05 March 2021

Law Society of England and Wales president steps down over long-running client dispute

Portrait photograph of David Greene

High Court decision to reopen case against London-based litigator David Greene triggers early departure

The President of the Law Society of England & Wales, David Greene, has announced he will step down from his role early to defend allegations made against him by a former client. 

The experienced litigator, who is also the senior partner of London firm Edwin Coe, faces a forthcoming private prosecution in the Solicitors’ Disciplinary Tribunal (SDT), arising from a costs dispute with a former client who accused him of misleading the court. 

The Solicitors Regulation Authority, which would usually bring proceedings, had previously decided not to pursue the case before the SDT, which subsequently dismissed it.

The prosecution follows a decision by the High Court in January to order the SDT to reopen the case. The court’s decision led some commentators, including legal academic Professor Richard Moorhead to suggest the ruling had made Greene’s position as head of the profession untenable.  

Greene said: “In the past few weeks, a long-running issue to do with a dispute with a former client has been sent back to the Solicitors Disciplinary Tribunal (SDT) in a lay complaint following a decision in the High Court which is itself subject to appeal. This case dates back [over] a decade and has been repeatedly thrown out and I fully expect it to be rejected again.

“However, the fact that this dispute has been referred back to the SDT during my presidential year will, I fear, become a distraction from my role representing the solicitors’ profession – at a time when it is facing a period of unprecedented challenge.”

Greene said he would step down on 19 March, rather than October, as planned; he had originally been slated to replace past president, Simon Davis of Clifford Chance, in July 2020, but Davis’s term was extended to October, owing to the Covid-19 pandemic

Greene, who chaired the Society’s Brexit Task Force, as well as its highly-respected international committee, said: “I’ve been involved in the Law Society for more than a decade in a number of different guises including chairing policy committees, and the policy board.

“I wish my successor as president, Stephanie Boyce, who will fill the vacancy created and the rest of the organisation well for the future. It has been a deep privilege to represent my profession as an office holder over the past two and a half years.”

Boyce, who will be the first black president to hold the role, thanked Greene for “many years of service to the legal profession, not just as president but as vice and deputy vice president and before that as a long-standing member of the Law Society council where he holds the international practice seat”.

She added: “His passion and expertise for the international work of the Law Society, human rights and the rule of law made him the ideal candidate to deal with the many and complex challenges the profession faces and in good stead to help steer the profession through the end of the UK-EU transition period in December.”

In a Tweet, Greene told this reporter: “The issue had become distraction to messaging of great [Law Society] work. No more, no less. I had a responsibility. It was in interests of [the Law Society] and membership that I should remove the distraction pending resolution.” He added that he was “humbled by all the very kind messages” received following his announcement. 

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