Friday, August 31, 2007

Law Society policy on open legal market reforms at odds with solicitors & public alike

Question : Who wants to keep the legal services market closed to anyone other than it's own members ?

Answer : The Law Society of Scotland - particularly a select few who control it, such as Douglas Mill and the rest of the monopoly brigade.

Question : Who wants to open the legal services market ?

Answer : A host of consumer organisations, the OFT, commercial competitors, victims of injustice, and yes, even some solicitors themselves.

Clearly, the Law Society of Scotland are against the masses on this one - although you wouldn't think it if you were to believe the propaganda coming out of it's headquarters at Drumsheugh Gardens, Edinburgh, where Douglas Mill, Philip Yelland, and colleagues are hard at work putting more spin on the Law Society's policy towards the recent OFT recommendations on legal services market reform than any politician could ever manage !

Earlier this week, Douglas Mill authored an article in the Herald newspaper, supposedly, accepting the need for debate and a grudging acceptance there will be change in the way the legal services market in Scotland is currently structured - where if you need to use legal services or require access to the court, you have to invariably use a solicitor or an advocate, thus restricting your access to justice.

The Law Society of Scotland has put up a strong fight on the battle to maintain the monopoly on legal services, but alas, change is coming, and the sooner the better for both the legal profession, and the general public.

However, while the general public will be less restricted in their access to legal services & access to justice after Scotland gets it's home brew version of the Clementi reforms of England & Wales, the solution to those who seek legal representation in cases involving things such as negligence, claims for damages and other issues generated by the poor service of the likes of solicitors, accountants and the like, is not guaranteed to be resolved by this opening up of the legal services market.

Taking the current example of trying to recover damages from a crooked lawyer by using another lawyer to sue the crooked lawyer - Everyone (except the legal profession) accepts that just doesn't work.

A victim of a rogue lawyer can (if they are lucky), secure legal representation, then go from lawyer to lawyer to lawyer over many years, trying to chase the original crooked lawyer for damages, while the legal profession, managed by the Law Society of Scotland, has a laugh making sure their case gets nowhere. That's what happened to me, and that's what has happened to many many people up and down the length of Scotland.

It's the same for many other professionals too - try suing one of Scotland's legion of crooked accountants managed by ICAS, and see how far you get ... not very far would be the answer, as certainly the actions of crooked accountant Norman Howitt demonstrated in my own case .. and is typical of many who try to sue an accountant .. or other professional who is lucky enough to have an unaccountable, self regulatory governing body hell bent on protecting them against any charges of poor service or claims for compensation.

Getting back to the issue of how the legal profession is to proceed on legal services reform, as I said Douglas Mill appeared in the Herald on Monday, accepting the need for debate, while restricting the terms of the debate to remind all that while ideas could be put forward, those ideas would have to correspond with the Law Society's wishes in this matter .... along with the noted restriction that while the legal services market may be opened up .. the Law Society will still control who becomes a solicitor or who enters the legal profession - this to be done chiefly by controlling the qualifications issue and carving out a new role for itself as regulator of all in the legal services market.

Allowing the Law Society to remain in control - or even have partial control of the legal services market is not an option the public should allow, given the disgraceful demonstration by the Law Society over the last few decades of it's corrupt handling of regulatory issues, where for the main, it has protected crooked lawyer after crooked lawyer, and ensured claims for damages against the least or the most negligent solicitors have been thwarted at every turn, by denying the ruined clients access to justice & legal services.

Surely an organisation which claims to represent those who use the law as a business model, while also claiming to protect the clients interests, then actively restricts and prejudices the public's access to legal services & access to justice when it is not in their professional interest to see such rights allowed, cannot be allowed to continue to manage those who provide such legal services as a business model.

In the following article, you will see a different view of how the OFT's proposals on opening the legal services market are being interpreted by some members of the legal profession, where the attitude of some seem to be at odds with policy put forward by the Law Society of Scotland.

Be careful however, because at the end of the day, these are still the same legal firms, many with disgraceful complaints records who are trying to cleanse themselves on the decks of free market reforms ....

What the client really needs, are clean firms being formed by clean people, who are willing to work transparently, honestly, and with accountability .... How many existing legal firms could claim to do that ?

Oh, and to complete the week's coverage on legal issues, the Law Society of Scotland President resigned - due to "pressures" of the job.

