Council powerhouse planned by Mathews

The Law Society is preparing to sweep away its Byzantine committee structure in a bid to put decision making back into the hands of its ruling council.

The move is one of a series of proposals being drawn up by a reform working party, in an effort to make the society more efficient and popular.

The working party was set up in September after management guru Sir Dennis Stevenson, who was hired at a cost of £65,000, told the council that the society had to shed its burgeoning bureaucracy in order to win back the profession's respect.

It will unveil its blueprint for reform to the council next month, but details are already beginning to emerge.

In a memo to council members, seen by The Lawyer, the working party, led by the Law Society president Michael Mathews, says the council should set Chancery Lane's policy strategy before it is implemented by a new executive committee.

The memo says soundings with council members show that under the current system, the society's standing committees should be making key decisions, but that it is the full-time Law Society staff who set the agenda.

“There was a general feeling that there was a lack of control by the council, or even the committee chairmen over deciding what tasks the society should take on, their relative priorities and the allocation of resources,” says the memo.

Society vice-president Robert Sayer said: “The Law Society has developed in such a way that the council does not have control over policy. We want to change that.”

But former society president Tony Girling, who spearheaded the society's last attempt at reform, said he had his doubts about the intended new role of the council.

He said he had a “nervousness” about its ability to make policy decisions without constantly referring issues back for further consideration.