Friday, March 26, 2010

Scottish Legal Establishment

"My experiences with the Scottish legal establishment and commentaries on law, justice & related issues.

My work, with others, helped change the law in 2006 to bring a measure of independent regulation to Scotland's legal profession intended to raise standards of service & deal better with client complaints.

Now the task is to bring fully independent regulation to the legal services industry and see that everyone in Scotland has unrestricted choice of access to justice & quality legal services."

"Law Society of Scotland accused by its own members of not being democratic. SOLICITORS CLIENTS in Scotland have known for years, the Law Society of Scotland are, to put it mildly, a rather undemocratic organisation when it comes to taking into account the views of up to 5000 clients a year in dealing with regulatory issues & complaints against solicitors, with most complaints receiving what is commonly known as the ‘whitewash treatment’, where solicitors facing even the worst complaints would still remain in a job, no matter how severe the offence, or how severe the financial loss to consumers.

However, only now with the advent of a new legal services model for Scotland, where consumers may actually have the right to choose a non-lawyer to represent their legal interests, do solicitors find out the Law Society’s ‘undemocratic streak’ works both ways, after yesterday’s ‘vote nobbling’ of the Special General Meeting called by the Scottish Law Agents Society, where over 3000 'proxy votes’ cast by solicitors mainly it would seem, against the Law Society’s support of the Legal Services (Scotland) Bill, were put aside, because the Law Society knew it would lose the vote. So, its only taken since 1949 .. some sixty years late, for solicitors to come out and call their own governing body undemocratic, and unwilling to listen to its own membership. Well .. all I can say to that is welcome to the real world.

Clients have felt maligned by the the Law Society’s ‘lack of democracy’ for decades under the society’s self regulation of the legal profession, where clients who had the need to complain of poor service or otherwise from their legal representative consistently had their complaints, views, evidence and pleas for help cast aside by Drumsheugh Gardens time after time after time .. a well worn path by the Law Society, and now the Scottish Legal Complaints Commission, which continues to this day.

Tell me, members of the Scottish legal profession .. where were all your protests when clients suffered a raw deal at the hands of the Law Society ? Is that a pin I hear dropping ?

Seriously, over the years of writing my blog, some solicitors have come to me saying things along the lines of “all this must end”, “self regulation has to go”, “we know we would be better off without the Law Society of Scotland” … but not once have I seen headlines in the newspapers of something along the lines of “Solicitors challenge their own Law Society to give clients greater say over complaints”. If such a move had taken place, believe me, members of the legal profession, you would have had much greater respect from the Scots population many years ago.

Where only now, that certain quarters of the legal profession itself are realising their dominant control of Scotland’s legal services market is threatened, do we see solicitors protesting against their own governing body … not for the best interests of clients (although I’m sure some claim that is exactly what they have in mind) .. moreover the protests are about money, and the loss of it.

Its just not good enough. As solicitors, you all have yourselves to blame for the mess you are in, which ultimately clients will have to pay for.

Decades of confrontation with clients, decades of lies, deceit, decades of arm twisting Members of the Scottish Parliament, and their Members of Parliament at Westminster before them into watering down or killing off proposals to reform regulation of the legal profession, reform of rights of audience, reform of court procedures, reform of civil & criminal law, and now, reform of the public’s access to justice, has given the public a view of the legal profession which will never change .. that of a selfish, manipulative, corrupt, anti-client, anti-consumer monopolistic business who will stop at nothing to protect its own interests.

It could have been so different, if the profession’s membership had listened to its fee paying clients, consumers and well .. common sense, all those years ago, but even now, as solicitors I doubt you are at all interested in the views of the very consumers who pay your way and maintain your existence.

When you are, then you can claim you have clients best interests at heart in your accusations against the Law Society … but until then, be honest, its only about money – not the client’s best interests …

However, even in today’s newspapers, the rights of consumers in this debate on legal services, still seem very far away, as the grim reading in today’s papers makes for the chance of passing legislation increasing Scots access to justice, where The Times reports that We got it very wrong, admits Law Society boss as ‘Tesco law’ founders, the Scotsman reporting : Law Society accused of 'affront to democracy' as voting postponed and the Herald reports : Blocking ‘Tesco law’ could cost Scotland £500 million, warns law society president. "

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