The Law Society of England and Wales (officially The Law Society) is the professional association that represents and governs the lawyers' profession for the jurisdiction of England and Wales. It provides services and support to practising and training lawyers as well as serving as a sounding board for law reform. Members of the Society are often consulted when important issues are being debated in Parliament or by the executive. The Society was formed in 1825.
A president is elected annually to serve for one year. The current president is Joe Eagan.
The London Law Institution, the predecessor to the Law Society, was founded in 1823 when many London Solicitors came together to raise the reputation of the profession by setting standards and ensuring good practice. 'London' was dropped from the title in 1825 to reflect the fact that the Law Institution had national aspirations.
The Society was founded on 2 June 1825, when a committee of management was appointed. The Society acquired its first Royal Charter in 1831 as The Society of Attorneys, Solicitors, Proctors and others not being Barristers, practising in the Courts of Law and Equity of the United Kingdom. A new Charter in 1845 defined the Society as an independent, private body servicing the affairs of the profession like other professional, literary and scientific bodies. By further Royal Charter in 1903 the name of the Society was changed to simply "The Law Society". The Society first admitted women members in 1922.
In July 2013, the Association of Women Solicitors (AWS), a national organisation working with and representing women solicitors in the United Kingdom, merged with the Law Society to form its Women Lawyers Division. Although merged, the AWS will operate separately from the Law Society.
In 1834, the Society first initiated proceedings against dishonest practitioners. By 1907, the Society possessed a statutory disciplinary committee, and was empowered to investigate solicitors' accounts and to issue annual practising certificates. In 1983, the Society established the Office for the Supervision of Solicitors to deal with complaints about solicitors. Complaints regarding the conduct of solicitors are now dealt with by the Solicitors Regulation Authority (SRA). However complaints regarding poor service are the remit of the Legal Ombudsman.
The Solicitors Act 1860 enabled the Society to create a three-tier examination system. In 1903, the Society established its own Law Society School of Law, which later merged with tutorial firm Gibson and Weldon to become the independent College of Law. By 1922 The Law Society required a compulsory academic year for all clerks.
Following the recommendations of the Clementi Review The Law Society split its representative and regulatory functions.
Complaints from the public are handled by the Legal Ombudsman which is a single portal for complaints by the public made against all providers of legal services including the Bar, licensed conveyancers etc., but excluding unqualified will-writers.
The regulatory body for solicitors is the Solicitors Regulation Authority. It is a Board of The Law Society although it regulates and enforces regulation completely independently of the Law Society. The Law Society remains the approved regulator, although following the Legal Services Act 2007 a new body, the Legal Services Board (chaired by Sir Michael Pitt, a government appointee) oversees all the approved regulators including the Bar Council, which has also divested its regulatory functions into the Bar Standards Board.