Law: Why it's good to talk: Sharon Wallach reports on moves by the Law Society to improve its communication with smaller firms

The Law Society can't win. It is the solicitors' professional body, and those it represents range from the City heavyweight to the general practitioner. It is criticised by each end of the spectrum for concentrating on the needs of the other. To make matters worse, it has both a regulatory - some say over-regulatory - and a representative and advisory function.

Now the society has resolved to answer some of its critics with a programme aimed at supporting the high street. More than 8,100 firms - 95 per cent of the profession - have less than 10 partners. These firms constitute the backbone of the profession, according to the Law Society's president, Charles Elly. 'They are the point of contact between most members of the the public and solicitors,' he says.

Research published by the society this week highlights a major communications breakdown between those firms and their professional body. Half of the respondents to a postal survey felt they were poorly informed about the support and services offered by the society. However, those who had used society services were largely satisfied. The quality of communication by the society was categorised as poor by nearly half of sole practitioners and a quarter of four- or five-partner firms.

One step on the way to better communications is a two-year plan of roadshows, to which every member of the profession will be invited. 'We will explain our services and listen to the concerns members express to us,' Mr Elly says. 'I believe we will get in touch with a lot of members who appear to have got out of touch.' Informal meetings are also planned.

A communications audit will also be undertaken, beginning with the Gazette, the society's main channel of communication, Mr Elly says. The journal is well- written and informative, but the problem is that many lawyers don't read it, or at least not immediately.

'Our message has to be both effective and cost-effective,' Mr Elly says, citing the common complaint by members that they frequently receive two or more letters from the society in separate envelopes on any one day.

Andrew Lockley, head of the society's legal practice directorate responsible for co-ordinating the work with the high street firms, talks of the paradox behind the communication breakdown. 'A lot of information is flowing out from here,' he says, 'but a lot of it is not being absorbed. We have to make it more attractive and find ways of making solicitors take it in.'

The society has created the post of high street firms consultant, and the deputy vice-president, Henry Hodge, is to focus on the needs of those firms over the coming two years.

Mr Hodge is a high street practitioner at Hodge Jones & Allen in north London. He says: 'I am reasonably well-placed to upgrade the belief that the Law Society does care about high street solicitors, who are key players in a decent society.'

There has been a change in the way the profession views the Law Society, according to Mr Hodge. There is no longer the dread there was in the 1960s when a letter from the society arrived.

'Over the past 10 to 15 years, a huge effort and a lot of cash have gone into providing wide-ranging services,' Mr Hodge says. 'Now, we are regulating on the one hand and promoting, advising and helping on the other. The interface is a bit uncomfortable for some members. There is something in the culture that says this organisation is not going to be deeply loved by all its members.

'When I set up my firm in the late Seventies I asked the society what I needed to do. The answer was: 'Keep the solicitors' accounts rules'. Now there is a vast range of services, although obviously not needed by everyone all the time.'

Mr Lockley points out that the society does not go on providing services for which there is no demand. 'We must do constant market research, that's clear from the survey,' he says.

The major concerns of high street practitioners includes narrow or non-existent profit margins (particularly in conveyancing and legal aid work), over-regulation, not enough Law Society support geared to their needs, and inadequate public recognition of the social importance of smaller practices. It is clear the society has its hands full if it is to satisfy these concerns and sort out its communication problems with the vast majority of the profession.

(Photograph omitted)

Arts and Entertainment
The first film introduced Daniel Radcliffe to our screens, pictured here as he prepares to board the train to Hogwarts for the first time.
booksHow reading Harry Potter helps children grow up to be gay-friendly
News
news
News
i100
News
Netherlands' goalkeeper Tim Krul fails to make a save from Costa Rica's midfielder Celso Borges during a penalty shoot-out in the quarter-final between Netherlands and Costa Rica during the 2014 FIFA World Cup
newsGoalkeepers suffer from 'gambler’s fallacy' during shoot-outs
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
News
ebookA unique anthology of reporting and analysis of a crucial period of history
News
people
Arts and Entertainment
Standing the test of time: Michael J Fox and Christopher Lloyd in 'Back to the Future'
filmReview: A week late, Secret Cinema arrives as interactive screening goes Back to the Future
News
Chancellor George Osborne, along with the Prime Minister, have been 'complacently claiming the economy is now fixed', according to shadow Chancellor Ed Balls
i100... which is awkward, because he is their boss, after all
Travel
travel
Arts and Entertainment
Sydney and Melbourne are locked in a row over giant milk crates
artCultural relations between Sydney and Melbourne soured by row over milk crate art instillation
Arts and Entertainment
Adèle Exarchopoulos and Léa Seydoux play teeneage lovers in the French erotic drama 'Blue Is The Warmest Colour' - The survey found four times as many women admitting to same-sex experiences than 20 years ago
filmBlue Is The Warmest Colour, Bojack Horseman and Hobbit on the way
News
i100
News
Kenny Ireland, pictured in 2010.
peopleBenidorm, actor was just 68
Arts and Entertainment
Preparations begin for Edinburgh Festival 2014
Edinburgh festivalAll the best shows to see at Edinburgh this year
Environment
View from the Llanberis Track to the mountain lake Llyn
Du’r Arddu
environmentA large chunk of Mount Snowdon, in north Wales, is up for sale
Arts and Entertainment
arts + ents
Independent
Travel Shop
the manor
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on city breaks Find out more
santorini
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on chic beach resorts Find out more
sardina foodie
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on country retreats Find out more
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Wind Farm Civil Design Engineer

