Alasdair Douglas will step down as chair of the City of London Law Society (CLLS) later this year as the legal sector moves closer to substantive reform of its representative bodies, with the government exploring making legal service regulators independent from their representative bodies.
Douglas (pictured) is to leave the CLLS after five years in charge, during which time the UK government has dramatically increased court fees, threatened the City with a law firm tax and created a turf war between legal regulators and representative bodies with plans to make the Solicitors Regulatory Authority (SRA) independent from the Law Society.
Alongside TheCityUK, Douglas helped quash the law firm levy and at the start of his tenure rebuilt bridges between the Law Society and the SRA.
The CLLS, which was largely created as a reaction to the Law Society’s focus on High Street law firms at the expense of large City firms, represents around 17,000 City lawyers. Some senior figures in the legal market have suggested the CLLS take up a more prominent role, with better funding, should the Law Society be stripped of its practicing certificate fee income if the SRA wins its bid for independence. The body’s critics, however, feel it is too lightweight to influence the government.
Douglas’s exit leaves a leadership vacuum in the representation of City law firms, with the Law Society busy with a bid to regain control of training and standards from the SRA, but also an opportunity to expand given his preference for remaining small and nimble.
Douglas, who was previously a senior partner at Travers Smith, announced his decision at the body’s AGM yesterday. He will formally retire once a successor has been appointed in the Autumn, but is not disappearing from the legal sector altogether, as will become chair of trustees at solicitors’ pro bono charity LawWorks on 15 June.
Clifford Chance partner Simon Davis, who is a committee member of the CLLS, is leading a special committee tasked with identifying and appointing Douglas’s successor. The role is unpaid.
Douglas said: ‘The future of legal regulation is a crucial challenge facing the profession, and is one of a number of live issues which the CLLS is dealing with. I think the time is right to hand over responsibility to a new Chairman, who can lead our work in this area and represent the City of London interests in the debate.’
To read more on regulation in the City see: ‘Taxation without representation – would you pay for the Law Society to represent you?’