Council Meeting, 26 February 2016
Survey of members
Solicitors believe the Society’s regulatory role is its most important function, according to a survey of members.
A presentation on the results was given to Council members by researchers Ipsos MORI. The annual survey was carried out among more than 500 solicitors from different sectors of the profession and gathered views on a range of issues.
It found that the Society’s highest priorities were thought to include intervening in firms where a critical failure has been identified (81%) and setting standards for solicitors and updating practice rules (72%).
Over two-thirds (69%) thought investigating conduct complaints against solicitors and prosecuting cases to the discipline tribunal was a high priority and 60% said inspecting firms to ensure compliance with accounting rules was an important function.
Among other findings, the survey recorded a slight increase in optimism in the solicitors’ profession during the past year, up to 62% from 60%, with the latter figure a jump from 53% in 2013.
Other key findings included:
- 95% of respondents agreed that the Society should continue to be responsible for representation, support and regulation of solicitors
- 85% agreed that the Society was an effective regulator of the profession
- 80% considered the Society helpful and approachable
- 74% thought the Society was effective at leading and supporting the profession
- 69% agreed that the Society’s education and training standards were flexible and promoted equal access
- 66% said the Society focused on the issues that affect individual solicitors
- 60% disagreed with the UK Government’s plan to repeal the Human Rights Act and replace it with a British Bill of Rights
- 78% believed the Scottish Government’s policy on legal aid risks undermining access to justice for the poorest in society, while 77% backed increasing legal aid rates
The Council heard that the survey was generally regarded as positive, with members broadly satisfied with the Society’s work and services.
During a discussion among Council members, it was acknowledged that the work carried out in the annual survey needed to be linked in to the various strands of the Society’s new strategy.
Both the recommended and the mandatory minimum pay rates for trainees should increase, the Council agreed.
Council members decided that, from April this year, only training contracts above the living wage, as set by the Living Wage Foundation, would be accepted.
It was also agreed that the recommended pay rates should be £17,545 for first-year trainees and £21,012 for second-year trainees. The new rates will apply from June. The recommended rate is not compulsory but it is often used as a benchmark by employers.
The decisions follow over a year of research into trainee remuneration, including a survey of 650 solicitors, student and trainees. More than 70% of respondents supported adopting the living wage as the lowest salary accepted by the Society.
Council members heard details of the finances of the Society and the Client Protection Fund.
The Executive Director of Finance and Operations, Ken Tudhope, outlined the Society’s financial report and accounts for 2014/15.
The Convener of the Client Protection Sub-Committee, Alison Atack, presented last year’s annual report and accounts for the Client Protection Fund, which was previously called the Guarantee Fund.
The accounts were approved and will now be put to the Society’s annual general meeting in May.