Philip Thomson, County Solicitor at Essex, was elected President of Lawyers in Local Government (LLG) at the Weekend School in York on Saturday (5 April).
Thomson becomes the second president of LLG, taking over from Lambeth Council director of governance Mark Hynes who led the organisation in its first year following the merger of Solicitors in Local Government (SLG) and the Association of Council Secretaries and Solicitors (ACSeS).
Bev Cullen, Assistant County Solicitor at Lancashire County Council, was elected Vice-President. Nigel Snape of Hereford and Worcester Fire and Rescue Authority will continue as Treasurer of LLG, while Nicholas Dobson remains as Communications Officer.
Speaking at LLG’s annual general meeting, Thomson said it was “a great honour and privilege” to be elected president.
On the first year of LLG, he said: “It took a huge amount of work to move from two organisations to one. We wanted the organisation to be a new organisation with new thinking and we have achieved that in remarkably short time.”
He added that this had much to do with the leadership, hard work and thinking that Hynes had brought to LLG during the year, including initiatives such as corporate partnership deals with the private sector.
In his speech Thomson also paid particular tribute to the work of Cullen (former chair of SLG), Helen McGrath (former vice-chair of SLG), Philip McCourt (ex-President of ACSeS) and Snape.
The new president said he would be seeking to meet as many members of LLG as possible during his year in office to get their views on what should be done to drive the organisation forward.
“LLG is not just an amalgam of SLG and ACSeS – we have lots of new members,” he added. “They will have opinions and requirements for support that we will need to focus on.”
Thomson said the organisation would look to address the profession’s standing in the local government sector, which he said was not what it was.
He said he did not how far the monitoring officer role had played a part in that trend. It was an important role but not one that spoke of innovation and progression, he suggested.
However, Thomson said LLG would be working towards getting lawyers “back on the top table, back as part of the senior management group”.
This could be achieved, he said, but added that there was a need to be realistic and look at the alternatives, a Plan B, if it proved too difficult.
“This is a time of considerable threat, but also a time of considerable opportunity,” he said. “We have an opportunity…. to be innovative in the development of legal services.”
Thomson suggested that there were opportunities in the wider public sector, with many organisations not even obtaining legal advice.
The new president said he saw LLG’s special activity areas as an ideal way to make a difference and help support the organisation’s members. Support will also be given to development of its branches.
Thomson highlighted the organisation’s first ever awards ceremony, which will be held in London in November and celebrate the achievements of the sector.
In his speech as outgoing president, Hynes said the organisation could be proud of what had been achieved in its first 12 months. “It is not easy to take two well-established organisations and create a larger one.”
He added: “We needed to enhance the reputation of all lawyers in local government and speak authoritatively with one voice on issues. We have developed the brand and reputation, and created a strong platform for moving things forward.”