Council reports 2014

Council Meeting, 31 October 2014

Regulatory reform

Leading figures from the legal system in England and Wales outlined their experiences of regulatory reform south of the border.

Paul Philip, Chief Executive of the Solicitors Regulation Authority, and Linda Lee, former president of the Law Society of England and Wales, gave presentations to the Council to inform discussions about possible reform in Scotland.

They discussed the benefits and challenges of entity regulation and charging and principle-based regulation.

The Society has carried out two consultations on reform of the regulatory system – one on entity regulation and charging, the other looking at principles and outcome focused regulation. The results are now being analysed.

Issued raised following the presentations included:

  • the administrative and bureaucratic impact of a new system
  • whether or not reform was likely to lead to better protection of the public
  • how a new system in Scotland could differ from that south of the border
  • the impact of alternative business structures on the need for change
  • the experiences of both small and large firms, and also in-house lawyers, in a reformed regulatory landscape

The Society President, Alistair Morris, said the presentations had been insightful and would help inform the debate in Scotland.

The current model of regulation, including professional practice and discipline, focuses on individual solicitors. The Society is considering moving towards a hybrid system, with more emphasis on regulating legal firms or entities. The Society is also looking at how the system of charging might need to change, for instance, with a new entity charge and reduced practising certificate fee.

The second potential reform would involve relying more on a principles and outcomes based regulatory approach than the current system of clearly defined rules.

Examining the possibility of reform was included in the Society’s corporate plan for 2013/14, which outlined the need to “ensure our system of regulation is effective, fair, relevant and proportionate, protecting those who rely on our members and the services they offer”.

Further discussions on both entity regulation and charging, and principles and outcome focused regulation, will take place at the November meeting of the Council.

 

Society building review

Further work is to be carried out on plans to relocate the Society from Drumsheugh Gardens to new headquarters, the Council agreed.

Council members were given an update on the building review project, which is examining the options available.

A number of possible locations have been identified, both in the city centre and at an out-of-town site.

Following a discussion among Council members, the Society said it would consult further with committee members about their requirements, provide more assurance that an office move is affordable and give extra consideration to the disposal of Drumsheugh Gardens.

A further update will be given at the November Council meeting and an update for staff will follow.

A paper before the Council said the aim of relocation was to “enhance the Society’s ability to be a high-performing organisation by providing a more modern, efficient and sustainable working environment for staff, members and visitors/stakeholders”.

Although plans to relocate were previously in place, the Drumsheugh Gardens premises were withdrawn from the market when property prices fell steeply in 2008.