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Law Society purges former chief executive from history books — or at least walls

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Specially commissioned painting of hard man ex-boss Des Hudson is quietly removed from pride of place at Chancery Lane headquarters

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Is the Law Society performing a Trotsky on its former chief executive?

The great Marxist theorist and Bolshevik revolutionary was effectively written out of Soviet history during the Stalin regime — and now it appears the same fate has befallen the erstwhile all-powerful Des Hudson.

The gruff Yorkshireman once ruled the solicitors’ quasi-trade union with such a rod of iron that frightened minions and council members clearly thought it would pacify the master if they commissioned an oil painting of the great man.

Years of tradition were broken — historically only Law Society presidents were so honoured — but a hapless brush-merchant was wheeled in and the result duly displayed prominently on the walls of the entrance hall to the society’s neo-classical London headquarters building.

But spies at Chancery Lane reveal that the portrait has recently been removed and replaced by a far more mundane Law Society crest … and a rubbish bin.

Thankfully, Legal Cheek sources have provided us with an image of the great artwork for the delectation of our readers. The steely glaze confirms Hudson was not a man to be trifled with.

However, that didn’t stop criminal law solicitors passing a motion of no confidence in both Hudson and last year’s Law Society president, so angered were they at what was viewed as Chancery Lane’s capitulation to and near complicity with the government’s plans to slash legal aid spending.

Hudson bailed out several months later — and now suggestions are rife that he may have taken his painting with him.

Law Society officialdom appears to be slightly embarrassed by the Hudson years. The disappearing portrait follows last October’s “Excellence Awards”, at which Hudson was handed the “president’s lifetime achievement” gong. But you wouldn’t know it from the society’s website, as that one category has been dropped from the list of last year’s winners.

While the society might be keen to keep the Hudson connection under wraps, the man himself continues to do well out of an organisation that paid him an annual £400,000 salary.

He may have left the building, but Hudson walked straight into the chairmanship of Veyo, the bizarrely-named joint venture launched last year by the Law Society and IT services giant Mastek that is being billed as the future of residential electronic conveyancing.

Nontheless, when asked about the disappearing portrait, Chancery Lane officials were tight-lipped this week.

They declined to comment on why the painting was commissioned, how much the artist charged, where it has gone or whether recently installed newbie chief executive Catherine Dixon — formally the top in-house lawyer at the NHS Litigation Authority — has been sitting for her own version.