Law Society of Scotland members continue to place a high priority on the Society's regulatory work, the 2014 Ipsos MORI survey has found, and have provided further valuable feedback on member services

Setting professional standards and regulating law firms, including intervening to protect the public when necessary, have been identified as Scottish solicitors’ highest priorities for the Law Society of Scotland.

In its annual survey of members’ views, the Society commissioned Ipsos MORI to poll over 500 Scottish solicitors from across the profession on a range of issues.

The survey asked what solicitors thought should be the Society’s highest priorities. 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 Society;
  • 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% viewed investigating conduct complaints as a high priority for the organisation.

In addition to the Society’s regulatory work, solicitors also believed that our 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 Society. More than 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.

Dual role supported

The vast majority of respondents, at 83%, agreed that the Society was an effective regulator, with 85% agreeing that it should continue to regulate and represent the legal profession in Scotland. It is reassuring that the area which respondents rated as the most important (regulation), is the area where they believe the Society is effective.

Two-thirds also agreed that the Society had 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, the Society has responded to more than 80 consultations
and commented on 24 bills.

Positive outlook

Solicitors appeared to have an improved outlook on last year, with 60% saying that they were optimistic about the future of the profession, compared to just over half, at 53%, in 2013.

From a professional body perspective, it was good to see that 79% of respondents felt that the Society was helpful and approachable, 85% felt that they were kept well informed with accurate and reliable information, and 72% felt that the Society sought members’ views before making decisions that affect the profession.

Satisfaction ratings for the Professional Practice service, Update events and providing information for trainees were broadly similar to last year.

We had a very positive result for the quality of service provided by Professional Practice. Analysis of the results has indicated where members believe the team should concentrate its efforts and this will form the backbone of its plan for the forthcoming year.

While the events run by the Update team were highly rated, the results did confirm an anomaly which we had spotted elsewhere, namely a misunderstanding of the differences between normal CPD and trainee CPD. This is something that we can address in the forthcoming year. Trainees also felt that we could offer more in terms of networking, and this is something that we will also be looking at this year.

Becoming smarter

This year we asked a question about the new Law Society of Scotland smartcard. As these are rolled out to members, we are keen to monitor how they are used. The survey showed a high recognition, at 85%. Just over 1,000 solicitors currently have the new smartcard, with the remainder being rolled out to all 10,000+ practising solicitors during 2015.

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 Society’s 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, with 48% using LinkedIn. Overall, Twitter and Facebook use scored slightly lower than last year, at 20% and 10% respectively.

The management team at the Society will continue to analyse the results and consider how best to improve the services offered to members. Part of that process will be to carry out further in-depth research with a smaller group of respondents to get a better understanding of how they think services might be improved. While the current survey provides good quantitative data, it is only by having more detailed conversations with practitioners that we will get the necessary feedback for this.

This research is enormously important to us so 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.

Our thanks to the 500 solicitors who gave up their time to contribute to the survey.

The Author
Angus Maclauchlan is marketing manager at the Law Society of Scotland  
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