The Law Society?s recent volte face on complaints is to be applauded and I now do so. Their Option E (proposing to retain the status quo with some well meaning tinkerings) contained in their Scottish Executive Consultation Response was in my view simply ill fitting. The Law Society have long been victims of a conspiracy of perception from both the profession and the public. Submitting their Option E proposals, whilst no doubt made in good faith, did nothing to remove that perception.
SLAS meantime lodged a paper with the Executive which was largely based on Option D. Ken Swinton requires thanks for the substantial effort which he put in to our submission. In summary, we submitted that the Law Society should retain power to investigate and deal with misconduct allegations. We need a Law Society, with teeth to deal with those who give the profession a bad name. However, we also submitted that an independent body (staffed by lawyers who have experience of what happens at the sharp end but with an independent board ) be created which deals with all service allegations. The Law Society should not be lumbered with these. Conspiracy perceptions simply multiply; the profession against the public and vice-versa, and both against the Law Society. The Law Society have for too long been stuck in the middle of such complaints and consequential perceptions, unable to satisfy or placate the stressed and cynical profession or the increasingly unreasonable and consumerist public. Giving the Ombudsman greater powers, we submitted, would be of no benefit either to the profession or to the general public.
We must see that the process is now completed urgently; there seems to be little doubt that another two years? minimum will require to pass before the revised system comes on to the statute book. Further time will therefore require to elapse before the new system comes into operation. Still more time will be needed as the system will have to bed itself in. Throughout this period there will be much uncertainty within the profession, the public, this Society and also the Law Society themselves. There are now anecdotal stories that staff at the Law Society are worried, simply because they are uncertain as to what the future holds for them.
Irrespective of your opinions of the Law Society, you would not wish any employment uncertainty in your own lives. Moreover, you would not wish any delay in the investigation of a Law Society complaint received against you in the next couple of years simply because there is a shortage of Law Society employees to process it through to finality. For those reasons, and obviously for the future improvement of our profession, we must seek early and positive progress to these issues which remain outstanding.
A happy and peaceful festive period to you all.