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Legal Services Bill : Ex-Law Society Chief Douglas Mill who led campaign against complaints reforms, resigned over anti client memos, now supports independent regulation of lawyers

13 Jan

Douglas Mill 4Former Law Society Chief Executive Douglas Mill, eventually brought down by his own memos. DOUGLAS MILL, former Chief Executive of the Law Society of Scotland who once threatened a legal challenge against the Parliament over regulation reforms, whose secret memos revealed he masterminded a policy of defeating claims & complaints made against ‘crooked lawyers’, and who famously attempted to frame critics of the legal profession for a spectacular mafia style murder attempt on his own colleague, Law Society Chief Accountant Leslie Cumming, (which later turned out to have been staged by rogue lawyers in fear of being investigated for criminal activity), has written to the Scottish Parliament’s Justice Committee admitting that independent regulation of an expanded legal services market is needed in Scotland,,after concerted campaigns by consumer groups & law reformers to open up Scotland’s closed shop legal services market saw the introduction of the Legal Services Bill, currently being considered by MSPs.

Douglas Mill Legal Services Bill Page 1Douglas Mill attacks Law Society for change of views & Parliament for lack of research. Mr Mill, who begins his letter expressing surprise at the volt-face in Law Society of Scotland policy in relation to Alternative Business Structures, going onto criticise and even the lack of a research base on the issues contained in the Legal Services Bill said : “I was privileged to serve on the Scottish Executive’s Research Working Group on the legal services market in Scotland which reported in 2006. One of the issues examined was restrictions on business structures and the conclusion reached by the Committee was The issue of Alternative Business Structures appeared to be likely to stay on the agenda and policy development work would be required to establish the extent to which they suited Scottish circumstances and how they might be best regulated if they were to become a reality in Scotland. To the best of my knowledge no subsequent research or policy development took place. Particularly when this Report identified not just one market for legal services in Scotland but a number of segmented geographical and practice area markets, it is at best very surprising for a Parliament committee to introducing evidence-based legislation to be proceeding without the underpinning research which such a profound piece of legislative change demands.”

Douglas Mill then went onto attack the philosophies contained in the Legal Services Bill as being conceived in the late 90s and early 2000s, when law firms were rolling in profits & giving senior partners huge bonuses. Mr Mill told the Justice Committee that such proposals now ”surely require examination in the current economic climate”.

On the subject of ‘independence of the Scottish Legal Profession, Mr Mill who as we all know is not shy in stating his views, comparing some of the proposals contained in the Legal Services Bill as something akin to forcing a ‘Banana Republic’ legal profession on Scotland (but we already have that, don’t we ?)

Mr Mill stated in his letter to the Justice Committee, again critical of their motives over the Legal Services Bill : “Independence of Scots Law and the Scottish Legal Profession -The Bill strikes directly at the heart of these and it is worrying to hear in some quarters that saying so is in some way “scare-mongering”. The potential for direct Governmental control of the legal profession contained in for instance section 35 could reduce Scotland to the type of legal profession seldom seen outside South America and Equatorial Africa. Whilst there are significant pressures towards the assimilation of Scottish and English law it surely ill-becomes a Scottish Parliament to facilitate that.”

Douglas Mill Legal Services Bill Page 2 & 3Douglas Mill’s view of regulatory difficulties, mostly caused by himself and the Law Society. On the subject of regulation, it is hardly surprising Douglas MIll vents his frustrations at the regulatory aspects of the alternative business proposals contained in the bill. Mr Mill commented : “Regulatory Difficulties – I agree with the issues mentioned by Professor Alan Paterson from Strathclyde University in his Written Submission. I would say however that in my experience of being effectively the regulator of the legal profession in Scotland for approximately 12 years, my views are stronger based on significant direct experience. These difficulties take a number of forms:- (a) Regulation of solicitors at the moment is a relatively straightforward matter as the ultimate penalty is striking a solicitor off the Roll of Solicitors and denying him/her their livelihood. No such significant penalty will apply to non-lawyer proprietors.”

Mr Mill continues in his submission to state the Law Society of Scotland cannot regulate ‘conventional solicitor firms’ and Alternative Business Structures, calling the situation a “profound conflict and an impossibility for the Law Society of Scotland.”

Sadly Mr Mill ignores the fact that most of the Law Society’s regulatory difficulties grew out of his 12 years of being the Law Society of Scotland’s Chief Executive, and continues in a ramble on regulation which ends with an attack on the Law Society itself, who, in Mr Mill’s own words ‘appear’ to have “accepted section 92 of the Bill which simply allows Scottish Ministers to control the representative body is, in the view of many, the final nail in its coffin as a representative body.”

In a strong statement to the Justice Committee on the issue of money laundering laws, Mr Mill goes onto accuse the Legal Services Bill of facilitating ownership of legal firms and their use as money laundering portals, although it seems several Edinburgh law firms have helped clients with dodgy secret foreign bank accounts in countries outside the tax jurisdiction of the UK authorities, leaving Mr Mill’s praise of the Law Society & profession in this regard, rather hollow.

