The profession should bury its differences and help build a new consensus, says vice-president of the Law Society Robert Sayer

If the profession is going to solve its problems, we must adopt a much longer-term strategy than we have in the past.

One obstacle to this is our electoral system, with the president himself effectively having only nine months to implement a manifesto and no one knowing whether the next president will abandon what is achieved and embark on a different tack. This really is no way to run a highly complex profession.

Add the obvious disenchantment in the profession for continuous elections, and the need for a different approach providing sensible continuity is overwhelming.

Michael Mathews, Kamlesh Bahl and I have therefore decided to adopt a new leadership structure with each office holder actively supporting the others to form a framework extending over several years.

Together we intend to set an agenda running well into the next century. The changes begun in Michael's year will be carried on by myself and by Kamlesh and we in turn will build on them.

By making sure the direction in which we are travelling is one endorsed and actively supported by the profession, the Law Society Council and the staff, we will create a foundation that those who come after us will be able to use as a springboard to create a strong and influential profession.

This is not merely rhetoric. We believe a concerted long-term programme is essential if the profession is to survive and be profitable.

How do we decide the right direction? How do we get all those involved to sign up for it? Only by consensus.

We are a diverse profession. There are legitimate differences of opinion, but we can live with them provided we reach agreement on the fundamentals.

What does being a solicitor mean in the modern world? What is the role of our professional body? Only by reaching agreement on these and other basic points can we create coherent policies to see the profession safely through the next decade.

The three of us are initiating a profession-wide debate. We have already started the process. We are talking to those who can help us define and clarify the core issues.

At the beginning of September there will be a special meeting of the entire council. Over the next few weeks we will tell you how you can join the great debate.

Please do. Put aside the cynicism and help us shape a Law society to which you will be proud to belong.