It seems Mr MacKinnnon must have had enough of his strings being pulled by the Chief Executive ...and is off back to his firm to concentrate on work there. The president's role is largely a figurehead anyway and has no power ... although many past presidents of the Law Society of Scotland have notably used their lack of power to support the practices of many a crooked lawyer against a poor ruined client ....

Scotsman article on the solicitors own view of legal services market reforms follows, then the short report on the resignation of the now former Law Society President John MacKinnon :

Prepare for the end of the closed shop by rebranding and merging - as we have


THE legal profession in Scotland is facing challenging times. The recent OFT recommendations and the imminent deregulation of the legal profession, creating a level playing field between Scotland and England, will firmly confine our current ways of working to the archives.

Tesco Law, Virgin Law, EasyLaw: you name it, we can expect it. Firms with impeccable consumer credentials will be all over our business before you can even say "so long, closed shop".

Gillespie Macandrew, like many others, welcomes this culture of openness and breakdown of barriers. We believe in competition and we're focused on serving consumers' interests. But we're not complacent, and we need to be ready.

That's why we've just invested £100,000 in a comprehensive facelift (or re-brand, as the marketing people like us to call it). We've also invested in a training programme for our people to face the new challenges.

After extensive research among staff, peers and existing and potential clients, we have developed a revitalised corporate identity that will allow us to not only weather the onslaught from new providers, but also accelerate our growth while continuing to deliver a professional holistic offering across our existing client-base.

As well as helping us stand out in a crowded market, our re-brand also reflects the firm's expansion and diversification. The new logo champions our three key practice areas: law, property and finance.

The research indicated our public profile has been on the low side and Gillespie Macandrew is viewed as a "traditional" law firm. In reality, the truth couldn't be further removed: hence the new identity.

Our business has changed dramatically as a result of five very different acquisitions over the past three years, which have retained our Scotland-wide services and increased our business exposure to the Edinburgh market. It was important for us that the new identity reflected our aggressive growth and communicated the personality of our business, notably that of Hunters, the recognised and trusted estate agency, which we acquired in 2006.

The rebrand positions the new-look Hunters Residential as a pivotal element of our business, with matching brand identity and design work.

Our ability to give mortgage advice is again a recent addition to the stable. In June we launched a new financial services division, which broadens our existing work into specialist mortgage and pensions consultancy while complementing the private client department's estate and tax planning, trust management and investment capabilities.

This was rapidly followed by the acquisition of Haig Scott, the three-partner Edinburgh law firm, which was the springboard for the launch of our specialist housebuilder property team.

This new deal signifies a burgeoning trend of consolidation in the market. With mounting compliance and regulatory issues, the pressures of running a small practice are becoming all-consuming, and increasingly small and medium firms are under commercial pressures to merge and focus on niche specialities. By joining a much larger entity, the red tape is no longer an issue for the partners who can get on with the day job.

The result is that Gillespie Macandrew now boasts 22 partners and more than 150 people specialising in a range of niche disciplines: from licensing to tax planning; intellectual property to residential property. This year our turnover is set to exceed £10 million for the first time. A giant step from the £3 million that we recorded back in 2003.

In these exciting but uncertain times, our new brand values of reliability, approachability, vibrancy and partnership are designed to fuel our next stage of growth. With Clementi in England and pressure to follow in Scotland, consolidation and consumer demand shaping our world, my rallying cry to the profession is to be clear what you stand for and develop a robust brand that allows you to beat the newcomers at their own game.

Gillespie Macandrew is ready to do business in an open shop.

• Ian Turnbull is the managing partner at Gillespie Macandrew

and now .. for the end of John MacKinnon's Presidency .. just a few weeks after he took the role on ...

Law Society president quits job over pressures

THE President of the Law Society of Scotland is to step down from the post with immediate effect, it emerged last night.

John MacKinnon is to leave office because he feels he cannot cope with the demands of the high-profile post and his job as a partner with law firm Brown & McRae, based in Fraserburgh.

The President of the Law Society is a figurehead who represents its 10,000 members in Scotland. Mr MacKinnon took up the post in May, at a time of great change in the profession. Big issues include the creation of the independent Scottish Legal Complaints Commission and so-called Tesco law - the call to allow basic legal services to be provided from outside the profession to widen consumer choice.

