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LSEW chief executive resigns over governance reform failures

4 January 2017

The Law Society of England & Wales is looking for a new chief executive, following the surprise resignation today of Catherine Dixon, who has held the post for the past two years.

In a letter addressed to the Society's Council, Ms Dixon, herself a solicitor, blamed failure by LSEW's Council to back reforms that would have streamlined its governance. "I cannot in good faith continue to be CEO of an organisation which is... not prepared to change", she wrote.

Ms Dixon said the Society's current structure left it unable to operate in a "responsive and agile" way, and therefore unable to respond effectively to the "hostile environment" in which it had to compete against other orgainsations which did have such structures. She found it "impossible, as an effective chief executive officer, to navigate the complex and often overlapping boards (and sometimes committees), in a way which best serves the organisation and its members".

Yet after taking nearly a year to formulate proposals for reform, including implementation of a main board, Council had chosen "to vote against and/or delay such change", deciding that Council seats would first have to be reviewed.

She concluded: "I cannot in good conscience continue to act as the CEO of an organisation when I do not support the decision by Council not to rigorously pursue governance reform in what I believe is in the best interests of the profession and the organisation. Therefore, just like any accountable board member who does not support a critical decision of that board, I feel that I am left with no option but to resign."

Society President Robert Bourns responded: "We are extremely grateful to Catherine for her tireless and effective work for the Law Society as chief executive. Her achievements in the last two years are numerous and include delivering a new strategy and three-year plan, building our influence and thought leadership and promoting member focus at the heart of our work.

"I note Catherine’s comments on the pace of the governance review. It is important that we press on with changes in order to take the organisation and the profession forward. I aim to use the rest of my presidency to help drive the next stage of the review and propose further changes."

Plans for the recruitment of a successor would be announced "in due course".


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