Jane Betts, the Law Society secretary general, has broken up the society's Redditch-based standards and training directorate and placed staff there under a series of different heads, in the wake of the resignation of its head John Randall.
The reorganisation has shocked staff, who first heard of it on 9 May when Betts travelled to Redditch to announce the move.
Under the shake-up, professional ethics staff will go into the policy directorate under Russell Wallman; and registration and information services, the department which issues practice certificates, will report directly to Betts, as will the head of legal education.
Office support staff at Redditch will come under the head of facilities management at Chancery Lane; conference facilities staff will be under the control of management services; and the monitoring unit has already gone to the Office for the Supervision of Solicitors under Peter Ross.
When Betts took up her post as secretary general last autumn she said she wanted to break down the departmental empires that had been created under her predecessor John Hayes.
She also wants to unify the policing and disciplinary function of the society under the OSS. But the move of professional ethics, which is responsible for the solicitors indemnity fund and the solicitors compensation Fund – both seen as protecting the public – to the policy directorate, which is more the trade union part of the Law Society, may be viewed in some quarters as a dangerous blurring of the two roles.
The new Labour government is conducting a review of the Law Society's role in regulating solicitors who provide financial services (see front page).
Barbara Cahalane, Law Society spokeswoman, said the idea was to rearrange staff into logical service areas rather than divisions based on geography.
She stressed that the ethics division had no “hands-on regulatory role” and that feedback from this division to the policy directorate was very useful in formulating policy.
Betts made the announcement of the shake-up as soon as possible after Randall's resignation was announced to avoid uncertainty, said Cahalane.
The heads of the three new divisions – professional ethics, legal education, and registration and information – will sit on the management board but will not be directors.
All three posts are to be advertised in the autumn. For the time being, Nick Saunders, the former head of education, will be acting head of education, and registration and information.