The society's vice-president, Richard Henderson, becomes president and the society will appoint a replacement for him as soon as possible.

Tuesday, August 28, 2007

Law Society Chief - Debate legal services reform but lawyers must retain control of the legal profession

Douglas Mill, the Law Society of Scotland's Chief Executive has made a less than convincing appeal for solicitors to retain control over their monopoly of legal services in the face of legal services reform.

Appearing in Monday's Herald newspaper, Mr Mill made the case that the Law Society of Scotland "has been at the heart of the debate for a number of years", alleging through a rather unusually long commentary that the legal profession in Scotland have been major players for the good of both the public & profession in the face of the impending reforms to the legal services market in Scotland.

Sadly, nothing could be further from the truth, as Douglas Mill particularly, has been at the heart of blocking any reforms to the way the legal profession in Scotland does it's business and made its vast profits over the years, at the expense of transparency, accountability, honesty & client care.

Last year, 2006, clients finally got a slight advantage in dealing with solicitors in Scotland, by way of the Legal Profession & Legal Aid (Scotland) Act 2007, which aimed to bring a measure of independent regulation to client complaints against solicitors amid a swathe of evidence the Law Society of Scotland & Faculty of Advocates had corruptly handled complaints procedures for many years, promoting interests of solicitors over that of the client, and ensuring little or no compensation was ever paid to cover an almost routine culture of theft from clients funds, be it in overcharged fees, theft, or embezzlement, which have become almost as common in the legal profession today as 'taking a breath'.

The LPLA Act 2007, brought about by long campaigns by many, including myself, and several consumer organisations, had a rough ride through Holyrood, with every dirty trick tried by the legal profession to kill it off - from bringing in English Peers such as Lord Lester of Herne Hill - who authored legal opinions against the passage of the bill, to the raging threats of Douglas Mill to take legal action against both the Scottish Executive & Parliament if the LPLA Act was indeed passed - citing the loss of a lawyer's "Human Right" to regulate complaints against colleagues.

The 2007 LPLA Act did of course, did pass the legislative process at Holyrood, although with some amendments brought in by certain MSPs so obviously sponsored by the Law Society itself, some of those amendments very dangerous in their aims, such as a few put forward by Conservative MSP Bill Aitken, who unsuccessfully demanded that fines which the new Scottish Legal Complaints Commission could impose on crooked lawyers be reduced from £ 20,000 to £ 5,000.

Clearly Bill Aitken MSP, who is now the Convener of the sole Justice Committee at Holyrood, is no friend of the general public or victim of crooked lawyers when it comes to reforming the legal profession - and will no doubt resolutely stand to defend his friends in the legal profession from any further reforms which benefit the public far more than lawyers. This this very fact was demonstrated only a couple of weeks ago when Bill Aitken publicly demanded again, that Justice Secretary Kenny MacAskill should not follow the OFT's recent recommendations to reform the legal services market in Scotland

Getting back to Douglas Mill's commentary on the legal services debate, there is sadly nothing new in his attitude towards the interests of the client, and certainly he is making no attempt to clean up the Law Society's 'sins of the past' which have seen client after client ruined to protect many lawyers with appalling service & conduct records, who go on to fleece & ruin more clients, unaware of their past. Douglas Mill is happy with that - it's been one of his many anti client policies pursued at the Drumsheugh Gardens HQ of the Law Society over the years, and has brought much profit to a dishonest, unaccountable legal profession, while throwing the interests of the client firmly into the waste bin.

However, the idea of controlled 'debate' publicly put forward by Mr Mill all comes down to this, as he fails to hide even in his own words from the article : "most would agree that it is perfectly acceptable - even welcome - for others to compete with solicitors for business, but not to compete as solicitors."

Open up legal services, but control who becomes a solicitor. What use is one without the other ?

Half measure reforms where the Law Society of Scotland remain in ultimate control are of no benefit to the public, and only seek to preserve the present monopoly maintained by the legal profession.

Mr Mill is trying to steer the debate on open market reforms away from breaking the solicitors monopoly on legal services such as courtroom representation and other long prized money making monopolies exclusive to the legal profession, which have earned many legal firms vast profits over the years - including of course, controlling how claims of compensation against rogue lawyers are handled via the use a solicitor to sue a solicitor route...

