• Sundeep Bhatia

Law Society Council

In March of this year it was my honour to be appointed one of the Law society council members for the black minority ethnic constituency(ie the Law Society of England and Wales). The Law Society Council tends to be a secretive body in that most solicitors are unaware of it’s functions and how it’s members are elected. I personally think that this is due to a failure of publicity rather than a wish to rule in secrecy. There is ,therefore,a need for an article such as this to demystify the Council and to explain it’s functions as clearly as possible to the Solicitors of England and Wales. This article is a personal reflection after four months membership.It is not definitive and I do accept that I still have a lot to learn. Council can be described as a mini Parliament which sits for(from September 2010) 1.5 days every five weeks . Members are appointed to represent different constituencies.These can be either geographical,or specialist interest constituencies such as my own,Junior Lawyers or sole practitioners In all there are ninety three members of council. Members are elected for four year terms of office .They are unpaid apart from payment of travel expenses and , in the case of those attending from afar,hotel accommodation. Council sits at The Law Society’s Chancery Lane Headquarters in London. There is a modern council chamber on the second floor equipped with an advanced electronic voting system . Boards and committees of the Law Society put forward papers and topics for discussion and voting at council.These papers are distributed to council members a week or ten days prior to the next council meeting.Council members often have to consider several hundred pages of such papers. These papers and the votes of council form the basis of Law Society policy on a number of constitutional and policy issues. Council is chaired by the President of the Law Society who is currently Linda Lee.She sits at the front facing council members flanked by The Chief -Executive,The Vice President, who will rise to become President once Linda Lees term is at an end, and the Deputy Vice-President who will become President 12 months after The Vice-President. Council elects the Deputy Vice-President each year from within it’s own membership and therefore Council elects the President two years in advance so that a process of grooming for high office can take place. Council members,at council meetings, present their papers from a lectern next to the Presidential table.Council members are then given the opportunity to question and discuss those papers.Representatives from the Solicitors Regulation Authority also attend to put forward their papers. Papers and topics for discussion are put into two categories.Part 1 means those papers and topics can be publically and freely discussed. Part 2 means the discussion is subject to Chatham house rules and cannot be freely discussed outside of council. At the end of a debate,where applicable, a vote is taken. Council also elects the heads of the various Boards and committees of the Law Society and members of council also serve as members of those boards. The Law Society advertises vacancies for Council . Anyone interested in becoming a council member should firstly consider participating in their local Law Society or representative organisations representing solicitors.

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