic and disillusion with the body the accepted pose of lawyers, from both big and small firms. From each perspective, the society seems only to bring endless regulation and demands for cash.

Lawyers are never going to be an easy breed to please. But the initiative of taking the society to the membership is clearly something the council felt was essential to redress the imbalance in the relationship – many firms are fed up with Chancery Lane, and frequently unaware of what the society is providing. But this is not just a question of having Henry Hodge on the circuit, there has to be a commitment by the other top officers to get closer to the grass roots.

The new formula for the annual conference has not dramatically increased the numbers heading to London this weekend. The format change is a step in the right direction, but will need further tuning before it hits the right chord with members. Should the programme perhaps have a much wider range of options.

The diversity of roles and interests that the society has to take on has led to calls for it to shed some of its activities, notably its regulatory one and to confine itself to being a 'trade body' for solicitors. The spectre of a PIA or SIB for the profession should disabuse everyone of this option.

Much of the conflicts are triggered by the deep changes within the profession. Some firms have stayed exactly where they were 20 years ago and others are at the forefront. So firms and their needs are more diverse than ever.

The society has had to change itself because of these and the demands of the outside world. There is no going back to some simpler scheme – the world ain't like that anymore.