Law Society policy on open legal market reforms at odds with solicitors & public alike

07 Oct

Question : Who wants to keep the legal services market closed to anyone other than it’s own members ?

Answer : The Law Society of Scotland – particularly a select few who control it, such as Douglas Mill and the rest of the monopoly brigade.

Question : Who wants to open the legal services market ?

Answer : A host of consumer organisations, the OFT, commercial competitors, victims of injustice, and yes, even some solicitors themselves.

Clearly, the Law Society of Scotland are against the masses on this one – although you wouldn’t think it if you were to believe the propaganda coming out of it’s headquarters at Drumsheugh Gardens, Edinburgh, where Douglas Mill, Philip Yelland, and colleagues are hard at work putting more spin on the Law Society’s policy towards the recent OFT recommendations on legal services market reform than any politician could ever manage !

Earlier this week, Douglas Mill authored an article in the Herald newspaper, supposedly, accepting the need for debate and a grudging acceptance there will be change in the way the legal services market in Scotland is currently structured – where if you need to use legal services or require access to the court, you have to invariably use a solicitor or an advocate, thus restricting your access to justice.

The Law Society of Scotland has put up a strong fight on the battle to maintain the monopoly on legal services, but alas, change is coming, and the sooner the better for both the legal profession, and the general public.

However, while the general public will be less restricted in their access to legal services & access to justice after Scotland gets it’s home brew version of the Clementi reforms of England & Wales, the solution to those who seek legal representation in cases involving things such as negligence, claims for damages and other issues generated by the poor service of the likes of solicitors, accountants and the like, is not guaranteed to be resolved by this opening up of the legal services market.

Taking the current example of trying to recover damages from a crooked lawyer by using another lawyer to sue the crooked lawyer – Everyone (except the legal profession) accepts that just doesn’t work.

A victim of a rogue lawyer can (if they are lucky), secure legal representation, then go from lawyer to lawyer to lawyer over many years, trying to chase the original crooked lawyer for damages, while the legal profession, managed by the Law Society of Scotland, has a laugh making sure their case gets nowhere. That’s what happened to me, and that’s what has happened to many many people up and down the length of Scotland.

It’s the same for many other professionals too – try suing one of Scotland’s legion of crooked accountants managed by ICAS, and see how far you get … not very far would be the answer, as certainly the actions of crooked accountant Norman Howitt demonstrated in my own case .. and is typical of many who try to sue an accountant .. or other professional who is lucky enough to have an unaccountable, self regulatory governing body hell bent on protecting them against any charges of poor service or claims for compensation.

Getting back to the issue of how the legal profession is to proceed on legal services reform, as I said Douglas Mill appeared in the Herald on Monday, accepting the need for debate, while restricting the terms of the debate to remind all that while ideas could be put forward, those ideas would have to correspond with the Law Society’s wishes in this matter …. along with the noted restriction that while the legal services market may be opened up .. the Law Society will still control who becomes a solicitor or who enters the legal profession – this to be done chiefly by controlling the qualifications issue and carving out a new role for itself as regulator of all in the legal services market.

Allowing the Law Society to remain in control – or even have partial control of the legal services market is not an option the public should allow, given the disgraceful demonstration by the Law Society over the last few decades of it’s corrupt handling of regulatory issues, where for the main, it has protected crooked lawyer after crooked lawyer, and ensured claims for damages against the least or the most negligent solicitors have been thwarted at every turn, by denying the ruined clients access to justice & legal services.

Surely an organisation which claims to represent those who use the law as a business model, while also claiming to protect the clients interests, then actively restricts and prejudices the public’s access to legal services & access to justice when it is not in their professional interest to see such rights allowed, cannot be allowed to continue to manage those who provide such legal services as a business model.

In the following article, you will see a different view of how the OFT’s proposals on opening the legal services market are being interpreted by some members of the legal profession, where the attitude of some seem to be at odds with policy put forward by the Law Society of Scotland.

Be careful however, because at the end of the day, these are still the same legal firms, many with disgraceful complaints records who are trying to cleanse themselves on the decks of free market reforms ….

What the client really needs, are clean firms being formed by clean people, who are willing to work transparently, honestly, and with accountability …. How many existing legal firms could claim to do that ?

Oh, and to complete the week’s coverage on legal issues, the Law Society of Scotland President resigned – due to “pressures” of the job.

