The protests are being led by the chair of the Law Society's non-functioning equal opportunities committee Eileen Pembridge. She sent letters to 100 of the council members last week, inviting them to discuss their concerns about the present regime at the society. Pembridge said that the invitation had garnered 40 responses that showed support; she added that most of the 40 then came together during a break at the Law Society away day last week to discuss the perceived disfunctionality of the present regime.
According to Pembridge, there was particular bad feeling among the 40 council members concerning this year's conference, which did not feature any matters proposed by council members.
“At a time when we do not have a clear mechanism to put policy items of concern on to the council agenda, we were presented with a conference that was a stage-managed jolly at vast expense with guest speakers all day long and little chance for discussion. There seemed to be a complete ignorance of the work that council committee members have already done,” she said.
According to Mears, last week's conference was only part of the problem.
“The Kamlesh Bahl affair, the criticism levied against the Society by the Ombudsman, the raise in the Practising Certificate fee… we're at rock bottom at the moment”
Martin Mears, former Law Society President
“The Kamlesh Bahl affair, the criticism levied against the society by the Ombudsman, the raise in the Practising Certificate fee… we're at rock bottom at the moment. We're considering a council vote of no confidence in the present regime,” he said.
In July this year, the Law Society lost a case against former vice-president Bahl over sex and race discrimination. Days later, its equal opportunities committee ceased functioning due to a lack of funding (The Lawyer, 9 July). The society then launched an appeal against the judgment (The Lawyer, 6 August). A top-level row over a proposed 31 per cent hike in the Practising Certificate fee erupted in late July (The Lawyer, 23 July). Also in July, the society was officially criticised by the Office of the Legal Services Ombudsman for its inadequate handling of complaints against solicitors (The Lawyer, 16 July).
However, on a more positive note, the Law Society management board, said Pembridge, announced at the conference that equal opportunities would be put on the council agenda. The Law Society was unavailable for comment.