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Society blog

21 Feb 18

Scottish Legal International comes to fruition

Joint initiative aims to promote Scottish profession internationally

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

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

8 Jul 19

70, and counting

The Society is in good shape as it turns 70, though uncertainty lies ahead

12 Jun 19

Uncovering the unacceptable

Our self-styled ethical profession has a problem of bullying and harassment. Can it be treated as a question of fitness to practise?

15 May 19

Make wellbeing a thing

Staff wellbeing in legal firms has to become a matter of culture, with supporting mechanisms in place

8 Apr 19

Law for people

The dignity of the law has come before the dignity of those caught up in its processes. What might happen if that were reversed?

12 Mar 19

Shape your future

Despite the uncertainty, it would benefit legal firms to think proactively about how to react to Brexit

11 Feb 19

Flexible is possible

As this month's lead feature illustrates, large and small firms alike can operate flexible working practices, and there appear to be few issues with clients when they do

14 Jan 19

Seeking the positive

A bit of flexibility and imagination can achieve things this year, whether for a business in the face of Brexit or for employees to improve their work-life balance, and wellbeing

3 Dec 18

A turbulent Christmas

Depressing divisions and a lack of clear thinking dominate the Brexit scene. But (stop press) there is something positive in the official reaction to the legal aid review

7 Nov 18

Put to the test

The Society's position as regulator will come under renewed scrutiny following the Roberton report, but the report itself should equally be subjected to proper scrutiny

9 Oct 18

Under siege

After the extra money announced for prosecutors and then the police, something has to be done now for the defence sector