£55000 - £65000 Per Annum: The Green Recruitment Company: The Green Recruitmen...

Principal Marine Mechanical Engineer

£60000 - £70000 Per Annum: The Green Recruitment Company: The Green Recruitmen...

Principle Geotechnical Engineer

£55000 - £65000 Per Annum: The Green Recruitment Company: The Green Recruitmen...

Renewable Energy Construction Manager

£40000 - £50000 Per Annum: The Green Recruitment Company: The Green Recruitmen...

Day In a Page

Dress the Gaza situation up all you like, but the truth hurts

Robert Fisk on Gaza conflict

Dress the situation up all you like, but the truth hurts
Save the tiger: Tiger, tiger burning less brightly as numbers plummet

Tiger, tiger burning less brightly

When William Blake wrote his famous poem there were probably more than 100,000 tigers in the wild. These days they probably number around 3,200
5 News's Andy Bell retraces his grandfather's steps on the First World War battlefields

In grandfather's footsteps

5 News's political editor Andy Bell only knows his grandfather from the compelling diary he kept during WWI. But when he returned to the killing fields where Edwin Vaughan suffered so much, his ancestor came to life
Lifestyle guru Martha Stewart reveals she has flying robot ... to take photos of her farm

Martha Stewart has flying robot

The lifestyle guru used the drone to get a bird's eye view her 153-acre farm in Bedford, New York
Former Labour minister Meg Hillier has demanded 'pootling lanes' for women cyclists

Do women cyclists need 'pootling lanes'?

Simon Usborne (who's more of a hurtler) explains why winning the space race is key to happy riding
A tale of two presidents: George W Bush downs his paintbrush to pen father’s life story

A tale of two presidents

George W Bush downs his paintbrush to pen father’s life story
Restaurateur Mitch Tonks has given the Great Western Pullman dining car a makeover

The dining car makes a comeback

Restaurateur Mitch Tonks has given the Great Western Pullman dining car a makeover
Gallery rage: How are institutions tackling the discomfort of overcrowding this summer?

Gallery rage

How are institutions tackling the discomfort of overcrowding this summer?
Louis van Gaal has £500,000 video surveillance system installed to monitor Manchester United players

Eye on the prize

Louis van Gaal has £500,000 video surveillance system installed to monitor Manchester United players
Women's rugby: Tamara Taylor adds fuel to the ire in quest to land World Cup

Women's rugby

Tamara Taylor adds fuel to the ire in quest to land World Cup
Save the tiger: The day America’s love of backyard tigers led to a horrific bloodbath

The day America’s love of backyard tigers led to a horrific bloodbath

With only six per cent of the US population of these amazing big cats held in zoos, the Zanesville incident in 2011 was inevitable
Samuel Beckett's biographer reveals secrets of the writer's time as a French Resistance spy

How Samuel Beckett became a French Resistance spy

As this year's Samuel Beckett festival opens in Enniskillen, James Knowlson, recalls how the Irish writer risked his life for liberty and narrowly escaped capture by the Gestapo
We will remember them: relatives still honour those who fought in the Great War

We will remember them

Relatives still honour those who fought in the Great War
Star Wars Episode VII is being shot on film - and now Kodak is launching a last-ditch bid to keep celluloid alive

Kodak's last-ditch bid to keep celluloid alive

Director J J Abrams and a few digital refuseniks shoot movies on film. Simon Usborne wonders what the fuss is about
Once stilted and melodramatic, Hollywood is giving acting in video games a makeover

Acting in video games gets a makeover

David Crookes meets two of the genre's most popular voices