By a vote today of 228 votes to 213, the assembled solicitors in Chancery Lane have passed a vote of no confidence in the Law Society.
The motion stated “That the meeting has no confidence in the ability of Nicholas Fluck, President of the Law Society of England and Wales, and Desmond Hudson, Chief Executive of the Law Society of England and Wales, to properly and effectively represent those members of the Society who undertake publicly funded legal aid work in negotiations with the Lord Chancellor as to the future and extent of criminal legal aid in England and Wales on the grounds that they purported to enter into an agreement with the Lord Chancellor without a mandate from those members of the Society who practise publicly funded criminal law and in circumstances where the purported agreement was to the detriment of and against the will of those members and to the maintenance of a sustainable legal aid service to those subject to criminal proceedings.”
We understand that the next stage would be a postal vote of no confidence triggered by the events of today. Whilst the organisers of this vote have stated up to now that they do not intend to take this to a postal ballot because the message that this sends to The Law Society is clear, it remains to be seen what the wider reaction is from the profession.
What does this mean for conveyancing and, in particular, conveyancers within solicitors firms?
Today’s Conveyancer rarely offers an opinion on these types of issue however the Law Society Conveyancing Portal is an important new project and this vote may impact on it.
Firstly, if criminal legal aid lawyers push this further, there are clearly strong feelings in the profession about the management and leadership within the Law Society that may result in changed behaviours. The Law Society may in future choose to pause and listen to the profession before it takes big actions. This course of action could delay the Portal and therefore have an impact on our conveyancing market.
Alternatively the leadership may try to strengthen their resolve to effect change and push forward more quickly with their chosen projects, such as the Conveyancing Portal. As the Portal is a considerable IT project with potentially eye watering costs, if it fails to produce an economic return, it could significantly damage the finances of the Law Society.
Should this happen, what might be the reaction of other disciplines within the profession who believe the Law Society is acting in a way that is putting them out of business? Ironically if the Portal is successful and improves the efficiency of conveyancing, will there be the demand for so many conveyancers and could the project itself face similar challenges as those raised today?
The Conveyancing Portal is important to improve the customer experience of the conveyancing process, which seems no longer fit for purpose, however fighting and lack of confidence in the leadership at the Law Society does not bode well for this project.