So the proposed new constitution didn't make the cut at today's AGM, but having observed the debate and its aftermath I don't think that means the Society is destined to limp along indefinitely with the old version.
Perhaps it is ironic that when one of the objections to the draft was the need for a two thirds majority before a motion at general meeting becomes binding on Council, the Society's motion to rescind the current version should fall at a similar hurdle. But however long the process has been that has brought us to this stage, there were still some substantial points made against the draft by those present, and as the meeting went on it became obvious that it was a bit of a long shot to expect a sufficient number to approve the new model in the face of these.
Arguments that the document enshrined a conflict of interest between the Society's potential roles as regulator of the profession and also of legal services providers under the 2010 Act, strike me as an attempt to rerun last year's ABS debate, and the first referendum made it clear that a great majority wish to see the Society take on precisely such functions. However there were obvious further concerns, not just at the perceived dilution of members' rights in relation to meetings and referenda, but the potential for "governance by stealth" under article 16, as Craig Bennet of SLAS put it, and the effective disenfranchisement of non-practising members pointed out by former President David Preston, who observed that those retired from practice might yet have much to contribute.
But the meeting, which was clearly heeding the President's plea for a greater measure of respect in debate than has recently been shown in public, undoubtedly adopted a constructive attitude. This was exemplified when Mr Bennet, after the vote, assured us that SLAS were "not wreckers" and would work with the Society to produce a further version that could be regarded as "fit for purpose". The Council meeting later in the day took up this theme, and we can expect to see active efforts over the next few weeks to reach agreement in time for the planned May SGM. If they succeed, it will be a better outcome than approving a draft which is recognised as needing amendment even as it is passed.
It should be remembered that there will be pressure from outside to make progress. We believe that the provisions of the 2010 Act relating to Council are intended to come into force in June, and it will be a test of the Society's good faith in its relations with Government to be in a position to deliver measures which it agreed to promote in order to strengthen its independence compared with what the bill originally proposed, and even more so compared with what those on the consumer side of the fence still want.
There may have been a good number of voices raised against the current draft, but the prospect that others outside might start to agitate for less desirable changes, once the election is over, ought to concentrate minds.