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Jamieson sets out stall for reform

1 May 04

Report of Justice Minister Cathy Jamieson's address to newly qualified solicitors

“I want to make the justice system more user friendly and accessible to ordinary people”, said Justice Minister Cathy Jamieson, addressing the Society’s recent admission ceremony.

To ensure public confidence, she said, professional people need to learn how to deal well with a complaint – avoiding the prickly defensive response and seeing complaints as an opportunity to check whether professional service and standards need improving.

Turning to the regulatory debate, she stressed the need to know more about what people want from the legal system. “If people could access legal services in their local shopping centre, would there be a surge in demand because legal services were available in a familiar setting?” But she acknowledged that the core values of independence, avoidance of conflict of interest and confidentiality cannot be ignored.

Jamieson does not see a necessary conflict of interest in the section 1 issue: “I see the Society’s role in promoting the public interest as compatible with the calling of solicitors to promote the interests of their customers.”

Without predicting the extent of reform, she set out the Executive’s principles. “We wish to put the user of legal services at the heart of regulatory arrangements, we wish to promote competition and competitiveness, working closely with professional bodies, consumer interests and the Scottish Legal Services Ombudsman.” And recognising the importance of legal services to the Scottish economy, the Executive wants to see Scottish solicitors participating in multinational practices to offer a comprehensive service to clients with business interests worldwide.