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Hudson steps down from Law Society

Chief executive will retire in July after eight years

14 March 2014

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Law Society chief executive Des Hudson is to retire from his role after this year's annual general meeting in July.

Qualified as both an accountant and solicitor, Hudson joined the society as chief executive in 2006, the year that Chancery Lane was stripped of its regulatory function and within months of Antony Townsend taking the helm at the newly created Solicitors Regulation Authority. Townsend left the SRA last month and has been succeeded by Paul Philip.

Joining as the Legal Services Act came into force, Hudson has been steering the representative body through a challenging professional environment marked by the opening of the market to non-solicitor-owned organisations, greater competition from other legal professionals, and stringent cuts to legal aid.

"A year ago I took the decision to retire in 2014," Hudson said, adding it has been "a privilege and a pleasure to serve the Law Society during this time of change for the legal profession".

At a time of increasing market fragmentation, Hudson faced difficulties in keeping Chancery Lane relevant to a more diverse profession, with rising unrest from solicitors in the regions and City firms regularly threatening to break away.

The possibility that the representative body may one day have to raise its own revenue rather than rely on income from the practising fee certificate led him to consider possible alternative sources.

This included an ill-fated attempt to allow non-solicitors to become associate members, which was rejected by the membership at an extraordinary general meeting in 2009.

His role in leading a campaign against the drastic cuts to legal aid included court applications, which succeeded in delaying some aspects of the government reforms but failed in stopping them altogether.

His decision to engage in negotiations with the government on the issue was regarded as the only sensible option for some but also attracted wide criticism particularly from criminal legal aid lawyers. One, James Parry, became the main voice against Hudson's part, calling on his resignation and that of current society president Nick Fluck.

Hudson was also the driving force behind the development of controversial but successful initiatives such as the conveyancing quality scheme, which now has about 3,000 member firms.

However, his idea to integrate interest groups into the Law Society was perhaps financially sound but met with unexpected resistance.

The Trainee Solicitors Group was the exception and became the Chancery Lane-managed Junior Lawyer. Other interest groups, such as the Commercer and Industry Group (C&I),the Solicitors Association of Higher Courts Advocates (SAHCA) and the Sole Practitioners Group (SPG), decided to retain their independence.

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