This is a form of 'controlled debate'. nothing particularly new to Douglas Mill and the Law Society, who have long blocked any public scrutiny over their function as the governing body of Scottish solicitors, and so-called 'protector of the clients interests' - the latter of which the Law Society of Scotland have performed well.

Last January, when the Law Society's Chief Accountant Leslie Cumming was attacked in a 'hit', organised it seems by Mr Cumming's own solicitor colleagues to thwart investigations into crooked lawyers, Douglas Mill and the Law Society 'High Command' took the opportunity to publicly call for the censorship & arrest of their critics - on the pretext that debate into the Law Society had caused the attack on the now retired Mr Cumming. This was a bizarre, fortunately unsuccessful move by the Law Society, typical of the desperation felt at their headquarters on their lack of control over public criticism.

Controlling debate by arresting those who put forward debate, is more akin to Nazi Germany than Scotland, Mr Mill .... but then debate is a one way street in your world, isn't it ?

Only this past weekend, we saw how the Law Society of Scotland deals with public 'debate' and how it has long operated a policy of censorship over the debate into reforms in an article I covered here : Wikipedia manipulated & censored by Law Society of Scotland in propaganda war against critics & reformers

We recently saw again, how Douglas Mill and his colleagues reacted against the Which? "supercomplaint to the OFT on opening up legal services reform. That reaction, was certainly against the idea of giving any advantages to the public when dealing with solicitors

It is up to us, the public, not to allow the legal profession to control & restrict the debate into how well earned reforms, brought about by the efforts of a wide front of consumer organisations, campaigners, the media, and our own Parliament, are implemented for the betterment of Scottish society.

The legal profession could also do itself some good, by healing the damage it has caused to its clients in the past, as well as voting in a new leadership which will take it away from unprecedented levels of complaints, higher than ever levels of fraud, lack of trust & public disrespect which have been the hallmark of the Douglas Mill years.

Here is Douglas Mill talking through somewhat gritted teeth on the possibility of reforming the legal services market .... a slight stammer seems to indicate a little reluctance to step up to the altar of accountability & free market reforms ?

Herald article follows :

Legal services market reform needs broadest possible input


Readers of The Herald could be forgiven for thinking that reform of the legal services market had only appeared on the agenda in the past month or so. Certainly, the flurry of letters to the editor and stories on the news and business pages - in The Herald and elsewhere - might suggest this is the case. Not so for the Society, or a number of others who have been at the heart of the debate for a number of years.

A brief recap may be useful at this point.

The provision of legal services has been a subject of discussion for some time, though it rose to prominence - in the UK, at least - with Sir David Clementi's independent review of legal services in England and Wales, which published its findings in 2004. The same year, the Research Working Group on the Legal Services Market in Scotland - on which I represented the Society, along with the director of law reform, Michael Clancy - carried out a similar analysis. After detailed deliberation, the working group reported last year.

Among its findings, it concluded that intervention was unnecessary and the forces of supply and demand should dictate further changes to the legal services market. The Society raised with the previous Scottish Executive the issue of driving forward the research working group. However, the elections intervened. It is encouraging that the new Justice Secretary, Kenny MacAskill MSP, has responded to the issue with some enthusiasm, while also highlighting the need to deliver a Scottish solution appropriate for the Scottish marketplace.

Meanwhile, the Department for Constitutional Affairs at Westminster decided to go further than Clementi, outlining its plans for alternative business structures, or ABSs, in the Legal Services Bill. Recognising that any change south of the border would impact on Scotland, the Society remained heavily involved in all aspects of the debate: setting up an ABS working party; having monthly discussions among our Council members; staging question-and-answer sessions at faculty meetings up and down the country; ensuring regular liaison with the Faculty of Advocates and our Big Four firms. Indeed, Douglas Connell, from Turcan Connell, made a constructive contribution by putting forward a positive set of proposals for a form of limited multi-disciplinary practices.

In June, we staged a successful event in London for our members there, with ABSs taking centre-stage. At the same time, we have been gearing up for a major conference, The Public Interest - Delivering Scottish Legal Services, to be held in Edinburgh on September 28. Indeed, the subject of ABSs arises at events beyond our shores, and will likely feature at the Chief Executives of the European Bar Associations conference, to be hosted by the Society next month.

It is also likely to be on the agenda at the International Institute of Law Association Chief Executives conference in Singapore in October. The International Bar Association in Singapore, the following week, will be another platform where ABSs will be discussed.

