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Scottish legal profession and client relations ‘in tatters’ as Law Society Chief Douglas Mill marks last day

07 Oct

Douglas Mill, the man who probably did the most to ruin the public’s trust and respect for Scotland’s legal profession, marks his last day in office as Chief Executive of the Law Society of Scotland.

With the expected no regrets expressed on how many clients lives lie ruined at Mill’s hands, he departs the scene leaving the solicitor client relationship firmly in the waste basket, after years of ensuring even the most ‘crooked’ of lawyers survived to malign ever increasing numbers of clients.

I covered Douglas Mill’s actual announcement of his resignation back in January of this year, which you can read here :

Breaking News : Law Society Chief Executive Douglas Mill who lied to Parliament, pursued ‘personal vendetta’ against critics – to resign

… and news of his replacement being appointed, Ms Lorna Jack, here :

Law Society of Scotland announces new Chief Executive but will there be change for the better after Douglas Mill ?

Interestingly over the past few days, a few of you have expressed opinions that Ms Jack may not last long in the job, and that her appointment was arrived at without consultation from the membership.

Well I do agree with both points, in that there should be a fixed term for the Chief Executive’s role, as leader of the Law Society and the profession at large … and doubtless, solicitors do deserve a one member one vote on such a powerful appointment as some of you have pointed out.

Whatever is said about Douglas Mill, there can be no reflection on his term at the Law Society without looking at how strained the legal services market in Scotland no finds itself, with the highest numbers of complaints, lowest quality of legal service, poorest levels of conduct, the worst levels of embezzlement, you name it .. the legal profession is currently suffering it .. and as far as a client’s perspective on things is concerned, there is no remedy in sight, certainly not from the co-opted Scottish Legal Complaints Commission, now staffed by the Law Society itself.

For most, the memory of Douglas Mill will be of a man who simply lied to the Parliament when challenged by Cabinet Secretary John Swinney over the content of his own secret ‘case fiddling’ memos, which most feel put an end to Mill’s stint as Chief Executive.

The final memo – Douglas Mill & John Swinney battle it out at Holyrood’s Justice Committee

You can read more about the events surrounding the Parliamentary confrontation between John Swinney & Douglas Mill here :

Law Society boss Mill lied to Swinney, Parliament as secret memos reveal policy of intervention & obstruction on claims, complaints.

Personally as you all know, I don’t have much regard for Douglas Mill – the man who saw to it my own life was interdicted by himself and his colleagues at the Law Society of Scotland, all in an effort to save the consistently crooked lawyer Andrew Penman of Stormonth Darling Solicitors in Kelso, down in the Scottish Borders. It all began with Penman, and for Mill, it ends in disgrace, a man who even stooped to blame myself and other critics for the attack on his colleague Leslie Cumming.

What kind of a man indeed would thrive on the destruction of clients lives for monetary gain and power …. but there are many left at the Law Society of Scotland such as Philip Yelland, who have served their master well in helping to ruin the lives of many, to protect a few crooked lawyers …

The Scotsman has run an article looking back on Douglas Mill’s term as Chief Executive, which follows next … without about a thousand omissions by the looks of it … but if you want to read a more realistic account from the Scotsman on how things happened under Mill’s leadership, have a look at this : The Scotsman reports : How crooked lawyers escaped with the held of Douglas Mill

Mill reaches end of his long goodbye

By Jennifer Veitch

SINCE it was announced in late January that Douglas Mill was to step down as chief executive of the Law Society of Scotland, some people might be forgiven for thinking that he had already gone.

Yet, despite the fact that his successor, Lorna Jack, was unveiled on Friday, Mill’s last day in post actually will be tomorrow.

Although he has largely disappeared from public view over the past nine months, he insists he’s “not been hitting golf balls”, and has instead been in a “phased withdrawal” from the post. While he has scaled down public engagements, he has worked on special projects, such as paralegal regulation, and his spare time has been spent working on his next venture – his own consultancy business.

