Introduction and history
What have been the key drivers behind the legislation?
There have been a number of factors which have brought the debate on ABS to the fore, from advances in technology and innovation in business development changing how solicitors work and how legal services can be delivered, to the introduction of the Legal Services Act 2007 in England and Wales following the 2004 Clementi report on ABS.
The consumer group Which? submitted a super-complaint about restrictions in the Scottish legal services market to the Office of Fair Trading in May 2007, which made the issue more acute in Scotland and which resulted in the OFT making recommendations to the Scottish Government to introduce measures to lift these restrictions.
Among the profession, it became clear that there was some appetite for change in Scotland, initially from the larger commercial firms which wanted to be able to be able to structure their businesses to compete on an equal footing with competitors elsewhere in the UK and an increasingly global legal market; but also from some smaller firms which saw an opportunity to develop their businesses and combat the threats that high street businesses are increasingly facing.
A research working group report on the legal services market in Scotland has shown that, while there was no empirical evidence and MDPs are as yet a hypothetical, looking at them in other jurisdictions, eg Germany, it seems they do well, particularly those working for business and commercial clients.