Law Society at the crossroads

Another year and another Law Society presidential election. But although those elected may change, the attitudes of the profession do not.

Inertia and apathy rules amongst the electorate which simply cannot see a reason to tick a box and give the presidential candidates a mandate.

The problem facing the new team is the same one that has faced candidates in recent years: solicitors simply do not seem to believe that their vote will make any difference.

Many in the profession admit to despairing when the Law Society is mentioned. It does not deliver what they want, yet few are willing to say what they do want.

The Law Society spends its members' money staffing a huge bureaucratic organisation. Increasingly, it is seen as being on the defensive and trying to justify its existence.

The victors are promising radical internal reform as an immediate priority. We wish them luck.

The Law Society does need to redefine itself, and we have already called on it to give up its tenacious fight to hold on to self-regulation. But there is a real danger that Michael Mathews, Robert Sayer and Kamlesh Bahl will be too preoccupied with trying to reform the society to provide effective leadership over such key issues as the reforms to the civil justice and legal aid systems and the future of the Solicitors Indemnity Fund.

Yes, the Law Society should be reformed, but the solicitors' profession also needs strong, charismatic leaders who will actively lead the way on legal aid, who will not be afraid of a good fight with the government, who will inspire and who will make them feel good about being members of the Law Society.

Leadership from the front is more important now than ever. With this aim in mind, Mathews and his team should immediately swallow their pride and appoint the defeated Michael Napier to lead the society's negotiations with the Government over its planned legal aid and civil justice reforms. That would allow them to concentrate on reforming the society. Such a move would make perfect sense. But it probably will not happen.