The Law Society of Scotland should continue to be responsible for representation, support and regulation of solicitors in Scotland, according to 95% of Scottish solicitors interviewed in a recent survey.
In research carried out by Ipsos MORI on behalf of the Law Society, 91% of respondents said that ‘the Society is an effective regulator of the solicitor profession’ and 84% of respondents said that ‘intervening in firms where a critical failure has been identified’, should be high priority for the Law Society.
In line with last year’s results, regulatory duties, including setting standards and updating practice rules (78%), investigating conduct complaints and prosecuting cases before the Scottish Solicitors’ Discipline Tribunal (67%) and inspecting firms to ensure compliance with the accounting rules (66%) were also ranked as high priority.
The findings come in the context of the Scottish Government’s independent review of the regulation of legal services, which will make recommendations to reform and modernise the framework for the regulation of legal services and complaints handling in Scotland. Esther Roberton, current chair of NHS 24, is leading the review with the intention to report to Scottish Ministers by August 2018. In a detailed submission to the review earlier this year, the Law Society set out its recommendations for reforms designed to enable the profession to keep pace with global developments and improve consumer protection.
In a positive endorsement of the Law Society’s Accredited Paralegal status, 87% of the survey's respondents believe that it is important for the legal sector that paralegals have a recognised professional accreditation. The scheme was relaunched in August 2017 to better reflect the high professional status of the 448 paralegals now accredited under the scheme.
Legal aid and the UK’s vote to leave the EU emerged as key issues facing Scottish solicitors. 78% expressed concern that current policy on legal aid puts the principle of access to justice for the poorest in society at risk. 57% of Scottish solicitors believe that Brexit will have a negative impact on their organisations over the next two years, but are confident that there will be an agreement in place when the UK leave the EU
In the run up to GDPR taking effect, 76% of Scottish solicitors said they were confident that their businesses were prepared. The Law Society has ramped up its campaign to drive awareness of GDPR requirements and continue to provide tailored training products and resources to help members meet those requirements.
Paul Mosson, Executive Director for Member Services said, “We strive to meet our members’ various needs - a high street solicitor for example may have very different training needs to those of an in-house corporate lawyer. This insight enables us to identify where the opportunities and gaps lie and tailor our products and services accordingly.
“The research allows us to take a temperature check on the profession, tracking trends and flagging views on topical issues. It is a critical piece of insight for us and informs much our work on behalf of the Scottish solicitors and in the public interest."
In the year that the Law Society charity, the Lawscot Foundation awarded financial and mentoring support to the first eight bursary recipients, 71% of respondents said that the Society’s education and training standards are flexible and promote equal access.
The results confirm that Scottish solicitors value the practice advice provided to members by the Law Society, with 58% giving it high priority status. 95% of those who had received advice from its Professional Practice team, were satisfied by the overall quality of the service.
Overall the majority of respondents at 62%, are optimistic about the future of the profession, but there are differences across sectors. 50% of high street solicitors, compares with 75% of in-house solicitors who said they are optimistic about the future of the legal profession in Scotland.
Graham Matthews, President of the Law Society, said, “In many respects our members’ views remain consistent with previous years’ results. In particular, the high importance which Scottish solicitors attach to regulation is unwavering.
“Members continue to show concern about the impending impact of Brexit and access to justice issues, which in turn will continue to drive and inform much of our policy and engagement work.
“Overall, the results are positive both in terms of the profession’s outlook for the future and their assessment of our performance. We are however, acutely aware that there is always work to be done to meet and exceed our members’ needs and protect the public interest.”