You know you've got the opposition rattled when they resort to calling you names. So I was not too surprised when David McIntosh, the president of the Law Society, summoned me to the headmaster's study to admonish me for being a “maverick” and for playing truant [The Lawyer, 1 October].
I expected to be ordered to do detention and to have to write out a hundred times: “I must not propose the reform and modernisation of the Law Society.”
Being called a maverick is not that bad. After all, Mel Gibson, who starred in the film Maverick, was the good guy. He was a bit of a gambler and card-shark, though, which is not the reputation a Law Society Council member wants to have put around.
According to McIntosh, if you have something to say, you can only say it in the hallowed halls of Chancery Lane, which means first securing a spot on the agenda for council meetings. This is like getting a date with Pamela Anderson. Even if you do manage to fight your way through the mass of minders at Chancery Lane to the agenda gatekeepers, you can only ever get close enough to look but not touch. There is little chance for a mad maverick idea like a debate on reform slipping through.
McIntosh asks who my supporters are. Answer: the 934 City lawyers who voted me into office in June on my manifesto pledge to modernise the Law Society. It was no walkover – I had to fight off a challenge from the City of London Law Society's annointed candidate.
Perhaps I could ask McIntosh who his are. I had to expose myself to the rigours of a contested public election. I fought and won on a platform for reform. He was elected president not by the profession in a public vote, but privately, in a smoke-filled room at Chancery Lane by Buggins' turn. He is well supported by his spin doctors, though, who keep telling us that his reforms have the overwhelming support of the profession. In fact, only 16 per cent voted for them.
McIntosh will have to decide: am I an irresponsible meddler, or am I a successful businessman who is chief executive of his own multimillion-pound venture capital business, a £2m-a-year legal services consumer who knows about the needs of lawyers, having been the managing partner of two City firms and who is determined to restore confidence to the profession by bringing the principles of modern corporate governance to the Law Society and exposing it to greater public scrutiny?
No doubt McIntosh's heart is in the right place. I just wish he would open it to new ideas instead of trying to pretend that his reforms have the enthusiastic backing of the profession when they plainly do not. Let us hope the smoke clears soon to reveal less spin, more honest debate and no name-calling.
Christopher Digby-Bell is legal director and chief executive at Palmer Capital Partners and a Law Society council member for the City