Cash laundering link to law chief stabbing - Scotland on Sunday 29 January 2006Douglas Mill’s 12 years as THE regulator of Scottish lawyers led him to attempt to frame critics for a murder attempt on colleague Leslie Cumming, over reputed money laundering investigations. Mr Mill on the subject of money laundering said : “Whilst money laundering obligations sat uncomfortably on solicitors’ duties of confidentiality when they were introduced, they are now accepted as entirely necessary. Indeed the Law Society of Scotland and the legal profession in Scotland are to be congratulated for their excellent record in this area. The Bill quite simply facilitates ownership of legal firms and their use as money laundering portals. As Professor Paterson says, “Ensuring that the fitness for involvement test is effective to exclude criminal elements from investing in or taking control of law firms is a significant issue.” Significant and impossible to ensure. I have spoken to solicitors in Glasgow involved in criminal law who are very well aware of the potential danger of control by criminal elements.”

Mill continued to condemn the bill’s proposals, saying : ““The money laundering rule of law and mortgage fraud implications are such that with the greatest conceivable respect the mechanisms in the Act are frankly risible.

Douglas Mill might worry about lawyers & criminals coming together, but as I reported earlier, its already happening, on a huge scale : Scotland’s Got Crooked : Police investigation reveals hundreds of crooked lawyers & accountants assisting organised crime gangs

Mill also went onto claim it was inappropriate that lawyers be asked to put their own money into a ‘Guarantee Fund” which would also cover non-lawyers, putting forward the idea that a separate Guarantee Fund should be created by the Scottish Government for the non-lawyer entrants into the Alternative Business Structures legal services market.

Mill said : “Again Professor Paterson is correct in identifying that for the protection of the public, the Guarantee Fund presently operated by the Law Society of Scotland is essential. It is entirely inappropriate for traditional solicitors to be asked to be joint and severally liable for the financial actings of non-lawyer proprietors. The alternative is the funding of a separate Guarantee Fund for Alternative Business Structures. This is an area where the Government has to be careful or the disaster of the Scottish Executry Services Board will be repeated.”

It should be noted that despite Mr Mill’s claims of public protection via the Law Society’s current “Guarantee Fund” arrangements, the Law Society version is itself, mired in scandal and woefully short of funds, which you can read more about here : Ground-breaking’ investigation into Law Society’s Master Policy insurance reveals realities of corrupt claims process against crooked lawyers and here : Advisory : Clients must protect their money from unsafe legal firms as Law Society’s Guarantee Fund fails

In a final swipe at the Scottish Government’s proposals, Douglas Mill attacks the regulatory architecture of the Legal Services Bill, even going so far as to propose an equivalent of the English Legal Services Board, to be independent of the Law Society of Scotland and the Scottish Government – interesting turn around from Mr Mill .. who I’m sure wants to head up any such organisation, much to the detriment of consumers, and Scots everywhere.

Douglas Mill Legal Services Bill Page 4Ex Law Society Chief finally admits independent regulation is a must if the legal services market is to be opened up in Scotland. Mr Mill said : “A Regulatory Architecture – I have to say in passing that the financial memorandum is totally and utterly unrealistic. For Alternative Business Structures to work in Scotland on a regulatory basis there requires to be a strong body independent of both the Law Society of Scotland and the Government and it has to be funded properly. In other words, there would require to be a Scottish equivalent of the Legal Services Board down South with all the costs that would imply. One alternative is however for the English Legal Services Board to have jurisdiction over ABSs with “outlets” in Scotland although this may correctly be seen as politically inappropriate.”

Douglas Mill’s letter to the Justice Committee on the Legal Services Bill can be downloaded in pdf format HERE

Douglas Mill does make some good points, particularly of course on independent regulation of the legal services market – including of course, independent regulation of solicitors. However, if we are to see it, people such as Mr Mill, despite his self proclaimed 12 year experience as THE regulator of solicitors in Scotland, must be kept well away from any ‘independent’ body to ensure the public get the protection they have as yet, never had against ‘crooked lawyers’ and others working in the legal services sector in Scotland.

Would Granny Swear by the Law Society - The Herald June 5 2006Mill’s confrontation with John Swinney effectively ended his run as the Law Society’s Chief Executive. For those not in tune with the recent past, Douglas Mill will be best remembered for spectacularly resigning in January 2007 a few weeks after video coverage was published of his terse confrontation with the now Cabinet Secretary for Finance, John Swinney over Mill’s own memos against clients of ‘crooked’ law firms, which the Herald newspaper reported the previous year had demonstrated a resolve to defeat client’s damages claims against Scottish solicitors & law firms and the infamous “Master Policy” Professional negligence insurance scheme run by crooked insurers Marsh UK & the Law Society itself.

You can read more about Douglas Mill’s resignation over the memo-gate affair, here : Breaking News : Law Society Chief Executive Douglas Mill who lied to Parliament, pursued ‘personal vendetta’ against critics – to resign and some previous reports on Douglas Mill, HERE

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