Belting out the chorus to the first song at Ian Smart’s farewell karaoke night, one thing sprang to mind. “When you’re strange”, the refrain went. And, no, my thoughts were not on the outgoing President or his replacement, Jamie Millar, both excellent and popular office bearers. In fact, the lyrics seemed a fitting description of the Society’s outdated constitution, which earlier in the day could have resulted in our members passing three conflicting motions on the issue of alternative business structures at our AGM, or indeed none of them at all.
Ultimately, two motions supporting some form of ABSs were successful and the Council ratified the one on which its own policy was based – allowing 51% ownership of firms by solicitors or solicitors with other regulated professionals and 49% external capital. However, the potential for confusion was obvious, summed up by one AGM contributor who described the voting process as a “right guddle”.
Thankfully, proposals to replace the Society’s constitution and standing orders – and their idiosyncrasies – with a modern, effective rulebook that is fit for purpose for a 21st century professional body of 10,500 members are advancing. Originally proposed last year as part of a wider process of reforming and improving our governance arrangements, we are now ready to issue a consultation to members. Look out for more information in the June e-bulletin.
An updated constitution is vital if we are to better represent, lead and support our members. Likewise, it must be flexible enough to adapt in the future without the need to go cap in hand to Government to seek further legislative change. A revised constitution will also be needed if the Society is to regulate those who want to adopt the kinds of new business structures proposed in the Legal Services (Scotland) Bill.
The previous consultation on governance reform, which looked at the composition of the Council, provided some valuable feedback. So too has the feedback from our survey of those who attended the AGM. I would strongly urge members to again pass on their views in this consultation. We are committed to making the necessary improvements but, in the words of another favourite at the karaoke night – ably performed by colleagues from our law reform team – “It takes two”.Lorna Jack is Chief Executive of the Law Society of Scotland