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Society blog

30 Aug 17

A paralegal's tale

Janet Rieu-Clarke, the Law Society’s accredited paralegal, explains the path that led her to new role at the Society and the rationale behind the new accredited paralegal status.

30 Aug 17

A call to vote from John Scott

John Scott QC urges his fellow solicitor advocates to vote for their dedicated representative

29 Aug 17

No globalisation without representation...

Katie Hay discusses the globalisation of the legal market and urges Scottish solicitors working internationally, to get involved

24 Jul 17

Bringing the world to "world-class"

Sarah Sutton, digital communications executive at the Law Society of Scotland, talks about her bright idea to ensure international representation on the Society’s Council

26 Jun 17

The Debate - backstage, front of house and top tips

In this mini-series of blogs, three key players in the Donald Dewar Memorial Debating Tournament share their individual perspectives of the event.

19 Jun 17

Got a passion for the profession?

Could one of the 23 current vacancies for 16 different committees be just right for you?

28 Apr 17

Professional Practice - advising the advisers

Scottish solicitors help their clients through some of the most momentous occasions of their lives, personal or professional, good or bad. But where do solicitors turn for support? Prof Prac, that's where.

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

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

11 Sep 17

Brexit and the legal order

Government recognition of the need to continue civil judicial cooperation with EU countries after Brexit is welcome, but how can it exclude the involvement of the CJEU?

7 Aug 17

Taking access to justice seriously

The House of Lords decision on employment tribunal fees elevates this constitutional principle

10 Jul 17

Advance of the courts

There is momentum behind civil procedure reform, and practitioners need to be alert to have their say

12 Jun 17

Defend our rights

Don't sacrifice rights to combat terrorism; welcome to Edinburgh for the UK Supreme Court

8 May 17

Review time

Patience will be needed as regards the outcome of the new review of legal services regulation, but there is much for the profession to concern itself with meantime

10 Apr 17

Complaints about the Commission

It is not surprising that solicitors are complaining about the SLCC budget and levy – but what should be done?

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?