It seems the Scottish Law Society has withdrawn the proposed move to Alternative Business Structures which would have permitted significant external ownership of Scottish firms. Ian Smart, President of Law Society of Scotland, commented that a revised compromise would be tabled later in May. This followed a significant back lash from Scottish solicitors who feared, among other things, grave abuse of the regulations by criminal gangs. You can read a description of some of the issues raised in Mike Wade’s TimesOnline article and from the horse’s mouth in this news release from The Law Society of Scotland.
The proposed changes, which are in the pipeline for the rest of the UK in 2011/2012, are designed to provide greater access to legal advice. There is no suggestion that getting hold of one of the 100,000 plus solicitors in the UK is difficult. However, with hourly fee rates at traditional firms that start at around six times the national average pay rate for even basic advice, it is the price that is the challenge. Many small businesses and individuals that need advice simply prefer to take the risk.
When the Law Society was formed in 1825, along with other professional bodies, it was with the aim of protecting the public from unskilled and inexperienced practitioners. Perhaps the unintended consequence of the formation of such professional bodies was to create a “closed shop” or monopoly situation. In all other areas of commerce, such arrangements have been dismantled as they have been counter-productive and usually act against the public interest.
After almost 200 years of standard setting, perhaps the time has come to move the profession’s objectives forward. Having established how law should be practiced, perhaps it is time to see how those standards can be made accessible to all.
There remains a clear need for a body to set professional standards, but the members of that body should think very carefully before rejecting access to the high level of operational effectiveness that would come from external investment or joint ventures with class-leading service providers in other industries.
What do you think? This is a very hot topic, with far-reaching implications if the profession changes and if it does not. Please share your thoughts.
BigWig Legal Network
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The deregulation of UK legal structures will have a huge impact on how Law is practised and new legal services are offered. BigWig Legal Network is the UK’s first membership development organisation for fee earners in legal practices, priced for membership affordability, that will offer what legal professionals desire most of all: Accurate, dependable new insights and techniques for developing the legal services of the future.
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