Growing optimism among Scotland’s solicitors
Scottish solicitors are showing greater confidence in the future of their profession according to a recent Law Society of Scotland survey.
In the annual survey of Law Society members’ views, 61% said that they were optimistic about the future of the profession, compared to just 53% in 2013.
Alistair Morris, President of the Law Society of Scotland, said: “It’s reassuring to see that solicitors are more positive about their future as they look to build their businesses following the prolonged downturn. It’s important that we understand our members’ priorities to help us plan for the future as an organisation and to be able to provide the right kind of support and services they need throughout their careers, to ensure that they can meet the needs of their clients and employers.”
The Law Society of Scotland commissioned Ipsos MORI to poll over 500 Scottish solicitors from across the profession on a range of issues.
Setting professional standards and regulating law firms, including intervening to protect the public when necessary, were identified as solicitors’ highest priorities for their professional body. The results showed that:
- 85% of solicitors believed that intervening where there had been a critical failure at a law firm should be a high priority for the Law Society of Scotland,
- 73% said setting solicitors’ professional standards should be a high priority
- 67% of members said that inspecting firms to ensure compliance with accounting rules should be a high priority
- 67% also viewed investigating conduct complaints as a high priority for the organisation.
In addition to the Law Society’s regulatory work, solicitors also believed that its law reform work was important, with almost two thirds of respondents, at 65%, saying that responding to proposed new legislation was a high priority for the Law Society. Over half agreed that providing practice advice for solicitors (57%) and protecting Scotland’s legal aid budget (51%) were also high priorities for their membership body.
The vast majority of respondents, at 82%, agreed that the Society was an effective regulator, with 88% agreeing that the Law Society should continue to regulate and represent the legal profession in Scotland.
Morris said: “It’s clear that our members believe one of our most important roles is as a regulator who sets high professional standards and also to step in when things do go wrong at a firm, for whatever reason, in order to protect clients.
“Two thirds also agree that the Society has an important role in terms of working in the public interest in relation to the profession and the wider justice system. Our law reform team and volunteer committee members, including solicitors and experts from a range of different disciplines, scrutinise proposed new legislation and respond to consultations to help ensure that any new law which is passed is technically sound and workable in practice. In the past year we have responded to more than 80 consultations and commented on 24 government bills, including the implementation of the Smith Agreement on further devolution for Scotland and the Assisted Suicide Bill, which we believe needs further clarity.”
The survey also showed a high recognition, at 85%, of the new Law Society of Scotland Smartcard. Just over 2,000 solicitors currently have the new Smartcard with the remainder being rolled out to all 11,000+ practising solicitors during 2015.
Morris said: “It’s great to see that the new card has such high recognition among the profession. We have to verify the identity of every Scottish solicitor in person before we issue their card, so while it will be a major task to do so it’s a great opportunity to meet every one of our members face to face over the coming months.”
The Smartcard, which will act as an identity card for solicitors, will also allow clients to verify their solicitor’s status in real time by logging on to the Find a Solicitor section on the Law Society website. In addition the card will allow solicitors to use a secure electronic signature which will help speed up transfer of documents.
Just over half of solicitors use social media for professional purposes but with the exception of Twitter at 20% (19% in 2013), usage of all social media channels scored slightly lower than the previous year with Facebook at 10% (15% in 2013) and Linkedin decreasing from 54% in 2013 to 48% in 2014.
ENDS 16 March 2015
Notes to editor:
The full results can be viewed on the Law Society website.
The Law Society of Scotland is the professional body for Scottish solicitors. Founded in 1949 it regulates, represents and supports its 11,000+ solicitor members working in Scotland, the UK and around the globe. It also has an important duty towards the public interest in relation to the solicitor profession. www.lawscot.org.uk
Ipsos MORI interviewed 567 members of Law Society of Scotland. Interviews were conducted by telephone between 15th and 24th December 2014. Members were selected from a database provided by the Society using stratified random sampling. Weighting was applied to the data to ensure it was representative of the membership population as a whole.