Wednesday, 24 February 2010

Royal Faculty debate on Scotland's legal profession

The Royal Faculty of Procurators in Glasgow is to hold an open debate - Tuesday 9 March @5.45pm - led by leading members of the profession, with contributions from the floor encouraged on Scotland's Legal Services Bill and the future of our legal profession.

The Legal Services Bill is at stage 1 of the parliamentary process. Its proposed changes, such as the introduction of Alternative Business Structures (ABS), could make it difficult for Scots to secure access to independent legal firms, restrict access to justice, and ultimately undermine competition in the Scottish 'legal market'.

GLC's Mike Dailly will speak on the issue of ABS, its threat to competition and access to justice generally; and its commodification of justice. In addition, a debate on whether the Law Society of Scotland can continue in its dual role as regulator and representative of the profession will take place, with a contribution from John McGovern, the President of the Glasgow Bar Association. Speakers representing the Law Society of Scotland, and the 'big four' corporate firms in Scotland will present an alternative viewpoint.

This discussion is made all the more important as the Scottish Law Agents Society (SLAS)have called a Special General Meeting of the Law Society of Scotland to ascertain the profession's views on these fundamentally important issues. Please visit the Royal Faculty for more information - if you are a solicitor and cannot attend you can give a Mandate to SLAS to ensure that access to justice in Scotland does not become a commodity, at the morally bereft caprice of the UK's banks or vested corporate interests.


  1. I do not wish to be controversial, but surely the other argument here is that justice will become more accessible if it can be provided cheaply by other organisations with different business structures.

    Do current business structures not provide barriers with the cost being unaffordable by many?

  2. Superficially, that might appear so, in the same way that we are told having lots of banks means there is competition, and consumer choice. In reality, when it comes to underpayment of interest on current accounts (worth £3bn) or overdraft charges, for example, there is no competition and choice in the UK. Likewise, supermarkets have repeatly been found to have engaged in price-fixing. Does the public require these market failures and unethical practices introduced into our legal system? Is access to justice a 'commodity' or a constitutional right? Also, in what way do current business structures in Scotland provide barriers? Let's have some empirical Scottish evidence, because Which? has failed to provide any.To implement any major change without hard evidence is foolish and ill-advised.

    When you talk about doing something more 'cheaply', that is not always fairer or just from a public interest perspective. For example, a very experienced sheriff at Glasgow recently made the point to us that the changes to the small claims system (with no civil legal aid) have effectively made it almost impossible to have any substantial legal debate; and so many legal rights are simply ignored and never implemented. From a business perspective that may be the price to pay for a cheap system, but the moment you say access to justice must depend on cost, justice becomes commoditised, and the wealthy will also access it, while the poor will not.

    Essentially the so called 'consumer lobby' see 'regulatory regimes' as bad. We see regulatory regimes as vital to protect the public from the kind of scams, incompetence, risk taking and determinent which led to the meltdown of our banking system.