But when Mill could have remained in a salaried post until retirement – both his predecessors stayed more than 20 years – leaving to go it alone seems like a big risk, especially during an economic downturn. So what has prompted his resignation?

Many in the profession concluded he simply had had enough of the pressure after several years of fighting the profession’s battles over issues including complaints handling – a battle that most think the society lost. It is also suggested he became frustrated with the structure of the society and the length of time involved in trying to get things changed.

Certainly, Mill admits that, by late last year, he had lost much of his enthusiasm for the role. After just over a decade in the job, his gut reaction told him it was time to move on.

“I had been in the job 11 years, and each of my predecessors did about 22 years,” he says. “But with all due respect to them, it’s a totally different world out there. I have probably admitted more solicitors in the last 11 years than the two of them put together.

“The job as it evolved is very different from the job I applied for. Having said that, I have absolutely no regrets. This is not ‘bitter and twisted Douglas Mill goes in a big huff’ or anything like that.”

He points out the Law Society of England and Wales has gone through three chief executives during his time at Drumsheugh Gardens. “Heading up an organisation like the Law Society is much more of a burn-out job that it used to be,” he says.

“I slept in 27 different beds last year, which I stress is not as exciting as it sounds. I had a job which evolved into 14 weekends a year of conference and other commitments.”

Mill concluded that if he were going to seek a new challenge, he would have to do it while he still had the drive and energy. “I was 51 in January, and I was 40 when I started here – I thought if I leave this for another five or six years, I’ll be a twilight case.”

Since resigning, he has travelled around Scotland to write a report on paralegal regulation. His swansong came last month when he presided over the International Institute of Law Association Chief Executives conference in Namibia.

“It was a very elegant and symbolic high note to finish on,” he says.

Now he hopes his experience will be of benefit to firms across Scotland who want to improve their business efficiency.

“I have always been interested in management,” he says. “I graduated with my MBA in 1990 and I thought I would be the first of a drove of young lawyers to do MBAs. Frankly, you can count them on the fingers of one hand.”

With just over 1,200 firms in Scotland, Mill predicts many won’t survive the twin pressures of the economic downturn and increased competition arising from alternative business structures.

“They have had an incredibly good decade,” he says. “But they are starting to realise over the past few months that the recession has bitten hard and deep.

“The plain fact is, basically all areas of the profession are affected. The big boys don’t have the deals any longer, but particularly the high street has remained too reliant on domestic conveyancing. The warnings went out ten or 15 years ago not to have too many eggs in one basket, but that’s not happened.”

Mill intends to offer advice and training on general management issues as well as more specific areas, such as succession planning and preparing for partnership.

He acknowledges that, in some cases, if he’s called in to give advice, he may simply be telling the firm they don’t have a viable business. And over the years at the society, Mill has noted an emerging “bifurcation” in the profession between big firms and smaller operations.

The role of the Law Society in representing the interests of solicitors is further complicated by the fact that more than a quarter work in-house. He predicts that the society may have to focus its efforts on smaller firms and, indeed, he foresees a point where larger firms who operate in the rest of the UK may choose to be regulated by the Law Society of England and Wales.

“They’ve always had that option,” he says. “The amount of business that big firms do that actually requires a practising certificate is probably fairly marginal.”

Regardless of the detail of the proposals brought forward by the Scottish Government for alternative business structures in Scotland, Mill anticipates that regulation will be a major challenge for his successor and the profession.

“I am perpetually frustrated that no-one has yet looked in any depth at the regulation of alternative business structures. How that grafts on to our collegiate insurance, our collegiate fidelity and so on is a mystery to me.”

If Mill has one advantage in the consultancy marketplace, he says it is that few other people understand the implications of alternative business structures and the other pressures on firms better than he does.

“I can go into firms and add real value,” he says. “There is a gap here in the market in Scotland.”

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