Optimism among Scotland’s solicitors rose again in 2015, according to research carried out for the Law Society of Scotland.

The annual survey of more than 500 solicitors from different sectors of the profession, carried out by Ipsos MORI, recorded a small rise in those feeling optimistic about the future from 60% to 62%. In 2013 the figure was only 53%.

The survey also showed that solicitors continue to rate the Society’s regulatory role as its most important function, including intervening in firms where a critical failure has been identified (81% state this to be a high priority), setting standards for solicitors and updating practice rules (72%), investigating conduct complaints against solicitors and prosecuting cases to the Discipline Tribunal (69%) and inspecting firms to ensure compliance with accounting rules (60%).

Other key findings included:

  • 95% of respondents agreed that the Society should continue to be responsible for representation, support and regulation of solicitors;
  • 85% agreed that the Society was an effective regulator of the profession;
  • 80% considered the Society helpful and approachable;
  • 74% thought the Society effective at leading and supporting the profession;
  • 69% agreed that the Society’s education and training standards were flexible and promoted equal access;
  • 66% said the Society focused on the issues that affect individual solicitors;
  • 60% disagreed with the UK Government’s plan to repeal the Human Rights Act and replace it with a British Bill of Rights; and
  • 78% believed the Scottish Government’s policy on legal aid risks undermining access to justice for the poorest in society, while 77% backed increasing legal aid rates.

Chief executive Lorna Jack paid tribute to members’ increasingly positive approach during a period of such extensive and rapid change. She commented: “It’s very encouraging to see an increase in optimism among our members. That’s a great basis for us to start moving forward with high ambition for the Scottish solicitors’ profession.”

Ms Jack added: “For the first time, our survey asked if membership of the Society was recognised globally as a rigorous and valued professional accreditation, and 79% of those who took part agreed that it was – and that is before we have even taken any sustained action on our strategy."

Last year the Society adopted a five-year strategy, Leading Legal Excellence, with the aim of becoming a world-class professional body.

Head of marketing, Angus Maclauchlan, said. “This is the fourth year of our annual member survey. We carried it out to get an up-to-date picture of what members are thinking. Participants not only commented on wider issues but also on what the Society’s priorities should be, how much they know about us, the quality of our communication and the services we provide.

“Overall, members’ perceptions of the Society are largely positive and the results are generally consistent with previous years. While we are doing what our members expect, we are not complacent and are seeking to improve the range and type of services we can offer.”

An article on the survey findings will be published in this month's Journal.