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On Chancery Lane – Law Society appoints NHSLA head as successor to outgoing chief

In the days when in-house lawyers have gained increasing influence in law and business, the Law Society could be seen to have played safe in the appointment of its new head. Chancery Lane today (14 August) announced the appointment of NHS Litigation Authority (NHSLA) chief executive Catherine Dixon to succeed its outgoing chief executive Des Hudson, who is to retire at the end of August.

Dixon (pictured)  has since 2012 served as chief executive for the NHSLA, which handles claims against the NHS and has in recent years managed a legal spend of over £250m annually.

Other prominent in-house roles for Dixon include serving as general counsel and company secretary for the NSPCC, and as head of legal of Bupa Care Services. She will join the Law Society ‘in the next few months’ according to a statement.

Dixon steps into the role of Law Society chief executive amid a period of some tension between the body and the profession. Following a vote of no confidence in the Law Society’s leadership, passed narrowly in a special general meeting held in December, Hudson announced his retirement in March. Members of the profession called for Hudson and then Law Society president Nicholas Fluck to resign over their ability to represent publicly funded solicitors in negotiations with the Lord Chancellor Chris Grayling on legal aid reform.

However, Hudson, who joined the body in 2006 from the Institute of Chartered Accountants of Scotland, did lead numerous high-profile campaigns, including the introduction of initiatives such as the Law Society’s conveyancing quality scheme and the wills and inheritance quality scheme.

Hudson’s term divided the profession. His supporters saw his leadership as bringing in more rigour and discipline to Chancery Lane during a period when the body had faced internal discord, in-fighting and a difficult repositioning following the loss of its regulatory brief. Detractors argue that the Hudson-era Law Society struck an increasingly dictatorial tone and failed to unite an increasingly disparate profession.

Other appointments made by the body in recent months included the election of TLT Solicitors senior partner Robert Bourns as deputy vice president, with the expectation that he will become president in 2016.

President of the Law Society Andrew Caplen, who succeeded Nicholas Fluck last month after his term came to an end, said: ‘I am delighted that we have someone with Catherine’s track record in the profession to help take the organisation forward. I very much look forward to working with her.’

Commenting on her appointment, Dixon said: ‘I am committed to ensuring that the Law Society has a strong voice for all our members. I want to help the organisation represent, promote and support the profession across the spectrum of practice, speaking up for them and creating an environment in which the entire profession can flourish.’

Click here to see Catherine Dixon’s entry in the 2013 Legal Business Power List report