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By SLAS Spokesperson

Word has been received of proposals for the new lay complaints authority to have power to issue guidance to the legal profession. Now it is one thing for a body to be appointed from outwith the profession to determine whether or not individual solicitors may or may not have transgressed particular requirements of professional conduct, so long as these are clearly identifiable and justified requirements upon members of the profession. However, the power of such a body to effectively legislate as to what should be the requirements of the conduct of solicitors, over and above the law of the land which applies to all subjects, and dealing with the specialised and high standards which are required of solicitors would appear to suggest that there should be no independent legal profession at all. The profession cannot have any independent existence, that is, independent of the other organs of the state and of other groups and factions or parties within the state if it is to be controlled by this new creation of parliament and whose very raison d'etre is that it should not be part of the legal profession. Now, the abolition of the independent legal profession may well be an objective to some individuals and politicians have often been seen to raise cheap plaudits by suggesting that they mean to sort out lawyers in one way or another but very serious consideration ought to be given before passing any measure that even threatens a move in that direction. Where would be, for example, a guidance from this body which conflicted with guidance from the Law Society or with some judicial or statutory authority? Or would this body include eminent lawyers who might provide guidance to the body issuing the the guidance? In which case what is the difference between this and the Law Society, an earlier creature of parliament, which already employs non-lawyers for various aspects of its undertaking, including complaints review and reporting and whose Council has long included non-practising lawyers ? And what would be the relationship between this body and the Law Society ? Some clarification and some further views shall appear on this page in due course.


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