All this amounts to a considerable effort on the part of the Society. Rightly so, because the issue is of sufficient importance to demand such attention. We should never forget that this does not just impact on the legal profession - we are determining the future of a sector that contributes £1.2bn turnover a year to the Scottish economy, employing 30,000 people. A productive debate on the future of legal services in 21st century Scotland, based on evidence rather than perception, requires the broadest possible input if it is to be of value, which is why we welcome interested newcomers and seasoned veterans alike to the discussion.

The speakers at our Edinburgh conference - which will include the Justice Secretary - can outline some potential business models and give their views on the best way forward. For the Society's part, we are keenly aware of the competing interests involved, which include ensuring access to justice, competition in the legal services market and consumer protection. We are eager to take all those views into account in reaching, as far as is possible, a consensus on the issue.

We understand the justifiable concerns of those who say that high street and rural firms would find it hard to compete with, for instance, a supermarket chain providing legal services, and may be forced out of business.

Yet we also realise that the big firms are competing in a global marketplace. The success of the big firms is something to take pride in - they should not be hampered. Equally, we don't want to affect the availability of lawyers in certain parts of the country or the viability of our consumer protections. It is worrying that it is becoming increasingly difficult to attract young lawyers to small and even medium-sized towns. Despite that, most would agree that it is perfectly acceptable - even welcome - for others to compete with solicitors for business, but not to compete as solicitors.

The solicitors' profession has more capacity for change now than at any time in the recent past. Solicitors are more consumer-focused, better qualified and harder working than ever before. They are increasingly accessible, accountable and successful - we should all be proud of that. I know I am.

But the Society is only one player here. This is a matter for everyone in the solicitors' profession and, indeed, the whole of civic Scotland. Ultimately, the Scottish Executive and Scottish Parliament will make their own judgments on the way ahead and the Society will play its full part in assisting the Scottish Executive and Scottish Parliament to make the right decisions for Scotland and Scotland's legal system.

But whatever happens, the profession's core values of integrity, independence and confidentiality must be maintained.

# Douglas Mill is chief executive of the Law Society of Scotland

Sunday, August 26, 2007

Wikipedia manipulated & censored by Law Society of Scotland in propaganda war against critics & reformers

It's taken the media long enough to report something I covered 18 months ago back in February 2006 where the Law Society of Scotland were censoring out information on it's Wikipedia entry, critical of it's operation as self regulator of the legal profession.

Today, Scotland on Sunday and a few other newspapers finally report on the story, giving the Law Society's editing out the critical information as part of the legal profession's media campaign against criticism of it's ways, which we all know to be less than honest ....

Here are some screenshots of the changing face of the Law Society of Scotland's Wikipedia entry.

This is how the Law Society of Scotland's Wikipedia entry looked with some more truthful details before the censorship started ...

Wikipedia Law Society page before edit

Next up follows the edited version by the Law Society, and the current version, which can be seen to omit any criticism at all of how the Law Society functinos or deals with complaints against it's members ...

Wikipedia Law Society page after  ediit law society of Scotland wikipedia 26 August 2007

Of course, manipulating the media is a common thing for the Law Society of Scotland when it comes to news reports critical of it's performance as a self regulator of complaints against it's own member solicitors ... and sometimes officials have even resorted to threatening journalists careers if they report too many (or any) stories of client complaints against legal firms in Scotland.

I've covered some of those media manipulation stories by the legal profession in previous articles here :

Law Society of Scotland actively censors the Scottish Press to kill articles on crooked lawyers

Scottish Legal Profession censors the Press to kill off bad publicity - Part II

Law Society of Scotland claims success in gagging the press over Herald newspaper revelations of secret case memos

Scottish media opinion being manipulated by legal profession against Parliamentary reforms of LPLA Bill ?

... with some more upsetting articles on Law Society manipulation of the popular media here ;

Scots Law Chiefs turn hostile on consumer organisation in propaganda war against deregulation of legal services markets.

