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Law Society of Scotland announces new Chief Executive but can there be hope for much needed improvements after the damaging ‘Douglas Mill years’ ?

03 Oct

Fearful of the multiplying calls from consumer organisations and campaigners to open the legal services market, the Law Society of Scotland have brought in a Chartered Accountant, Ms Lorna Jack, to ‘lead’ Scotland’s fractured and untrustworthy legal profession in the coming years which should see significant improvements to the public’s right of choice of legal representation and access to justice.

Ms Jack, formerly president of the Americas division of Scottish Development International which is part of Scottish Enterprise, must of course, walk the path set for her by the ‘politburo style’ politics of the Law Society of Scotland, where, after the demise of Douglas Mill, one of the ‘most hated’ figures in the Law Society’s 59 year history, power now mainly rests with the “Council of the Law Society of Scotland”, a shady group of characters with vested interests who have no interest in raising levels of consumer protection against the rogue element of solicitors in Scotland.

Ms Jack’s power to steer the Law Society’s ‘no voting rights’ solicitor membership through what are expected to be troubled times, will be bridled by elements within the Law Society’s powerful Committee structure and the Council of the Law Society itself, which has ensured throughout the years, that clients and consumers have always suffered against a growing corrupt element within the legal profession, who have had their sins continually washed clean by the Law Society’s Client Relations team, dedicated to burying even the most extreme cases of complaint against solicitors up and down the length of Scotland.

Ms Jack is only the fifth Chief Executive in the Law Society’s history, and has a significant hurdle to overcome, given that many regard the position itself as being a ‘poisoned chalice’ which had been made all the worse by Douglas Mill’s considerably arrogant stance on many issues involving the legal profession, and not to mention the scandals surrounding Mr Mill’s predecessor, Kenneth Pritchard, who himself did plenty to ruin clients of crooked lawyers, as you can read in an earlier report I made here :Law Society intervention in claims ‘commonplace’ as ex Chief admits Master Policy protects solicitors against clients

Holyrood in Solicitor's Sights Octover 30 2006 The HeraldMany people remember Mr Mill’s well publicised and extraordinary threats of court action against the Scottish Parliament & Scottish Government over legislation designed to usher in a new era of independent regulation of Scotland’s solicitors, stupidly citing by way of an English QC’s opinion, it was against a lawyer’s “Human Rights” to have someone other than a lawyer investigate complaints made against them.

Douglas Mill Memo to Martin MacAllister 5 July 2001Many will also remember Douglas Mill’s now infamous confrontation with the Cabinet Secretary for Finance, John Swinney, which revealed Mill’s own memos documenting direct interference in claims & complaints made against well known Scottish legal firms, in what became known as a policy to protect crooked lawyers.which now has died a death at the hands of the co-opted Scottish Legal Complaints Commission, staffed almost entirely by the Law Society itself.

Douglas Mill - A Lawyer's never loved in his own home land - The Scotsman 15 August 2006Law Society Chief Executive Douglas Mill enjoyed hitting clients hard rather than hitting the rogue element of Scotland’s legal profession, and in one ludicrous newspaper interview, made a ridiculous, and highly embarrassing suicide jibe after the Herald newspaper reported the exposure of Mill’s interference in claims & access to justice.

For many though, the memories of Douglas Mill will be that of the man who blatantly lied before the Justice 2 Committee of the Scottish Parliament, when under questioning from Cabinet Secretary for Finance John Swinney, Mill consistently contradicted the contents of one of his own memos, which Mr Swinney exposed as a concerted, and well practiced action to prevent client claims & complaints against leading firms of solicitors from making it to court.

I have reported a few times on Douglas Mill’s unbelievable account of the complaints & claims process against negligent & crooked lawyers … a recent article summing things up fairly well : Law Society boss Mill lied to Swinney, Parliament as secret memos reveal policy of intervention & obstruction on claims, complaints.

