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Society applies to become approved regulator

4 December 2012

An application has been submitted by the Law Society of Scotland to become an approved regulator of new licensed providers.

The move is a major milestone step towards the arrival of new types of legal businesses in Scotland.

The new structures, permitted under the Legal Services (Scotland) Act 2010, will allow solicitors to set up in business with non-solicitors for the first time.

The Law Society's Council approved the draft scheme for regulating licensed legal services providers (LPs) at a meeting on Friday, 23 November.

In a referendum of the profession in 2010, 81% of voting members backed the Society applying to become an approved regulator.

The Scottish Government must now consider and approve the draft scheme before the Society can be authorised as an 'approved regulator' of the new legal services providers.

LSS president, Austin Lafferty, said: "There has been an enormous amount of work done to get to this stage. While there is more work to be done by us and the Scottish Government, all the indications are that, if the application is approved, the Society could become a regulator by spring next year, with the first LPs expected to be authorised soon after that."

The president explained that the Society's draft scheme aims to ensure that LPs, when providing legal services, are subject to the same degree of regulation as traditional law firms, which will provide reassurance for members of the public who choose to go to an LP for legal advice.

It should also, he said, reassure the profession that those who set up LPs, which must have a solicitor as head of legal services, have to go through a robust process before they can be licensed to deliver legal services and will be subject to a similar regime to solicitors.

"While it remains a challenging time, largely because of the economic climate, we know there is increasing interest among the profession as to what new business models might offer them in terms of developing their firms, if not immediately, then in the future - for example a few years from now it may be the norm to see high street solicitors team up with other professionals, such as accountants, to broaden their range of client services.

"There are opportunities to be had even in a time of financial constraints and there is no doubt that the public and Scotland's business sector will continue to have high expectations of the advice delivered by solicitors, whether they are part of a traditional firm or a new licensed provider."