PR guru hired to revive profession

Sir Tim Bell, Baroness Thatcher's public relations guru, has been called in by the Law Society to look at ways of boosting the public image of solicitors.

It is understood £200,000 has been earmarked to pay Bell, who helped to mastermind several Tory general election campaigns.

Bell, who helped Thatcher to power in the 1980s, arrived at Chancery Lane as the society experienced yet another outburst of disunity, this time among president Martin Mears' own supporters.

Two women council members have quit the President's Reform Group, leaving it without any female representation.

Angela Deacon and Helen Davies resigned in protest at the president's disparaging remarks about the “discrimination industry” at last month's Woman Lawyer II conference.

Davies said: “I felt my position became untenable after his speech. Discrimination issues are very real for women in the profession.”

Bell briefed a strategy committee meeting at the society last week on his ideas to restore the profession's fortunes.

But he is yet to be signed up on a full-time basis because the committee, whose members include Mears and deputy vice-president Tony Girling, have not decided on what basis to employ him.

Girling said Bell could play a critical role in advising on an overall communications strategy, or be retained specifically to oversee its forthcoming campaign on legal aid.

Employing Bell's company, Lowbell Communications, “is one option open to us in looking at our needs as a whole,” said Girling.

The Law Society Council is reviewing a number of ways to improve the reputation of solicitors and has heard pitches from a number of advertising agencies. J Walter Thompson is the favoured group to run an advertising campaign, which could cost up to £5 million.

However, disagreement has already surfaced between Mears and Girling over the issue of television advertising.

Girling confirmed there were differences of opinion on how much importance should be attached to a TV campaign.

Meanwhile, the Law Society is bracing itself for a presidential rival to emerge to oppose Mears at the elections in July. Girling is widely tipped as a contender.

Other members are still hoping Association of Personal Injury Lawyers leader Michael Napier will change his mind and decide to stand.