Back to top
Society blog

1 Nov 16

How getting involved in debating can change your life

Head of education Rob Marrs explains how getting involved in debating, whether as competitor or judge, can be incredibly rewarding. And more importantly, he explains how to win a debate.

14 Oct 16

Career development and volunteering at the Law Society of Scotland

If you want to enhance your career, develop your skills or just give back to your profession, there are lots of different personal and professional development opportunities at the Society

4 Oct 16

Going international – a Scots lawyer's week at the IBA

John Morgan, a newly qualified solicitor at Brodies, recently received a scholarship from the International Bar Association to attend its annual conference in Washington DC. He tells of his experience

30 Aug 16

The journey to dual qualification

Lancaster based Clare Davey explains her route to qualifying into Scotland before being admitted as a Scottish solicitor earlier this year

11 Aug 16

Street Law – not your standard law lecture

Laura-Anne Douglas, LL.B graduate from Dundee University and Street Law trainer, explains all about the Law Society’s Street Law scheme

23 Jun 16

Top tips for working from home

Chantel Gaber, head of member engagement for England & Wales at the Law Society of Scotland, explains her top tips for working out of the office

15 Jun 16

Smartcards from the Highlands to Hong Kong

As the rollout of smartcards to Scottish solicitors begins to wind down, Jana Berger from the Society’s smartcard team reflects on a process that has seen over 9,000 cards issued

29 Apr 16

Mission to make new lawyers' views heard

Q&A with Ayla Skene, solicitor at Pinsent Masons in Glasgow, who has just been co-opted as the new lawyers’ representative on the Society's Council

18 Apr 16

In-house support for in-house solicitors

With the launch of the new guide for in-house solicitors earlier this month, we thought it was high time we got Beth Anderson, the Society’s Head of Member Engagement for In-House Lawyers, on the blog

5 Apr 16

First impressions

Olivia Parker, careers and outreach executive and recent addition to the Law Society of Scotland’s Education, Training & Qualifications team, tells of her experience of the Society so far

Society Blog

Voting for change

17 Mar 10

A vote for legal services reform is a vote to help keep the profession in charge of its destiny

Tongue firmly in cheek, I told delegates at the start of the Society’s current series of roadshows on the Legal Services Bill that there was as much chance of me remodelling my firm as an ABS as there is of me joining the French Foreign Legion. Such has been the exchange of fire in the media since, the call of the desert has begun to take on something of an attraction!

The first of the successful roadshows was held in Aberdeen on 2 March. The same week, our Council decided to hold a referendum to resolve conclusively the Society’s policy on alternative business structures. Following that, a requisition for a second referendum on the Society’s dual representative and regulatory role was received. We are dealing with both issues at the same time as the Society collects responses to our consultation on ABS regulation and prepares to hold a Special General Meeting at the end of the month on the proposed reforms. All of which activity has fuelled an intense debate in the media – and I hope in solicitors’ offices around the country.

As a sole practitioner with an office on the high street (just off Central Way, in Cumbernauld new town parlance) and a workload that has shifted over time from defending clients in court to winding up their estates, I might be considered exactly the type of solicitor likely to be wary about the approach of alternative business structures. So why, given also that it is an option I am unlikely to pursue, do I wholeheartedly support reform of the legal services marketplace?

First, it is important to make it clear that the proposed changes are permissive rather than prescriptive. No firm will be forced to change business model as a result of the legislation, mine included. The current model will remain in place – for many, as effectively and successfully as ever.

Also, the legislation must maintain rather than undermine the high standards and core principles of the solicitors’ profession. The Society has argued strenuously on these points and continues to do so, for instance proposing amendments to the bill that protect independence and promote robust regulation.

Following a lengthy debate in Scotland and elsewhere, and the introduction of legislation in England & Wales, the Scottish Government made it clear in 2007 that “no change is not an option”. The Society consulted with its members, who voted in favour of liberalisation. And they did so because ABSs bring opportunities as well as challenges – the possibility of developing innovative new structures, the ability to access and reward the professional expertise of non-lawyers, the prospect of attracting external investment.

Alongside that there are concerns – what about access to justice, cherry-picking and competition from big business? But the solicitors’ profession and legal services market have changed dramatically since the formation of the Society 60 years ago. The profession is no longer made up of 3,000 lawyers in high street (or Central Way) practices and the market is subject to huge changes in consumer expectations, technological advances and cross-jurisdictional pressures.

Solicitors have adapted to change in the past and will do so again. Better to shape the future profession and marketplace ourselves, by remaining at the heart of the reform process, than leave it in the hands of others. Please make a start by using your votes and responding to our consultation.

Ian Smart is President of the Law Society of Scotland

Have your say

Your comment

Chris Clark

Thursday April 8, 2010, 16:46

I deal with an increasing number of solicitors, often see new ideas coming up, and having lived through deregulation of the telecoms industry, would say without question there are good futures for consumers and solicitors who embrace change.

Blog archive

13 Mar 17

Crack this one

Digitising summary criminal business is a tough nut to crack, but a bold attempt has been made

13 Feb 17

Imbalance of power

These days, all lawyers may need to be ready to take a stand in defence of the rule of law

9 Jan 17

Civic engagement

The Society risked becoming political in welcoming the Government paper Scotland's Place in Europe

6 Dec 16

The year that was

The Journal employment survey reveals a gloomy outlook; how can solicitors meet clients' needs in these times?

8 Nov 16

Fighting an unseen enemy

Solicitors need more advice and guidance against the threat from cyber criminals

14 Oct 16

Working with change

The spotlight is turning to making the court reforms work, but the profession will not be found wanting

13 Sep 16

Art of the possible

This is a time for our Governments to be realistic in their expectations – and for lawyers to flag up where plans may disrupt the smooth running of international agreements

8 Aug 16

Test of legality

The Supreme Court's "named person" decision points up the need for thorough scrutiny of Scottish Parliament legislation

12 Jul 16

Majority view?

The right course democratically would be to hold a second referendum on EU withdrawal once the terms on which it would take place are known

14 Jun 16

Turn of the year

Reviews at the AGM and the change of President highlight significant issues of the moment