Monday, July 30, 2007

Justice Secretary MacAskill speaks of pride and need for change in Scottish legal profession

Kenny MacAskill is proud of the legal profession in which he formerly practised, just as many lawyers are proud of their work. Only natural I suppose, but not a view shared by many people in Scotland who are forced to complain against their lawyer on everything from fraud to embezzlement to falsely inflated bills, to theft, even to criminal activity.

Mr MacAskill has said that before, in the Journal of the Law Society, where he also described anyone who took issue with the profession's idyllic ivory tower view of itself as "malcontents"

I wouldn't be happy calling a family "malcontents" who had to fight the Law Society to complain about the way a lawyer stole their mother's money and played for time while she suffered & eventually died of Multiple Sclerosis, citing to the Law Society Complaints Committee that "since [his] client was dead, the complaint should proceed no further" and "the family had no further right of redress" - along with a twisted jibe his deceased client "wasn't very clued up on things on how to deal with life" and "it didn't merit ruining [his] long legal career over someone couldn't articulate their complaint properly".

Does that generate any pride in the legal profession ... anyone ?

How about a case where the lawyer who was the subject of a complaint terrorised a family with many incidents to force complaints to be dropped, even sending round to their house some of his violent clients recently out of jail ... and everyone stood quietly by while it happened ...

Makes the blood boil, doesn't it .. good, let it boil then ... let people see the Scottish legal profession in it's true light - covering up at all costs and to any end, the crooked activities of it's members when people take issue with it's members conduct.

I don't think I would be too proud of a profession, which has struck out to victimise, maim, ruin lives and even send round murderers to it's critics - even to some of it's own people, to maintain it's preeminent position of power & influence, and maintain an immunity from the laws of the land - which have been twisted beyond belief by the legal profession.

Oh .. and then there's Douglas Mill, the Chief Executive of the Law Society threatening the Scottish Executive & Parliament with legal action if complaints regulation were to be lost to an independent body - the SLCC - created by legislation passed by our very own Parliament after long campaigns by the public to be heard on the issue of complaints against lawyers in Scotland .. democracy gets threatened by power hungry lawyers bent on maintaining complaints regulation for themselves ...

No pride there folks ... Rather .. disgust ... and that's not just from the public, some in the legal profession feel the same way, but as ever, people fear for their jobs & livelihoods if they speak out against the 17 year reign of dictatorship within the Law Society of Scotland so there is conveniently no internal opposition to the nefarious plans of the Law Society's leadership to maintain control over access to legal services. Either that or those who say they are for independent regulation and harmonious client & public relations are a bunch of liars - you choose ...

Today, Kenny MacAskill writes in the Scotsman on the issue of changes in the Scottish legal profession and how the SNP Executive "will not be pushed into blindly following an English approach" ... based on arguments that "our cities and towns is in stark contrast to the huge metropolitan areas down south."

What has the size of the client base got to do with things when quality of service, honesty of service, and transparency of service are the real questions ?

There are almost the same ratio of solicitors to people in Scotland as there are in England - and by the looks of things, the same ratio of complaints too, so why oh why do the legal profession, and apparently, our Justice Secretary, fear the implementation of wider public access to legal services ?

Would it be by any chance that opening up wider public access to legal services - by means of getting to court in a way other than being forced to use a lawyer or advocate from the Law Society of Scotland, may cause ruptures in our creaky antiquated legal system, where control and restriction of who is able to actually get legal representation or access to courts has been the order of the day for so many decades ?

Fear .. fear of losing control of the legal system and fear of the damage which would be done, where an individual with a critical case against either the legal system itself or a government institution would be able to secure the very legal services currently denied to them under the present regime of 'the lawyers are in charge of who get's to court because they know best' is what seems to be driving the legal profession in Scotland against change and allowing anyone the right of access to justice.

It's called protecting a money making monopoly by restricting access to justice to maintain power and control over people's rights. As simple as that, Mr Justice Secretary. As simple as that, Mr Douglas Milll & Mr Philip Yelland. You at the Law Society know it very well - that's what pays your salaries and makes you wealthy, on the backs & lives of those you ruin.

I wonder if Mr MacAskill is trying to turn the argument into a 'sod off England, we won't take your orders' thing - a little something a media adviser from the Law Society ran past a journalist friend of mine last week ... because if so, it won't work.

Indeed, only a few weeks ago, I asked John Swinney's Department to have a look at regulation of accountants in Scotland, and you know what happened ? The DTI sent a letter ordering them, the beloved independent SNP Scottish Executive not to respond to me and not to look into the regulation of accountants - this after ICAS intervened and ordered nothing be done on my request.

So who doesn't take orders from English authorities now ? .... not so easy to deny that one, is it .... and hardly usable as an argument to generate public support against legal reforms which are actually working out quite well in England & Wales.

The following article by Kenny MacAskill appears to be one written for the legal profession - not really for the interests of consumers, and I'm sure the Law Society is proud of that stance, otherwise I assume the article wouldn't have appeared in the Scotsman today alongside Lord McCluskey's diatribe against criticism of how the judiciary & legal profession manage their affairs (which I will cover later in the week).

