With reference to Gilbert Anderson's comments at para 4 of his article, first I should say that Gilbert is being, perhaps not surprisingly, a little selective in his reconstruction of what were long debates.

For my part can I say that we at D&W do want to maintain a cohesive solictors' profession in Scotland. However, we know that if members are prevented from being competitive (whether versus solicitors from other jurisdictions or non-solicitor providers), the profession in Scotland will be damaged irreparably and will stratify. If to remain competitive D&W and its population of solicitors needs to be regulated from outside Scotland then that is what will likely happen.

In response to Gilbert's references to David's views, my first question is, if business interests and professional duties are incompatible, then how can professions exist? Much of what solicitors do day on day does not impact upon duties to the court. So how we organise ourselves around these other aspects presumably does not touch upon Gilbert's point. All that said, however, if men of business cannot be trusted to take their professional responsibilities (such as those to the courts) seriously, why have solicitors for generations been able to be in partnership together with a view to profit? As solicitors we need to take a harder look at ourselves – not to mention at how others see us. I fear as a profession we have a tendency towards conceit.

Finally on the real point at issue, namely "independence". We should realise and be honest with ourselves that any assertion that outside ownership is incompatible with independence has a leap of logic. It assumes that if an entity is not independent then its solicitors cannot give advice independently. No business is of itself independent from its customers: there are always tensions, irrespective of who owns it, and that whether or not they are solicitors. But advice can be and should always be given independently. Outside ownership creates a new influence which could be positive or negative relative to sole ownership by solicitors. But solicitors, however employed, must give advice independently and regulation will require it. There is nothing incompatible in that.

Alan Campbell is managing partner of Dundas & Wilson LLP
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