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Solicitors reject plans to have independent regulator

13th March 2019

Photograph of Solicitors reject plans to have independent regulator

The Scottish Government commissioned a report on the independent oversight of solicitors in Scotland. The stated purpose of the Review was to make recommendations to reform and modernise the existing framework to ensure a proportionate

approach which would support growth and competitive provision in the legal services sector whilst placing consumer interests firmly at its heart.

Esther A Robertson who chaired the review said in the opening statement of the report, "Over the course of eighteen months I found that there was significant consensus around the key concerns but perhaps unsurprisingly, less consensus on the potential

solutions. The key issues were around the constraints that the current complex model of regulation imposes on the potential for

growth in the sector and the unanimous view that the system for handling complaints is not fit for purpose.

Scottish solicitors say the Law Society of Scotland should continue to regulate solicitors in Scotland according to new independent research published today.

93% of respondents agree that the Law Society should continue to be responsible for representation, support and regulation of solicitors in Scotland, according to independent research by Mark Diffley Consultancy and Research and Survation.

91% of respondents agree that the Law Society is an effective regulator of the solicitor profession.

A further 73% of respondents consider representing the profession on regulatory changes to be a high priority for the Law Society. The survey also highlighted that 73% of respondents think investigating conduct complaints against solicitors should be a high priority for the Law Society. 83% have said that another high priority should be intervening in law firms where a critical failure has been identified.

The results of the survey follow the publication of a report into the future of the regulation of legal services in Scotland by Esther Roberton in October last year. The report's central recommendation is to create a new single regulator for the whole of the Scottish legal profession. Something which the Law Society disagrees with because of potential unnecessary risk to consumer protection and increased costs.

Alison Atack, President of the Law Society of Scotland said "The independent research shows that an overwhelming majority of Scottish solicitors agree that the Law Society should continue to both regulate and represent solicitors.

"The Law Society has 70 years of experience of setting and upholding education and entry standards to the profession, setting practice and ethical standards and auditing and upholding financial compliance.

"There is little evidence within Esther Roberton's report to support the need for a new regulator, which could increase costs for consumers and weaken professional standards. We do agree with the majority of her recommendations and welcome her call for more flexible legislation to ensure the regulatory structure can keep pace with a rapidly changing market in legal services."

512 Scottish solicitors and trainee solicitors took part in the telephone survey commissioned by the Law Society of Scotland. The research is an opportunity for Scottish solicitors and trainee solicitors to provide their views on topical issues and what the Law Society's priorities should be.

When asked what the biggest single issue facing Scottish solicitors is, the top answer was Brexit with 17% stating this. 24% of respondents have said Brexit features in advice given to clients a great deal or a fair amount. 53% think Brexit will have a negative impact on their business over the next two years, just 7% think Brexit will have a positive impact.

95% of respondents are proud to be part of the Scottish legal profession.

The full report for Scottish Government can be seen at https://www2.gov.scot/Resource/0054/00542583.pdf

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