Now that these rules have been re-drafted and the mission declared a success, we present Craig Bennet's speech to the AGM in which he initially advocated the changes that came to be incorporated in the final text of these rules.
It is my privilege to speak to you this morning. I wish to support and second what has just been said by David Rattray. Please reconsider!
The position of the Scottish Law Agents Society in relation to these Rules was snappily encapsulated in a Note prepared by the Society’s Secretary on the mandate of the Society’s Council. The Note states:-
“This new Rule seeks to identify the solicitor who shall be responsible as the Client Relations Partner for a firm, after that firm has been dissolved. The responsible solicitor shall be the solicitor nominated for that purpose as part of the dissolution arrangements and, failing such nomination, the partner who was most recently nominated as the Client Relations Partner. That seems to be a very sensible and necessary measure (and so say all of us!). The difficulty, however, is that there is no time limit beyond which that relationship continues to exist. Whereas … Regulations provide a two year time limit for certain types of complaints, and whereas the general law of obligations is subject to a prescriptive time limit of five years, this particular obligation would appear to follow the responsible solicitor for the rest of his or her life and is terminated only by the death of the solicitor”.
Thus we have the theoretical absurdity of an elderly and infirm solicitor in a nursing home faced with the daily prospect of receiving the much-feared A-4 window envelope with the Law Society (or whoever’s) crest on the bottom right addressed to Mr (or Mrs or Ms) AB, Client Relations Partner of the dissolved firm of X, Y and Z, the firm having dissolved twenty years previously. Law Society’s Council may say that this is not the intention but the passing of these Rules as drafted could quite conceivably give rise to that spectre. And there are potentially other inevitable consequential questions; where does Mr (or Mrs or Ms) AB keep the dissolved firm’s files? And for how long – forever? And who pays for the storage? The nursing home?
The Law Agents had previously invited the Law Society to re-submit the Practice Rule with an appropriate time limit, say, two or even five years. Such a time limit would still require extensions or exceptions, as appropriate, for, say, allegations of criminality or duplicity. The point is this; we believe that we have been wholly reasonable here, trying to balance the perennial dichotomy of public representation and professional regulation. However, our attempts to reach a conciliated agreement got nowhere – hence the call over two working days last week and on Monday this week to gather proxies.
Only two areas of the Scottish Law Agents Society’s membership were targeted; Michael Sheridan wrote to members in
“I fully agree that the imposition of a prescriptive time limit is not only sensible, but necessary”.
That is the Law Agents’ position in this matter in a sentence. 228 proxies is a fair number. We have a proxy from a former Law Society President and also from several part-time Sheriffs. We also have proxies from many others who care deeply about the profession and also the public whom they strive to serve and also what these draft rules mean; these are not the actions of a morass of renegade lawyers with personal vendettas against the Law Society of Scotland. Whether the Law Agents’ position will be upheld at the meeting today will no doubt become apparent shortly. With more time we could have gathered much more proxies to corroborate our point even more. In excess of half of solicitors currently in private practice in my Law Agents’ constituency of
A Client Relations Partner of a dissolved firm should not be tholed to the Law Society (or the forthcoming Scottish Legal Complaints Commission) til death do us part.