An amendment to the Scottish Law Agents Society's motion before the Law Society of Scotland's Special General Meeting has been put forward by McGrigors LLP.
The amendment would remove the part of the motion declaring that ownership would be reserved to those qualified as solicitors, and state instead that majority ownership should be in the hands of such persons, "or persons so qualified together with other persons who are regulated professional owner managers of that business".
Interviewed for the Journal Online, McGrigors' managing partner Richard Masters explained why the firm is putting the amendment forward.
Q. First of all, could you give your reaction to the referendum result?
A. We were very pleased with the result and the level of engagement it showed. The resolution that ABS should proceed, subject to appropriate safeguards is a positive one, and we hope that our amendment to the SLAS motion will help identify some of those safeguards. The amendment is designed to try and pull people together and to try to find some common ground.
Q. What additional safeguards does your proposal have for professional independence?
A. I think that where Law Society members had major concerns, they tended to revolve around the independence of the profession and external ownership of law firms – so-called "Tesco law". I think most people would recognise that a mix of professionals running a firm together is a very different proposition.
Q. What sort of external investors do you think would be attracted to ABS?
A. That remains to be seen, but if you look at England & Wales, there is a high level of interest mainly from financial institutions. However, what I'm proposing would ensure that law firm ownership in Scotland remains in the hands of solicitors and other professionals practising or working at the firm.
Q. You refer to this compromise as carrying a price to your business. How significant is that?
A. It's impossible to quantify; it depends how the market develops. But we won't have as much flexibility as our competitors in England & Wales.
Q. But you still wish to remain a Scottish regulated firm?
A. Without a shadow of a doubt we would prefer to remain as things are.
Q. Have you any other comments on the amendment?
A. The key point is that we are trying to come forward with a proposal to allow the profession to move forward, and the Society to continue to represent the profession as a whole in dealing with the Government.Like to comment on this article? Please use the box below. Comments will be checked and then put live.