It seems Mr MacKinnnon must have had enough of his strings being pulled by the Chief Executive …and is off back to his firm to concentrate on work there. The president’s role is largely a figurehead anyway and has no power … although many past presidents of the Law Society of Scotland have notably used their lack of power to support the practices of many a crooked lawyer against a poor ruined client ….

Scotsman article on the solicitors own view of legal services market reforms follows, then the short report on the resignation of the now former Law Society President John MacKinnon :

Prepare for the end of the closed shop by rebranding and merging – as we have


THE legal profession in Scotland is facing challenging times. The recent OFT recommendations and the imminent deregulation of the legal profession, creating a level playing field between Scotland and England, will firmly confine our current ways of working to the archives.

Tesco Law, Virgin Law, EasyLaw: you name it, we can expect it. Firms with impeccable consumer credentials will be all over our business before you can even say “so long, closed shop”.

Gillespie Macandrew, like many others, welcomes this culture of openness and breakdown of barriers. We believe in competition and we’re focused on serving consumers’ interests. But we’re not complacent, and we need to be ready.

That’s why we’ve just invested £100,000 in a comprehensive facelift (or re-brand, as the marketing people like us to call it). We’ve also invested in a training programme for our people to face the new challenges.

After extensive research among staff, peers and existing and potential clients, we have developed a revitalised corporate identity that will allow us to not only weather the onslaught from new providers, but also accelerate our growth while continuing to deliver a professional holistic offering across our existing client-base.

As well as helping us stand out in a crowded market, our re-brand also reflects the firm’s expansion and diversification. The new logo champions our three key practice areas: law, property and finance.

The research indicated our public profile has been on the low side and Gillespie Macandrew is viewed as a “traditional” law firm. In reality, the truth couldn’t be further removed: hence the new identity.

Our business has changed dramatically as a result of five very different acquisitions over the past three years, which have retained our Scotland-wide services and increased our business exposure to the Edinburgh market. It was important for us that the new identity reflected our aggressive growth and communicated the personality of our business, notably that of Hunters, the recognised and trusted estate agency, which we acquired in 2006.

The rebrand positions the new-look Hunters Residential as a pivotal element of our business, with matching brand identity and design work.

Our ability to give mortgage advice is again a recent addition to the stable. In June we launched a new financial services division, which broadens our existing work into specialist mortgage and pensions consultancy while complementing the private client department’s estate and tax planning, trust management and investment capabilities.

This was rapidly followed by the acquisition of Haig Scott, the three-partner Edinburgh law firm, which was the springboard for the launch of our specialist housebuilder property team.

This new deal signifies a burgeoning trend of consolidation in the market. With mounting compliance and regulatory issues, the pressures of running a small practice are becoming all-consuming, and increasingly small and medium firms are under commercial pressures to merge and focus on niche specialities. By joining a much larger entity, the red tape is no longer an issue for the partners who can get on with the day job.

The result is that Gillespie Macandrew now boasts 22 partners and more than 150 people specialising in a range of niche disciplines: from licensing to tax planning; intellectual property to residential property. This year our turnover is set to exceed £10 million for the first time. A giant step from the £3 million that we recorded back in 2003.

In these exciting but uncertain times, our new brand values of reliability, approachability, vibrancy and partnership are designed to fuel our next stage of growth. With Clementi in England and pressure to follow in Scotland, consolidation and consumer demand shaping our world, my rallying cry to the profession is to be clear what you stand for and develop a robust brand that allows you to beat the newcomers at their own game.

Gillespie Macandrew is ready to do business in an open shop.

• Ian Turnbull is the managing partner at Gillespie Macandrew

and now .. for the end of John MacKinnon’s Presidency .. just a few weeks after he took the role on …

Law Society president quits job over pressures

THE President of the Law Society of Scotland is to step down from the post with immediate effect, it emerged last night.

John MacKinnon is to leave office because he feels he cannot cope with the demands of the high-profile post and his job as a partner with law firm Brown & McRae, based in Fraserburgh.

The President of the Law Society is a figurehead who represents its 10,000 members in Scotland. Mr MacKinnon took up the post in May, at a time of great change in the profession. Big issues include the creation of the independent Scottish Legal Complaints Commission and so-called Tesco law – the call to allow basic legal services to be provided from outside the profession to widen consumer choice.

The society’s vice-president, Richard Henderson, becomes president and the society will appoint a replacement for him as soon as possible.

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Posted by on October 7, 2007 in Law


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