The Law Society of Scotland’s Practice Rules 2011 set out the standards and professional requirements of the solicitor profession in Scotland. For example, the Standards of Conduct (see Rule B1) include obligations to act with honesty and personal integrity at all times, in the best interest of clients, and to carry out work with competence, diligence and the appropriate skills; and the Accounts Rules (see Rule B6) contain detailed requirements designed to protect client money.
Failure to comply with practice rules (or other legal requirements) can put clients (and members of the public generally) at serious risk.
If you are concerned about the conduct of someone you work with, or about practices or behaviours you have observed (whether within your own practice unit or elsewhere), it can place you in a difficult position. However, prompt, lawful and responsible reporting of legitimate concerns that clients may be at risk can be vital in protecting clients – and preventing or reducing damage which could otherwise result.
Sources of help and advice
There may be times when you are not sure whether or how best to raise concerns about conduct, practices or behaviour that you have observed. There are a number of possible sources of help and advice including:
LawCare is a free and confidential advisory service that helps lawyers, their immediate families and their staff deal with health problems such as stress, depression, addiction and emotional difficulties. The service offers the opportunity to discuss problems that are interfering with work or family life and can include referral to expert assistance. Raising a concern about a colleague can be a difficult thing to do, and pastoral support is provided to assist those taking this step. The Society supports LawCare, which is an independent charity, run by volunteers from the profession. The helpline is open Monday to Friday, 9am to 7.30pm, and Saturday and Sunday, 10am to 4pm. Solicitors and law students in Scotland should call 0800 279 6869. View more information about LawCare.
Public Concern at Work is a charity which provides free, confidential advice to people who are not sure whether or how to raise concerns about practices that they have seen at work.
It is strongly recommended that you seek appropriate help and advice – and research the legal position - before you take any action – especially where information you may be proposing to disclose is sensitive or confidential to a third party, for example. In particular, you should consider relevant legislation, such as the Public Interest Disclosure Act 1998, when assessing how to act. Note that the Society is not a ‘prescribed person’ for the purposes of that Act.
Raising a Concern with the Society
To raise a concern with the Society you should contact:-
Ian Messer, Director of Financial Compliance
Direct line - 0131 226 8897
Some people raising concerns with the Society may be willing to do so openly – but you may raise a concern on a confidential basis - if you wish to do so, please make that clear from your first contact with the Society – and the Society will then take appropriate steps to keep your identity confidential. Depending on all of the circumstances, the preservation of confidentiality may limit the investigative steps or regulatory action which the Society can take in response to your concern, so the Society may wish to discuss with you if you are prepared to be identified at some stage – to allow the Society to refer to information provided by you in order to take action considered necessary to protect clients or the public.
In some cases, preservation of confidentiality (yours and others) may mean that it is not possible to provide feedback to you on action taken in response to a concern you have raised.
It is possible that some concerns raised should more properly be categorised as complaints which must be directed to the Scottish Legal Complaints Commission (SLCC). Where the Society considers that to apply, you will be advised accordingly.
The SLCC acts as a gateway and point of contact for all complaints against legal practitioners in Scotland. More information on types of complaint and how to make a complaint can be found at: