Law Society president uses resignation to try for second term

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The Independent Online

The President of the Law Society is hoping to run for an unprecedented second term by capitalising on the downfall of his vice-president.

Robert Sayer gave evidence at the tribunal which found that Kamlesh Bahl had bullied staff, a ruling that led to her resignation in February. He has now written to members of the society's council to say that, rather than stepping aside when his year is up, as is customary, he intends to become the first solicitor to hold the presidential office for two years running. Under the de facto system of Buggins's turn used by the society, Ms Bahl had been on course to replace him in July, becoming the first president of the professional body who was either a woman or a member of an ethnic minority.

But her ambitions were dashed by a damning report into her behaviour by Lord Griffiths, a former law lord.

Mr Sayer said the allegations against Ms Bahl and the subsequent Griffiths inquiry had been a "disaster" for the profession. But, he said: "The silver lining is now that it is over we can get back on track, back to the real work of modernising the Law Society."

Mr Sayer said he hoped to strike a deal with Ms Bahl's successor, Michael Napier, who had been expected to run as president in next month's election. If Mr Napier agrees to continue as vice-president, Mr Sayer would probably be re-elected unopposed.

"In that way, we can show the world we have put the past behind us and at last have a consensus for change," Mr Sayer said. His decision, which he hoped would end the "political bickering" at the society, was without "political ambition" and was for the good of the profession, he said.

But Mr Sayer is at the heart of the recent bickering. He was named by Ms Bahl in her claim against the society for racial and sexual discrimination and was accused, in a legal opinion written by Cherie Booth QC, of being responsible for an attempt to have the former vice-president physically removed from her office over the bullying allegations.

One Law Society council member said that, if anything, Mr Sayer's decision to stand for a second term would add to the organisation's woes.

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