With over 12,000 qualified solicitors as our members, the Law Society has the advantage of a diverse membership with a rich mix of legal skills and experiences. Such diversity offers a wide range of perspectives that facilitate a more comprehensive canvass of issues affecting the development of the legal profession.
The challenge is to effectively bring in that diversity and at the same time achieve consensus and unity in our work.
Many members are keen to be involved in the work of the Law Society and enquire how they can contribute. Understanding how the Law Society operates will help members decide what kind of involvement best suits them.
The governing body of the Law Society is the Council, which focuses on policy issues. Under the direction of the Council, the Law Society’s work, which is delegated to six Standing Committees, centres around safeguarding the rule of law, maintaining standards, supporting members, improving the practice environment, reaching out globally for the development of the profession and giving back to community.
Under each Standing Committee, there are different committees and working parties responsible for specific tasks within the remit of the Standing Committee. We currently have 74 committees and sub-committees and 39 working parties and interest groups manned by a total of about 608 members.
Practitioners Affairs deals with law reforms and policies affecting the legal profession. Among all the Standing Committees, it runs the largest number of committees, nearly 30 committees and 10 working parties. They are all specialist committees on different legal practice areas reviewing consultations, proposed reforms or current issues that concern the legal profession, offering views from the legal perspectives based on their specialised legal experiences in the area. For instance, the Constitutional Affairs and Human Rights Committee under Practitioners Affairs has recently been busy offering input on the legal issues arising from the national security legislation for consideration by the Council.
Compliance deals with the regulatory and administrative aspects of the profession. Standards and Development maintains standards of professional practice through formulation of practice rules and training, and oversees the CPD Scheme and the Overseas Lawyers Qualification Examination. Both Compliance and Standards and Development go hand in hand in serving as a gatekeeper of professional practice standards.
Member Services enhances members' interests and benefits. It provides all round support to members ranging from general practice management support to sector specific support to groups of the profession like young lawyers, in house lawyers and SME firms, as well as well-being support like providing recreational and social activities for members.
External Affairs manages the Law Society's professional, media and community relations. It organises local and international networking opportunities for members to reach out and connect to the global legal community.
One of the ways for members to contribute to the work of the Law Society is through active participation in the Law Society committees and working parties.
To enable members to have an overall view of the committees and working parties that are open to co-option applications, a Circular inviting indications of interest to join any of the committees and working parties listed in the Circular is regularly issued on the first Monday of March and June. Regular appointments to committees and working parties will be made in October every year. There may also be ad hoc appointments to certain committees and working parties during the year (e.g. where a causal vacancy arises as a result of the retirement of a member).
It is pleasing to note that the response to our regular Co-option Circulars has been very good with an increasing number of members showing interest in our committee work. This is the first step in attracting diversity to ensure that the breadth of views from committee members is representative of a wide cross-section of our profession.
The next step is to build consensus from the diverse input by committee members. It is a challenging process, but it is only with unity in diversity that we can have a strong and loud voice. We can do it if we are prepared to listen to views other than our own and create common grounds to move forward.