April 1993: A secret Chancery Lane investigation is launched after Eileen Pembridge complains to the then-president Mark Sheldon about recently elected deputy vice-president John Young. Two years later she publicly speaks of “numerous allegations” of sexual harassment against him. Young is privately warned over the incidents regarded as “disturbing” by Sheldon.
March 1995: Martin Mears, elected to the Law Society Council in 1994 on an anti-establishment ticket, breaks with tradition and challenges Young for the presidency, sparking the first poll of solicitors in 40 years. Pembridge follows suit saying she is unhappy with Young's candidacy as an example of “Buggins' turn”.
4 April: Law Society president Charles Elly mounts a spirited defence of Young's candidature and says the election will create uncertainty at an important time for the profession.
12 April: Young is forced to withdraw from the campaign. Days before, the long-standing rumours about his conduct surfaced at a women lawyers' conference with an exchange between Pembridge and Elly over procedures to deal with harassment complaints.
20 April: In a letter to his colleagues at the Law Society Council, Young says: “While there was never a case where my conduct amounted to persistent harassment, it would be equally wrong to characterise what was being alleged as trivial.” He says Pembridge, who did not name him at the conference, had not deliberately intended to discredit him.
27 April: Deputy vice-president Henry Hodge is elected by the council as its official candidate for the presidency along with John Aucott and Tony Girling as his deputies. The move prompts scathing “business as usual” accusations from Pembridge who was prepared to stand as its vice-presidential candidate but was snubbed by the council. During the meeting Elly announces a review of complaints handling procedures and predicts a thorough constitutional review of the Law Society after the election.
30 May: The Lawyer breaks new ground with an opinion poll of more than 1,000 lawyers which illustrates the strength of Mears' challenge. Of the 300 lawyers who had made up their mind who to vote for, 40 per cent opted for Hodge, 37 per cent chose Mears and 33 per cent plumped for Pembridge.