Why it is important that Government hears the voices of solicitors in the consultation on legal services regulation
'Have your say' written in blue chalk on a blackboard

The Society writes: November’s Journal looked at the options presented in the Scottish Government consultation on legal services regulation reform, and the opportunities and risks these could present to the future regulation of legal services in Scotland. Individual members and firms are encouraged to submit their responses to the consultation to ensure their views can be considered.

The last significant change to the way solicitors are regulated was in 2007, when the Legal Profession and Legal Aid (Scotland) Act saw the creation of the Scottish Legal Complaints Commission.

The legislation that may follow this current consultation could be another, potentially much more radical, change to shape how legal services are regulated in Scotland. It is vital for our members to have a say in their future regulation.

We have long pressed for new, enabling legislation which would bring much needed improvements and a modern regulatory framework that is fit for purpose. A major concern about the current system is the rigid, bureaucratic and slow complaints process – something we are already working to improve with the SLCC, but we can only get so far because of the limitations of the existing legislation.

However, it is important to bear in mind that regulation is more than the complaints system, important as that is for consumer protection. It is about the route to qualification and admission, the high professional standards, the financial compliance and AML safeguards in place to protect solicitors and their clients – all of which have earned extremely high trust and satisfaction levels among the public.

How lawyers are regulated is not just of significance to the way solicitors carry out their work on behalf of their clients every day, it is key to the rule of law and the operation of a free and fair society.

There is no need to rip up the current structure which has served Scotland well. The focus must be not on who regulates but how effective regulation is carried out. We need reform to the processes, rather than fundamentally new expensive structures.

The Government is of course listening to the consumer voice, but it also recognises the high international reputation of the profession and the value that the Scottish legal profession brings to the economy.

It’s important therefore that as the professionals providing legal advice and services to individuals, business and organisations across Scotland and beyond, solicitors participate in shaping the future of regulation.

The Government consultation, which closes on 24 December 2021, represents an important opportunity to have your voice heard.

 

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