Proposed reforms will reinforce Law Society governance for the future of the profession


A set of reforms designed to modernise the way the Law Society of NSW is governed would create a more dynamic, efficient and responsive voice for the profession.

President Joanne van der Plaat encouraged all members of the Law Society to review the proposals closely and vote, or assign their proxy, to steer the Law Society in the direction they think is best.

“The Law Society Council has been working on this project for most of this year and is recommending the proposed reforms to Law Society members after listening to experts in modern governance and, most importantly, members themselves,” Ms van der Plaat said.

The Constitution of the Law Society requires that the Council review regularly whether the Council Reserved Positions adequately reflect the composition of the solicitor membership of the Society. Earlier this year, the Council resolved to broaden this exercise to include a wider governance review. 

Guided by a recent membership online survey and advice from corporate governance experts Cameron Ralph Khoury, the Council identified four key areas to improve its effectiveness and agility in representing the profession.

Modern governance principles hold that on the best boards, less is more. A smaller, more responsive Law Society Council will allow for better contribution from each board member. Organisations need to have renewal, so skills are refreshed. Treasurers are becoming less common on boards and on rare occasions, Presidents’ terms may need extending.

The Annual General Meeting will decide whether to adopt the following reforms:

  • Reduce the Council size from 21 to 15, by halving Council Reserved Positions;
  • A term limit of three consecutive three-year terms;
  • Removing the position of Treasurer; and
  • Introducing flexibility for Council to extend a President’s term under extenuating circumstances.

“These are significant reforms and I accept that not everyone will agree with them. I do agree with them. At the 27 October Annual General Meeting I will be voting for this reform package which offers to the Law Society a valuable opportunity to adopt best practice modern governance principles,” Ms van der Plaat said. 

Should members approve these changes at the AGM, the Council will work on two further non-constitutional changes. These further improvements will involve the development of a more clarified role description for the President, so that activities are focused on adding most value to the Law Society, and the introduction of a skills-focused CV requirement for candidates seeking election to Council, which will enhance the skills mix of Councillors.

Wednesday, 21 September 2022