Most solicitors clients and even a few solicitors, will breathe a sigh of relief the outgoing Chief Executive, Douglas Mill, who one leading figure in the Law Society today claimed “had to be pushed to go, rather than go willingly” will be no more a thorn in the side of thousands of clients of Scottish solicitors who found themselves at the mercy of Mr Mill’s beloved colleagues, whom he spared no expense, no corner to protect, no matter how horrible, sinister or corrupt the offences were against clients.

The Scotsman today reports that Douglas Mill is now planning to set up his own ‘consultancy business’. Well I hope people don’t forget the suffering, harm, hurt, and ruin Mr Mill has caused people throughout his 11 year dictatorial reign as Chief Executive of the Law Society of Scotland, and just for the sake of informing the public once more, here is a repeat of my tribute to Douglas Mill – the man who ruined Scotland’s legal profession all on his own by making the client the target rather than giving clients the due respect and protection we all deserve.

Douglas Mill’s term as Chief Executive saw a policy of deep personal attacks develop against clients & campaigners, who dared take issue or criticise the standards of Scotland’s legal profession. In as many cases as possible Mr Mill involved himself and intervened to halt complaints against fellow solicitors, even when there were serious allegations of fraud, embezzlement, falsification of files and concerted attempts to pervert the course of justice.

For many though, the memories of Douglas Mill will be that of the man who blatantly lied before the Justice 2 Committee of the Scottish Parliament, when under questioning from Cabinet Secretary for Finance John Swinney, Mill consistently contradicted the contents of one of his own memos, which Mr Swinney exposed as a concerted, and well practiced action to prevent client claims & complaints against leading firms of solicitors from making it to court.

John Swinney confronts Douglas Mill over secret memos documenting his direct intervention against client claims ..

I have reported a few times on Douglas Mill’s unbelievable account of the complaints & claims process against negligent & crooked lawyers … a recent article summing things up fairly well : Law Society boss Mill lied to Swinney, Parliament as secret memos reveal policy of intervention & obstruction on claims, complaints.

The Herald 5 June 2006 - Would granny swear by the law societyMany clients and reporters alike will also remember the unforgettable story by the Herald’s Paul Rogerson on the Justice 2 Committee confrontation between John Swinney and Douglas Mill, titled “Would granny swear by the law society ? (not if granny were still living …). The story would later spark a demand by the Law Society the story be retracted !

Scotland on Sunday February 2001 - Legal Profession in the dock over complaints about self regulationMy own memories of Douglas Mill will be the man, along with Philip Yelland and a few others at the Law Society, who helped prevent the prosecution of Scotland’s most famous crooked lawyer – Andrew Penman of Stormonth Darling Solicitors Kelso before the Scottish Solicitors Discipline Tribunal and engineered the absolution of a very crooked lawyer who went onto harm many other clients.

You can read the Scotsman stories on how the Law Society of Scotland and Douglas Mill stage managed the Andrew Penman investigation here : Andrew Penman & Norman Howitt : Lawyer & accountant team up to ruin Cherbi executry estate

Scotsman 5 June 1998 Law Society accused of closing ranks as claim failsDouglas Mill personally hounded me over the years when it came to the Andrew Penman case, and the further complaints which resulted from dealings with solicitors associated with the estate of my late father, and even later on, with the worst chapter of my family over the death of my mum through medical negligence, another crooked lawyer – Michael G Robson, took the opportunity to ruin my legal affairs and nothing was done.

Cash link to law chief stabbingDouglas Mill then went on to use the infamous attack on his colleague, Chief Law Accountant Leslie Cumming, as a media excuse to silence all critics of the legal profession and target my blog for closure … even insinuating it was such criticism of the legal profession which caused the mafia style ‘hit’ attack on poor Mr Cumming, which was later revealed to have come from within the legal profession itself .. and suspiciously no one has yet been caught for the incident …

Douglas Mill’s roll of shame continued, with his direct opposition to the opening of the legal services market, which campaigners had also been calling for years to be opened up to competition. Douglas Mill was hell bent it seems, on maintaining the Law Society of Scotland’s monopoly on legal services … so much that it took the Which? organisation to launch a “super complaint” to the Office of Fair Trading, resulting in eventual & widely praised recommendations to break up the closed monopolistic legal services market in Scotland.

