Council reports 2013

Council Meeting, 22 March 2013

Fair access to the profession

The Society is to give more detailed consideration to proposals put forward by the Campaign for Fair Access to the Legal Profession (CFALP).

Tim Haddow from CFALP presented a paper to Council members. Society Vice President Bruce Beveridge paid tribute to the campaign group and for the “rich debate” that took place at the Council meeting.

The CFALP paper asked the Council to:

  • adopt a policy aim that the route to qualification as a solicitor should not depend someone’s ability to fund their own education and training
  • establish a review to identify and evaluate options for reforming the route to qualification
  • lobby the Scottish Government to extend means-tested maintenance loans to Diploma students
  • instruct the Society to monitor and report on the socio-economic diversity of the profession

The paper said: “All with the ability, character and motivation to be lawyers should be able to compete equally and on merit to enter the profession.

“Personal or family economic circumstances should not be a factor working to exclude those from less privileged backgrounds.

“This is not just good business sense; a more diverse and representative profession will provide better access to justice and underpin a legal system that recognises and balances the needs and interests of all sectors of society.”

Tim Haddow argued that the cost of qualifying as a solicitor was presenting a barrier to entering the profession, particularly for those from less privileged backgrounds.

Council members praised CFALP for raising awareness of the issue of access to the profession.

Past President Cameron Ritchie commended the group’s paper and said it should now start a debate on the issue.

The meeting agreed that the Society’s Education and Training Committee will now consider the CFALP proposals in more detail and report back to the Council in April.

The Society introduced a revised route to qualification as a solicitor in 2011 following a wide-ranging review and extensive consultation.

Scottish Legal Complaints Commission levy

Any increase in the annual complaints levy must take account of the current economic conditions and the substantial rise imposed last year, the Society will tell the SLCC.

Council members discussed the Society’s response to the SLCC’s proposed budget and levy for 2013/14.

Under the proposals, the main levy would go up from £318 to £324, a rise of 1.8%. Although SLCC costs are expected to increase due to taking on more staff, just over £200,000 would be released from reserves to help keep the levy rise down.

The Council meeting heard that the proposed increase was broadly in line with expectations. The Society consulted members and will now submit its response to the SLCC.

The SLCC published its draft budget in January. The budget changes would take effect at the beginning of July.