First impressions of the Scottish Government's consultation published yesterday on new models for the legal profession, are of an honest attempt to find a solution tailored to the Scottish scene.
And ministers appear to have given due weight to the views of the professional bodies, the Law Society of Scotland and the Faculty of Advocates, without adopting them wholesale, in setting out the bones of the regulation model that will take shape through the Legal Profession Bill promised for June.
Lawyers and/or taxpayers should be relieved, for example, that there will be no Legal Services Board (such as has been set up in England & Wales) to oversee the direct regulatory activities of the two bodies, and any others who become responsible for providers of "legal services", a term ministers have decided is incapable of precise definition.
Nor does the paper accept the consumer lobby argument that the governing councils of the Society and Faculty should be 75% non-lawyer - though a "significant degree of credible non-lawyer involvement" is on the cards. At the same time, for the Society to become a regulator of alternative business structures (ABS), as is its wish, will require a "move towards a clearer separation of the regulatory function", probably with a non-lawyer majority on any regulatory committee.
For the rest, the proposed principles of regulation are consistent with the current core values of solicitors; there is due acknowledgment of the need to safeguard access to justice (most likely througha power to refuse a licence to practice where a risk is evidenced that a business may have a negative wider impact); and the principle of regulation of the entity rather than the individual, as the Society proposes, is accepted, with guidelines for resolving any conflict over individuals who themselves are members of different professional bodies.
The whole process of policy formation has inched forward a step at a time, but with each stage we see a little more clearly how the difficult regulatory issues that undoubtedly exist may finally be resolved. The current paper carries on this process, while identifying those matters which will have to await yet further stages. It is worth reading (and easily accessed through the Consultations section of the scotland.gov.uk website), not least because of the range of questions on which the Government is still seeking views and, we assume, open to persuasion by any of the many interests involved.