Council reports 2016

Council Meeting 16 December 2016

Presidential elections

Glasgow solicitor Alison Atack will be the next vice president of the Society, the Council heard.

The partner at Lindsays, who represents Glasgow and Strathkelvin on the Council, was confirmed in the position after Falkirk-based criminal law consultant John Mulholland decided to step back earlier in the month to support Alison. He will remain the Society’s Treasurer.

Alison, who takes up the post in May 2017, will succeed the current office holder, Graham Matthews.

Graham, the Council member representing Aberdeenshire, was formally elected to become the 2017/18 president at the Council meeting.

Graham, who is a partner at Peterkins, has served as a Council member for more than ten years and sat on a number of committees, including the Professional Practice Committee and the Regulatory Committee. He said he was looking forward to taking up the presidency

Alison said it would be an honour to become vice president and work alongside Graham during his presidency. The Council congratulated both on their election.

Commercial income

Work carried out to meet the Society’s ambitious commercial income targets were discussed by Council members.

The Council heard that a target of raising £3 million from all commercial income streams by 2020 had been set. The figure was described as achievable, but very ambitious.

In 2015/16, a total of £1.45 million commercial income was delivered against a target of £1.6 million.

Council members were told that sources of commercial income include: sponsorship and member benefits; the Journal; events sponsorships; publications; Update events; registered foreign lawyers; other non-practising certificate fee categories; and, investment income.

The Council heard that that the income from event sponsorships, publications and other non-practising certificate fee categories had all exceeded their target income figures.

Issues raised during a discussion among Council members included advertising income from the Journal, staff turnover in the Update team, an ongoing review of the provision of online learning and efforts made to increase sponsorship of Society events.

Legal action against SLCC

Council members had a further discussion on the Law Society’s legal action to challenge the steps taken by the Scottish Legal Complaints Commission (SLCC). The legal action is to protect the public interest and trust in the legal profession and has been taken in order to seek clarity on how certain types of legal complaints should be handled and where the SLCC wishes to use a recent court decision to restrict the Law Society’s ability to investigate matters already referred to it for investigation.

In August 2016, the Court of Session ruled that single issues within a legal complaint must be categorised as either service or conduct.  The SLCC’s practice of classifying an issue as both, a so called ‘hybrid’ issue, was ruled unlawful.

New complaints made following the judgment on 31 August 2016 will now be categorised as either service or conduct issues by the SLCC.  However, the Law Society has raised concerns over the decision of the SLCC to recategorise around 200 complaints already in the system, with many now being classed as “service only”.  This was despite an earlier analysis which identified conduct issues for investigation by the Law Society as the professional body.

The SLCC’s decisions remove the Society’s power to investigate and, if required, pursue disciplinary action against individual solicitors in these cases.

The Society has also questioned the legal power of the SLCC to recategorise complaints.  There is also concern that revisiting decisions already taken risks calling into question historical cases where disciplinary action has been taken.

As a result, the Society has lodged appeals to the Court of Session, questioning the SLCC’s decisions over a number of cases as well as the principle of recategorisation itself.