Indeed, Mr MacAskill's article seems so similar to the legal profession's point of view against Clementi which appeared some time back in the Herald, I'm left wondering if the profession is speaking for the Justice Secretary today instead.

If you ask me, I don't think, based on the evidence of Mr MacAskill's 'policy statement' in today's Scotsman, that the Executive is serving the public interes in issues of access to justice - and I say that as someone who's had a lot more experience in access to justice than Kenny MacAskill - who will never ever have encountered such problems in his life of being denied legal services or access to courts by the legal profession. Rather, it appears the legal profession's interests are squarely on the table once more

Does that mean the behind-the-scenes habitual threats, dirty tricks & arm twisting from the leading lights of the justice system is once again overtaking the rights of the public ?

Does that mean it's not time to end injustice in Scotland ?

Independence for some, but not for others ? transparency, honesty & accountability for some, but not others ? The Scottish version of "Animal Farm" on the way perhaps ?

I'm not trying to be too critical, Mr MacAskill - I'm speaking from experience in dealing with a crooked system which has denied me, and many others access to justice, as you and your colleagues know very well.

How about feeling pride in the long suffering Scottish public for a change, and give the people preference over the professions ? The right of access to justice & legal services to the public over the monopoly of lawyers to do as they please and dictate who gets justice denied ?

Article follows from the Scotsman :

Time is right for us to ring the changes

Kenny MacAskill

AS A former lawyer, I am very proud of the profession in which I once practiced. It has already changed and must change further to continue to provide an excellent service to consumers and businesses.

In a global world, Scottish businesses, including the legal profession, should be able to compete out with their borders as well as within. Some already do so and more should be able to do so. There is no reason why Scotland's legal services should not aspire to emulate other Scottish businesses, such as accountancy and finance, which provide an excellent service at home and abroad.

To do so they need to be able to compete not just among themselves but with others. The Irish provide such opportunities through mediation and other legal services. We can and should do likewise.

The OFT is shortly to publish its response to the super-complaint by Which?. Which? argues for the wholesale opening up of the legal market, along the lines of reform being taken forward in England. This will allow new business structures to form, bringing together lawyers and other professionals, ending the restrictions on clients having direct access to advocates, and creating an independent regulation body.

I look forward to seeing the OFT's response and will consider carefully what it says. However, we will not be pushed into blindly following an English approach. Scotland's legal market is different. The size of our cities and towns is in stark contrast to the huge metropolitan areas down south. Such a situation requires a different approach.

There needs to be change in the structure of the profession to allow those who wish to compete internationally to do so, while at the same time protecting those who simply wish to continue to provide excellent service.

For instance, the legal professions could modify existing practice rules to allow more competition. Alternative business structures could be explored to enable larger Scottish firms to compete internationally while protecting smaller firms. These measures could be implemented without the need for legislation.

I recognise some Scottish law firms are already concerned changes in England may put them at a competitive disadvantage - this cannot and will not be allowed to happen. Scottish legal services must be able to continue to compete to win business in Scotland and elsewhere.

I want the legal profession to help us design distinctively Scottish solutions. I have doubts about the approach taken in recent years of driving change through setting up publicly run legal practices. My initial view is to support innovation from within the professions to address under-provision of legal services in areas such as domestic abuse, and ensure there is real competition across legal markets.

This will be supported by our commitment to putting legal aid on a much more stable footing. I am prepared to consider circumstances where extra funding may be needed to ensure proper access to justice, although we must recognise that increased spending alone cannot be the solution to improving access to justice.

Like most politicians I have heard voices from within the profession urging us to let the professionals who know most about their business get on with it.

Well, here is an opportunity for the profession to turn rhetoric into action. I have met with both the Law Society of Scotland and the Faculty of Advocates to discuss the future structure of the profession.

The Law Society is developing proposals on alternative business structures for consideration at its conference in September and I look forward to seeing the proposals.

The Faculty of Advocates has agreed to consider what changes could be made to their practices.

While I appreciate the complexities involved in this, I have stressed to both the Faculty and Society that I expect them to come forward with their proposals for change as a matter of urgency.

The report by the Research Working Group into legal services can also help inform this work and I look forward to working with the legal profession and consumer interests on this next stage in the development of the profession.

The Scottish legal system is a fundamental part of our national identity. I am committed to ensuring that, no matter what changes it undergoes, it remains independent of government and is able to compete in both a national and global market.

17 comments:

Anonymous said...

Very disappointed to read that piece by MacAskill today.There's no doubt he's bending over backwards for the lawyers and those cases you refer to are a scandal.How the hell can anyone feel pride in a system like that.More like shame.

Anonymous said...

Ha ! You told him good Cherbi. Hows the pride now ? Still got that inflated sense of self esteem which only a cocaine user or a few bottles of buckie might bring ?

Anonymous said...

To be fair to Kenny MacAskill, he is having to walk a tightrope between the legal profession and people like you Mr Cherbi.If he does more for one than the other, whichever of the two feels disenfranchised will lash out, as I see you have done today.

