Change is the only way forward

Before I wrote this piece I wandered down memory lane. In doing so I came across some comments made by Martin Mears last August. They bear repeating. "All this amounts to a very specific programme. Some parts of it will be easier to achieve than others. In any event it will in, say, six months time, be possible to assess what genuine steps forward have been made." Well now we know how much has been achieved, not six months from last August but nearly a year. The answer is nothing.

The Law Society is no longer listened to by those that matter. It is not attracting, in what it has to say, any respect for its views. And it is now regarded as a body that has lost its way. If that is what has been achieved by Mears and his deputy Robert Sayer in one year, I dread to think what will be achieved if they remain there for a second one.

Hopefully that will not be the case. Even the most anti-establishment members of the profession must realise that parachuting two mavericks into a delicate system of checks and balances is not the right way to achieve the success that will benefit any part of the profession, whether they practise in the high street or not. In case there are still those out there who believe differently, let me remind you about some of the broken promises. We were promised an enforceable fee scale for domestic conveyancing. Fifty thousand pounds worth of counsel's fees later, that has not been achieved.

Mears promised to see off the Government's legal aid Green Paper, which was published last week. By the time this reaches your desk we may see what has been achieved.

The Government's White Paper on legal aid bears an uncanny resemblance to the evidence put in by the Legal Aid Board, another missed target.

To reduce the cost of professional indemnity insurance was never a viable target given that that has been the target the council set itself unsuccessfully over the previous 10 years.

The context of a pay and convey scheme, whereby those buying houses would have to pay an additional levy for individual protection, was laughably naive and not achieved in its implementation.

The reorganisation of the Solicitors Complaints Bureau was another target. There was never any possibility of Mears' own proposals having any chance of success, involving as they did the option of bringing it in-house and appointing some kind of independent inspector.

The most interesting concept was to improve our perception in the eyes of the public. This target depends on how you measure success. So far, however, I have not encountered anyone coming up to me saying how grateful they are for the profession's contribution to society as a whole, nor admiring the views that come forth from Chancery Lane as being representative of a great and forward-looking profession. One lady asked me if I had anything to do with the unattractive views that were coming forth on the issue of equal opportunities (fortunately I was able to disabuse her of my involvement). But it does give some indication of how backward our views are perceived to be by the public at large.

The need for change this year makes it essential that everyone votes in the forthcoming presidential elections. Nothing has been achieved in the last 12 months, and nothing will be achieved with the approach adopted by Messrs Mears and Sayer. Whatever can be achieved will only be done by negotiation and diplomacy, two words which do not seem to be in their dictionary.