England & Wales law society unveils seasoned regulator as new board chair

Amerdeep Somal's portfolio of roles include financial services Complaints Commissioner and immigration judge

The Law Society of England and Wales has appointed senior regulator and immigration judge Amerdeep Somal as its incoming board chair. 

Somal, a non-practising solicitor, will take up the role in January 2024 when she will succeed the current chair and former Law Society president, Robert Bourns.

Her portfolio of roles includes Complaints Commissioner to the UK’s financial services regulators and Chief Commissioner at the Data and Marketing Commission. She is also a judge of the Asylum and Immigration Tribunal and sits on the Parliamentary and Health Service Ombudsman board.

The appointment underlines the Law Society’s commitment to diversity and inclusion, it having called for a step-change in the profession’s response to the issue in a December 2022 report. 

As only the second holder of the post, she becomes the first woman, the first Asian lawyer and the first person of colour in this senior role, landmarks it took more than a century for presidents of the society to achieve. 

Law Society President Lubna Shuja, herself the first Asian and first Muslim lawyer to lead the Law Society, welcomed Amerdeep to the role saying she looked forward to working with her in the run-up to her taking over as the chair. 

“As a solicitor with extensive board experience across various settings, Amerdeep brings a depth of knowledge which will benefit our members, the solicitors profession and the public,” she said.

“I also want to thank Robert well before leaving the board for his enormous contribution, dedication and commitment over the years, which has seen the organisation grow from strength to strength under his tenure.”

The board, founded in 2018, is a key oversight body within the Law Society and comprises members of the society's council, the Society’s officeholders, senior executives and independent members, one of whom is the chair. 

Bourns, was was the society’s president in 2017, immediately before the board was constituted, stands down after two terms, having been reappointed in 2021. He is a former senior and managing partner of national UK law firm TLT, becoming a consultant to that firm in 2018 alongside his work as board chair.

According to the Law Society’s accounts for 2021/22, Bourns received a salary of £42,700 for the role, which he said was “an important responsibility”. He said chairing the board involved “working with others, to ensure the Society is effective in promoting the profession at home and internationally, [in] working in the public interest”.

A Law Society spokesperson confirmed Somal would manage her existing appointments alongside her role as board chair, for which she would receive remuneration similar to that of Bourns. 

Earlier in her career, Somal qualified and worked for the Crown Prosecution Service, rising to the rank of chief Crown Prosecutor, before transitioning to a portfolio career, which saw her take up appointments with the General Medical Council, Refuge, the Nursery and Midwifery Council, the Commissioner for Public Appointments and the Financial Ombudsman Service, as well as her alma mater, Nottingham Trent University. 

Somal said she was honoured to take the role, adding: “The Law Society is a strong voice of the legal profession, and I am excited to continue to build on the excellent work the organisation does,” while Bourns said: “I welcome Amerdeep and am sure her experience will serve the Society well. I look forward to working with her over the coming months to ensure an effective handover.”

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