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Solicitors ‘cover their backs’ as vote ensures Law Society retains representation of legal profession & complaints self-regulation roles

31 May

Law Society of ScotlandLaw Society of Scotland voted to continue representing & regulating Scotland’s 10,000 solicitors. SOLICITORS in Scotland, even the ‘crooked ones’, can sleep safely at night once more, on the announcement the legal profession have voted in favour of the Law Society of Scotland retaining its representative role of lobbying for the interests of Scotland’s 10,000 solicitors over & above anyone else, while also maintaining its self-regulatory role, helping to preserve the legal profession’s control over consumer complaints against Scotland’s notoriously poor quality legal services market, where each year up to 5000 clients register complaints or dissatisfaction against their solicitors & law firms.

The unsurprising news came to light after the results of the Law Society’s latest ‘referendum’ were released, showing 73% of solicitors who voted, voted in favour of the Society maintaining its dual role of representing solicitors best interests, and investigating complaints against their colleagues. 4,138 solicitors (almost 40% of members) voted in the poll in which solicitors were asked to vote on a single question. ‘Should the Law Society of Scotland as statutory regulator continue to be responsible for promotion of the interests of, and the representation of, solicitors in Scotland?’ 3037 voted yes and 1101 voted no.

Ian Smart Law Society PresidentLaw Society President Ian Smart. Ian Smart, President of the Law Society of Scotland commenting on the vote said : “The resounding result is a mandate for the Society to continue to represent, regulate and support its members. It gives the Society a green light to continue its programme of change including reform of its governance structure and member services. Solicitors in Scotland have recognized that they benefit from keeping the dual roles of regulation and representation together. The very essence of what it is to be a profession is bound by its ethics and principles as well as any common knowledge and skills.”

Mr Smart continued : “Being part of a profession and a qualified solicitor should remain as a badge of distinction unlike other unregulated legal advisors, and is something we should all be proud of. The Council, committees and staff work tremendously hard on behalf of the profession and the message from a recent survey that the profession would like the Society to do more representational work for members is reflected in the referendum vote as we always believed it would be.”

Translated into plain language for the rest of us, Mr Smart’s statement would read : Solicitors have given the Law Society a green light to continue covering up client complaints, control the individual’s access to justice, and continue to lobby against any reforms which may threaten the legal profession’s dominance over legal services in Scotland.

A legal insider condemned the whole referendum as a product of spin, accusing the Law Society of Scotland of engineering the vote to ensure it retained its power over regulation and the profession at large.

He said : “This referendum was all about ensuring the Law Society of Scotland was going to continue to exist, and for that continued existence, it needed to ensure it retained power over complaints and representing the membership. With the results of the vote, both aims were achieved, and the Law Society goes on to fight another day.”

Meanwhile a Scottish Government insider claimed that senior officials and Ministers at the Justice Department were happy to see the Law Society continue “as-is” because they felt it was easier to deal with the Law Society in its present form rather than what may emerge after its passing – which would account for the Scottish Government’s continual cave-ins (with more, as yet unannounced, to come) over the legal profession’s demands to water down the Legal Services Bill, which will end up about as much use as no use for widening the public’s access to justice in Scotland.

More cover-ups on the regulation side of things can be expected … but it is certainly no great surprise that solicitors have voted for the Law Society to retain regulation & representation of the profession, as both issues are simply too powerful to let slip from the profession’s control, as many previous scandals have demonstrated …

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