So jaw-jaw could yet be better than war-war. Against expectations, the Society's Special General Meeting today agreed to an adjournment for talks between the Law Society of Scotland and the Scottish Law Agents Society, who requisitioned the meeting, to see whether a basis could be found for an agreed way forward.
At the moment we can only speculate what the focus of the talks will be, although the nature and level of regulation is one possibility. During the preceding debate, which lacked nothing in the weight of the points made on both sides, supporters of the SLAS position spoke not only of their concerns for professional independence under ABS but of the lack of clarity that continues to surround the proposed regulatory model.
What was most welcome, however, was the absence of the rancour that has featured in much of the published media comment in recent weeks. Welcome not only to me, I think – as the debate went on, a theme began to emerge of the desirability of preserving, indeed the need to preserve, a united profession. Small firms tempted to say let the big boys move down south if that's what they want to do, were reminded of the consequences for Master Policy and Guarantee Fund premiums without the contributions of their big cousins. And all would suffer, it was said, if the profession was seen to be weak in its dealings with Government and the Parliament.
And while President Ian Smart said that Council's objective, and its difficulty, was in keeping solicitors as one profession, he accepted that it might have been over eager at times and that SLAS "might have done us a favour" in delivering a kick to a sensitive area.
The bigger picture, and the views as to whether there is a future in ABS, may not have changed that much – yet – but for the moment at least we no longer have a profession that is in danger of tearing itself apart (these are others' words before the debate, not mine). That should give some cause for optimism.