I'm not saying you're wrong on this, Mr Cherbi.Far from it, I entirely sympathise with you.The points you make are not in dispute and after reading the things you write about, I can't think of anyone who would rather the profession be cleaned up than the profession itself. I for one would like an end to the way client complaints have been mishandled for many years.For what it's worth, I don't think Mr MacAskill got good advice on how to write that article today but you may say that's what comes from listening to too many lawyers ?

Anonymous said...

SNP not turning out to be so good for Scotland after all.
What a surprise.

How much did lawyers pump into the SNP kitty last election ?

Al said...

Bloody brilliant Peter!

My message to Mr MacAskill was made LOUD and CLEAR in a posting on another forum 6 weeks ago, but i feel it is worthy of repetition here now:

http://shirleymckie.myfastforum.org/sutra335.php#335

It should also be noted that our SNP Cabinet Secretary FOR JUSTICE (ahem!) has been deafeningly silent over some vey serious cases of Scottish INJUSTICE which were highlighted here:

http://shirleymckie.myfastforum.org/sutra475.php#475

If Mr MacAskill doesn't like the message, then he knows what he must do...

Alternatively, he might want to drop me a line (or even phone ... "never writes, never phones!") and perhaps we can begin to try and right some wrongs together ... especially the ones that only WE know about.

In the meantime, my message to the People of Scotland is really quite simple:

Thursday 3 May 2007...

YOU WAS CONNED!

Best wishes Kenny.

Your good friend,

Al

Anonymous said...

Good post Peter you haven't missed much in tearing down the Secretary for Justice.

Next time I hear you say "I'm not trying to be too critical" I'll wear body-armor to be on the safe side !

Peter Cherbi said...

#anonymous @8.51pm

Yes, well this is one of the problems with the current system ... keep complaints secret and they can do as they like ... Kenny MacAskill knows that very well.

#anonymous @ 9.21pm

I take it you are a solicitor ?

If the legal profession wants to clean itself up, it's had a long time to do it.

I can't see any improvement on the past or what we currently have in the field of complaints regulation in the legal profession until all matters of regulation go fully independent, and the legal services market is fully opened up without conditions.

I'm sure Kenny MacAskill got the best advice available to him at the time for writing that article... he means what he says, and while taking the time to comfort the lawyers in Scotland, he hasn't bothered yet to attend to those who have suffered terrible injustice.

#Al @12.54am

You are spot on Al .... our Justice Secretary has done nothing yet for people who have suffered injustice .. but he seems to jump to it when the legal profession clicks it's fingers.

I'm quite sad to see that as I thought the May elections would bring a change for the people of Scotland, rather than simply give the professions and monopolies what they wanted.

I wonder why the Executive would rather attend it's business partners than it's people partners.

It seems we as the Scottish public don't matter as much to them as the likes of lawyers, accountants and those which are touted as being of excellent standard for the global markets.

Indeed .. far from it, I would advise anyone not to use a Scottish lawyer or accountant - because if their work goes wrong, there is nothing you can do about it, and no compensation available for messed up contracts & business deals.

I wonder for instance, how foreign firms would feel if they knew some of the biggest names in Scottish Law slipped out details of supposedly secret contracts from foreign companies to UK firms owned by domestic clients to gain work or force rises in bids for deals ... Should I tell the world lads ?

Anonymous said...

Had to come over to see what your thoughts are on the story and WOW !

Take no prisoners Peter, they just slow you down mate and f*ck those lawyers its about time they got their little empire taken down a few pegs

Anonymous said...

well done looks like you got a success at the oft !

danny said...

Thanks for the advice, I will avoid using Scottish lawyers for anything after reading your blog.

Anonymous said...

Your comment in the hootsmon this morning is better than the story (as usual)

Dont you sleep ?

not where i should be said...

If Kenny MacAskill was a lawyer he will probably still have his Law Society of Scotland membership.

Am I right ?

Graham McDonald, Edinburgh said...

A very poor excuse by Kenny MacAskill for protecting his buddies in the parasitical legal profession.

You are correct again Peter Cherbi it looks like the Office of Fair Trading have the upper hand over our amateur Justice Minister or maybe they are less concerned with protecting their friends business market.

Anonymous said...

I hope that lawyer who robbed his MS patient and said that is taken out and hung

Anonymous said...

"al" you are so right on that ! good links in your post will be off for a visit now

Anonymous said...

Anonymous says...

I hope that lawyer who robbed his MS patient and said that is taken out and hung

and I hope those fuckers at the Law Society who covered up the complaint and did nothing get whats coming to them too.

Sick bastards the lot of them and how often has this happened and we dont know about it

Peter Cherbi said...

#not where i should be @5.03am

I don't know for sure but I suspect he still pays his subscriptions to the Law Society like all other 'ex' lawyers otherwise if he wants to go back into legal practice at a later date it would be more difficult.

Also continuing to pay subs to the Law Society entitles you to ... special benefits ...

#Graham McDonald @ 11.54am

Yes, well it's a pity it's taken the OFT to get things moving - when we've had the relevant legislation on the books since 1990 to open up the legal services market.

The answer to why sections 25-29 were never implemented can probably be summed up in the word "greed".