Much has been said and written about alternative business structures in recent weeks. But during that debate, there has been no suggestion that the Scottish Government or the other political parties are likely to withdraw their support for reform of the legal services marketplace. Unless there is a major policy shift, ABSs will become a reality with the enactment of the Legal Services (Scotland) Bill later this year.

With that in mind, the Society has been working for some time on the regulatory principles that should apply to the new business structures, called licensed legal services providers (LPs) in the Bill. Last month we launched a consultation outlining the key issues. It is vital that we get feedback from the profession to help the Society to develop these principles. Responding to the consultation is one of the most effective ways for solicitors to influence the reform process.

The concise consultation paper invites solicitors to comment on general questions such as views on types of new business models, standards and ethics for LPs, and the role of the Guarantee Fund and Master Policy. The paper also asks for comment on which ABS models, if any, the Society should regulate, and considers issues such as outside investment and the “fit and proper” test that might apply.

Some of these issues are complex. All the more reason why we must get this right – for the sake of the profession and users of legal services. We have already made it clear that there can be no compromise on client protection or professional privilege. The more feedback we get, the stronger and more credible our position in discussions with Government and others.

A number of solicitors have already responded; others have given feedback at the Society’s recent series of ABS roadshows. The consultation closes on 16 April. It is hoped policy proposals will be put before our AGM in the summer. Click here to make sure your views are taken into account and help the Society deliver on your behalf.

Neil Douglas, Future regulatory model project manager at the Law Society of Scotland
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