Reviews of the Law Society of Scotland's new site, and the sites of the other UK law societies
The Law Society of Scotland
This is a new and improved version of the Society’s longstanding website. I am a reasonably frequent visitor to this website, which should be on every solicitor’s “bookmarks” list. The first impression is that the site is cleaner and tidier than it used to be – like someone took a vacuum cleaner to it. The members’ information is as useful as ever, from legal aid to better client care and conveyancing essentials, and now you don’t even need to remember your membership number to read it all. Just remember to check the right hand side of the screen for links and downloads, as well as the left! The website is also much more accessible – it claims adherence to the Priority 2 criteria and from what I could see has every right to do so.
As an example of why you should visit this site, look no further than the sterling work the Society has done on a response to the worrying Legal Profession and Legal Aid (Scotland) Bill, including the opinion by Lord Lester of Herne Hill, all just a click of the mouse away.
The section most frequently used by me is the “find a solicitor” function, which allows the user to find an individual or firm by specifying name, location, categories of work and so on. This still works well – just like an electronic version of the White Book. A new feature which I quite liked was the “my nearest legal firm” service which allows the visitor to enter their postcode (specifying an area of work if desired) and getting in return a list of suitable law firms, in order of proximity in miles.
However, whoever was wielding the vacuum I spoke about earlier maybe got a little carried away, as there is the distinct impression that there is less content on this new version than on the last. For example, didn’t there used to be a more detailed “find a solicitor” function for firms which carried out various types of mental health related work? And I regret the passing into nothingness of the guides to the law for children which used to feature. These were nothing short of brilliant (and the cartoons were funny too) – can we have them back please?
The Law Society of England and Wales
Or, just “The Law Society” as it sometimes prefers to design itself. The first thing to say is that this is a much, much bigger site than the Scottish one. Not that bigger necessarily means better. It covers many of the same bases as the Law Society of Scotland does. The “find a solicitor” does the same job as before, but with a larger choice of areas of law. Similarly, one can discover lots and lots about the Law Society of England and Wales, its history, how it works and what it does. There is a great deal in the way of practice notes, policy decisions and best practice guidance. If anything, the sheer volume has a tendency to overwhelm and makes finding things a little difficult, though the search function works well. For those of you who hanker after membership south of the border, yes, there is information on the Qualified Lawyers Transfer Test.
The links section is much better stocked than the Scots equivalent, but has one curious feature. The list of categories of links is listed ad longum prior to the actual links on each page, and because the categories remain the same, in the same order and at the same (considerable) length, clicking on a category appears to have no effect whatever. So, don’t be fooled, as I was at first – the links pages are working, just scroll to the bottom of the page to find your hyperlinks.
The Law Society of Northern Ireland
With the least snappy of all the URIs, the Northern Irish Law Society’s website was off to a bad start. On the face of it, it does the same job as the others, providing information to, and about, the profession. However, there are some clear deficiencies to this website. It was difficult to navigate around, and using my text browser I came across a series of links, each titled simply [link] – not very helpful and a failure to comply with accessibility standards. Browsing further through the site, it quickly became apparent that there was very little on the site which would be of interest to anyone who wasn’t a solicitor in Northern Ireland, or studying to become one.