After three years of cajoling, negotiating, begging and pleading with the Council of the Law Society to stand against the negative march of ABS into Scotland and being greeted with shrieks of delight at the new opportunities that this would bring to the legal profession in Scotland, it is with great interest that we note the following item attributed to the personal blog of the Vice President of the Law Society:-
“If this (ABS) is what happens, the core work stream of many firms will be decimated, with obvious consequences….. but do please remember the governments here and down south demanded these changes, so it is no use crying about the injustice or the Law Society of Scotland’s position. Once the unstoppable machine was set going, all we have been able to do is to nudge it and direct it to achieve the best results we can for our members and the public.”
The trouble with this acceptance of the arguments that we have presented to the Council over these past few years is that it seems to re-write the history of these events.
If we were to draw a timeline of what really happened we would probably include paragraphs 26 of the Scottish Government Policy Memorandum issued on 30th September 2009 which read:-
“In September 2007, the Cabinet Secretary for Justice set out the Scottish Government’s view that, although it did not agree that the Scottish legal system needed the radical changes being implemented in England and Wales, there was a need for reform. He challenged the profession to take a lead in identifying how to move forward.”
The Council of the Law Society duly responded with the written submission dated 2nd December 2009 which included:-
“The Society supports the need to respond to new demands created by a changing market and believes that Licensed Legal Services Providers (LLSPs) will facilitate more modern and competitive delivery of legal services.”
At a Special General Meeting of the Law Society convened at Murrayfield Stadium in February 2010, to which the Scottish Law Agents Society brought sufficient proxies to defeat the Council policy in support of ABS, the President of the Law Society refused to let the matter go to a vote and used his constitutional power to adjourn the meeting.
The Council of the Law Society have pursued a near unanimous policy in favour of non-lawyer ownership of legal practices since its dramatic U-turn in that direction in 2008 and it is now to be hoped that the Council will follow the lead of the Vice President and recognise the calamity that may be about to befall the independent legal profession in Scotland and the public which it serves and which depends upon that independence.
It might help the immediate forward planning in these threatening times if we set out and keep in mind the course of events that brought us here and suggestions as to key events in the time line are invited for publication on this page.