Look to the future or fail, urges Hayes

Outgoing Law Society secretary general John Hayes has warned that the current turmoil in the profession “is not revolution but the possible emergence of a flat earth law society”.

In a lecture organised by the European Policy Forum last Thursday, Hayes admonished hostility to beneficial developments in the profession with a veiled attack on president Martin Mears as the “political voice” of those most hostile to such development.

Hayes criticised the use of scapegoats by what he called “desperate practitioners” who were suspicious of change.

In particular, he said that linking a decline in high street practitioner income with a belief that too many people were seeking to enter the profession was unsustainable given that only 8 per cent of the new generation planned to do conveyancing work after qualification.

He also criticised the profession for its reluctance in accepting basic standards of client care, including practice management standards which were seen as “intrusive forms of unnecessary regulation”.

In answer to critics who argue the law is a profession not a business, Hayes countered: “How managing badly and not thinking foremost of client needs gives your practice an edge over mere business, still puzzles me.”

Hayes also called for the profession to enter into a debate about new models for firms, including multi-disciplinary practices. He said the profession should do more than merely defend the status quo, particularly in the light of advances made by the big accountancy firms into the European legal scene.