Equal Opportunities Commission chair Kamlesh Bahl faces a surprise fight for the Law Society deputy vice-presidency with a Martin Mears ally.

David Keating – who last year made an unsuccessful bid for the vice-presidency as

Martin Mears' running mate – threw his hat into the ring last week, claiming Bahl would be unable to adequately represent private practitioners.

Bahl announced her candidacy way back in October and her high profile was expected to deter challengers.

If elected she will become both the first woman and the first person from an ethnic minority to become an office holder at the Law Society.

Keating said: “I have great respect for Miss Bahl but it is some years since she earned her living as a solicitor and it is my understanding that she has never worked in private practice.

“This, in my view, would make it very difficult for her to represent the whole profession adequately.”

He singled out the problems of the Government's legal aid reforms and the Solicitors Indemnity Fund.

He said he was not standing on either of the two presidential slates but expressed a preference for Michael Napier over Michael Mathews.

He said both vice-presidential candidates, Robert Sayer and David McIntosh, were “able contenders”.

It was initially thought that Keating would stand for president or vice-president.

Mears, who has now ruled out standing for the presidency, said: “I absolutely support David Keating. He is well-qualified and has the right background.” He predicted that Keating “would defeat her comfortably”.