Although some in the profession may disagree – simply because Douglas Mill has shielded them from transparency, accountability, honesty, customer demands for higher standards, and prevented the need to pay adequate compensation to those poor clients ruined by the legal profession, I would have to say that Douglas Mill has been almost the single biggest obstacle to change at the Law Society of Scotland, given his pursuit of a high profile campaign of vendetta after vendetta against anyone who would dare raise a complaint against one of his colleagues.

Douglas Mill’s tenure will certainly be hard act to follow .. and lets hope the well trodden path of protecting crooked lawyers at all costs, as well as lying to achieve one’s aims, doesn’t rub off on the new Chief Executive …

So, can Ms Jack change the Law Society of Scotland and turn it around from Douglas Mill’s “client hating, client killing organisation”, to a client respecting one ?

Will Ms Jack dare to clean up her colleague’s ‘sins of the past’ against clients, which remain one of the blackest marks on Scotland’s legal profession ?

Only time will tell, but the odds are well against change, as the pockets of the legal profession must come first against consumer protection … and lets face it, it’s hard to mention the Law Society of Scotland these days without referring to Douglas Mill …

Here’s the Law Society of Scotland Press Release on the appointment of Lorna Jack as the new Chief Executive ;

LAW SOCIETY OF SCOTLAND ANNOUNCES NEW CHIEF EXECUTIVE

Lorna Jack is to take on the mantle of the Law Society of Scotland’s Chief Executive in January 2009.

She will replace departing chief executive Douglas Mill, CEO of the Law Society for the past 11 years, and return to Scotland after spending six years in Boston as President Americas for Scottish Development International, part of Scottish Enterprise.

Lorna Jack said: “I am delighted to be joining the Law Society to lead an ambitious and innovative organisation through a period of unparalled change. My impression is that the Society already has a first class team of office bearers, council and staff and I look forward working with them as colleagues in the new year.

“The Law Society has a vital role to play in business, political and civic society in Scotland and elsewhere. With the external economic environment as tough as we’ve seen it and the legal profession in Scotland set to make some of the most fundamental changes in its history, this is a challenging and exciting time to help lead the Society through the next stage of its journey. It’s a terrific opportunity for me and there is much to do. I will start by building on improvements already made and continue from there.”

Richard Henderson, president of the Law Society, said: “I believe that Lorna Jack is the right person to lead the profession in the coming years. She brings a wealth of skills and experience to the Law Society at a time of significant change in the legal profession and at the Society itself.

“Lorna has a considerable track record in promoting the interests of Scotland’s business community. I am confident that she will use her talents to benefit one of Scotland’s important and distinctive economic sectors.

“Lorna will join us at a time when there is a new focus on how the Society works, its governance structure and the services it provides for its 10,000 members to help ensure that Scotland’s solicitors continue to meet the high standards demanded of them by their clients.

“The Legal Profession Bill in this year’s Scottish Government legislative programme will make way for radical changes to how law firms can operate. It is our hope that this will improve access to legal services for members of the public and business alike as well as create new opportunities for Scottish solicitors to ensure they thrive in highly competitive markets in Scotland, the UK and internationally.

“This is a key point in Scotland’s legal history and I am more than confident that Lorna will be equal to the challenges ahead.”

Jack Perry, Chief Executive of Scottish Enterprise said: “Lorna will bring to her new role a wealth of business and international experience, knowledge of working with government in the public sector and a strong track record of delivery at such a critical time for the law profession and businesses in general across Scotland.”

ENDS

Note to editors
Lorna Jack is a Chartered Accountant. She graduated from Aberdeen University in 1982, with an MA in Accountancy and Economics, and qualified as a CA in 1984. Previous roles include head of National Food Industry Team, Scottish Enterprise, Head of Global Companies Research Project, Scottish Enterprise, CEO/chief operating officer for Scottish Enterprise Forth Valley before her current position in Boston, USA, as President Americas, Scottish Development International. She takes up post on 4 January 2009.

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