Law Society Proposes to Cut Local Government Council Seats from 2 to 1 and Remove Direct Nomination

Publish date: 08/08/2019

The Law Society, as part of its last phase of internal governance reform (which has been rolling for some years now) is currently examining the composition and size of its Council members for a decision in October 2019. It proposes to reduce Council Seats from 100 to 75. Amongst other proposals, local government lawyer dedicated seats are being recommended for reduction to two to one. Further, unlike the current seats which are occupied by virtue of direct nomination from LLG (following a competitive recruitment exercise within the sector), the Law Society will recruit directly themselves to this one seat. WE NEED YOUR INPUT TO HELP RETAIN TWO SEATS

The Law Society, as part of its last phase of internal governance reform (which has been rolling for some years now) is currently examining the composition and size of its Council members for a decision in October 2019. It proposes to reduce Council Seats from 100 to 75. Amongst other proposals, local government lawyer dedicated seats are being recommended for reduction to two to one. In 2017 there were 4,488 local government solicitors holding practicing certificates on the roll of solicitors representing 3.2% of the profession.

Further, unlike the current seats which are occupied by virtue of direct nomination from LLG (following a competitive recruitment exercise within the sector), the Law Society will recruit directly themselves to this one seat and all in-house seats will be reduced to establish 4 in-house non-corporate seats classed as 'sector characteristic seats' (of which the local government sector will get one as highlighted above).

To be proportionately represented, LLG's position is that the local government sector would continue to require 2 seats on the council with ideally both, but at least one being directly nominated by LLG. We say this for the following reasons:-

1. LLG and its predecessor company, SLG, have a long history with the Law Society having previously been a recognised body in receipt of grant funding. However, the Law Society created its own 'in-house' division in 2013, incorporating all the in-house sectors including corporate into one division and SLG merged with ACSeS to create LLG. We retained the two council seat nominations (as we historically always had) whilst the Law Society worked through its 4-year governance review. LLG was formed to provide a voice and sector specific support including bespoke training and guidance. Since that time, it has moved strongly into national influencing and campaigning in areas such as Brexit and the National Graduate Recruitment Scheme. The In-house division within the Law Society however, and it is entirely fair to say so, has predominately focused on the corporate in-house sector.

2. LLG is the established national body for Lawyers in Local Government. Engagement through our directly nominated Council Seat representatives has enabled and informed knowledgeable local government solicitors to advocate on behalf of our sector directly with the Law Society and they themselves have benefited from the companies work-streams and dedicated staff base in order to effectively represent at Council level. An individual appointment outside of that arena may be unwilling to engage with LLG or indeed just lack the breadth of sector knowledge which comes from exposure and involvement with LLG.

3. The way in which the Law Society intend to structure its Council into 'segments' sectors and work-types has the effect of reducing the weight attached to the numbers of Solicitors in a sector and the value and/or legitimacy of their national representative body. Local Government employ a significant number of the profession and there are some unique aspects of the working environment for those solicitors which needs to be properly represented within the Law Society, otherwise it will become irrelevant to that chunk of the profession.

4. Such a reduction of seats and lack of direct nomination could completely disenfranchise public sector lawyers. It is in the best interests of the profession as a whole, that the Law Society remains truly representative.

5. LLG is representative of the sector by virtue of our elected office holders and branch structure, and it would seem logical that we continue to make nominations to the Council utilising an open and transparent recruitment process.

6. The proposals more widely appear to diminish the influence of other sectors not just local government including; central government, health and not-for-profit organisations. This begs the question whether it follows greater weight has been attached within the proposals to city firms and larger private practice?

We urgently need your views on the Law Society Proposals. Please send your comments to Helen McGrath on the reduction of council seats and the loss of direct nomination. We want to hear from a broad spectrum of our membership but please indicate in your response whether or not you are a solicitor.