Lawyers complaints system thought to have caused intimidation of clients for years

Lawyers protests over low legal aid fees revealed to be fake as Law Society's own research points to increase

Chief Executive of the Law Society of Scotland branded a liar after FSA denies claims of intervention to block complaints body

Law Society of Scotland threatens Court challenge against Scottish Executive over LPLA legal reform Bill

Scottish legal profession campaigns against open debate in Scottish Parliament on independent regulation of complaints against lawyers

Fairly obvious then, after reading through those previous articles, the legal profession in Scotland hates criticism of itself and prizes control over the media and free speech as being one of it's main weapons against reforming the complaints system against lawyers and keeping the public silent on the culture of injustice within the legal profession itself.

For my own part, I am reminded of the Law Society of Scotland's special briefings against myself and other critics of the legal profession on the same night & day after their Chief Accountant was attacked, apparently in a 'hit' arranged by crooked lawyer(s) ...surprisingly .. yet to be caught some 19 months after the 'hit' took place ...

Scotland on Sunday reported that story here : Cash laundering link to law chief stabbing and dutifully mentioned my blog - which was only 3 weeks old but apparently causing consternation in the Law Society HQ and other parts of the Scottish legal profession...

Cash Link to Law Chief Stabbing Scotland on Sunday 29 January 2006

Senior officials at the Law Society called a few journalists and asked them in for 'special briefings' to be given files on myself & others, with orders to run stories alleging it was critics of the legal profession who were responsible for the attack on Mr Cumming, and that they should be immediately silenced, websites taken offline - and one identified official - very senior in rank at the Law Society, allegedly said to a journalist that [named] campaigners against crooked lawyers "should be locked up in Guantanamo Bay for a bit of torture" ... something the press sadly decided to leave out ... it would have made a good headline though as the journalist knows himself - something like Law Boss calls for critics to be tortured ? ...

Here's today's Scotland on Sunday article on the Law Society of Scotland up to it's usual tricks of media manipulation ...

Wikipedia warzone


THEY are the Wikipedia timewasters, anonymous cyber-vandals who use one of the internet's greatest resources to abuse rivals, spread gossip and cause widespread confusion.

But Scotland on Sunday can today reveal that many of the culprits are staff at major companies, councils, government departments and other organisations who spend their time sabotaging the free online encyclopaedia rather than working.

From the Prince of Wales's official residence to British Airways, the Ministry of Defence and Aberdeenshire Council, this newspaper has established precise numbers, times and details of how employees used work computers to anonymously edit Wikipedia articles, often to spread abuse, bigotry and outright nonsense.

Among the biggest Wikipedia timewasters in the UK appear to be MoD employees, who were responsible for more than 4,600 anonymous edits in the past four years.

They included 100 entries about Formula One, contributions about the 1970s cartoon series Captain Caveman and several disparaging references to Scots Pop Idol winner Michelle McManus.

MoD computers have been used to edit the entry on the Faslane Peace Camp, claiming the submarine base was vital to the local economy and that if the nuclear base left, the campaigners would find something else to complain about.

Wikipedia was founded in 2001 and currently has two million English articles, all of them written and edited by computer users around the world. The site has always been vulnerable to abuse and last week it emerged the CIA had edited articles including those relating to casualty levels in Iraq.

Many malicious editors of Wikipedia try to mask their identities, but using sophisticated scanning software, Scotland on Sunday has traced thousands of edits back to hundreds of organisations, several of which last night launched investigations to track down those responsible.

Computers operated by Scotland's local authorities were used in 16,190 Wikipedia edits in the past four years.

Top of the league is Aberdeenshire with 2,004 changes. They were used to make no fewer than 12 entries about Jaffa Cakes, along with a comment that all "neds" are "gay".

In second place was South Lanarkshire Council, which recorded 1,505 Wiki edits, including obscene and bigoted remarks about Celtic FC and Rangers owner David Murray.

Perhaps one of the most surprising sources for anonymous Wiki editing is Clarence House, the home of the Prince of Wales. An enthusiastic linguist at the royal residence added a paragraph on the usage of the Australian greeting "G'Day", while another remarked on the sexuality of a Surrey businessman.

In addition, a computer on the network of the Scottish Criminal Cases Review Commission was used to make comments about Rangers, calling them "the world's most bigoted football club". And a Scottish Parliament computer was used to change Tory MSP Phil Gallie's date of birth to 1839.

British Airways computers have been used to make anonymous edits about the 2005 Helios air crash north of Athens, which killed all 121 on board. Meanwhile, a BBC computer was used to remove criticism of its iPlayer software.

Computers at the Law Society of Scotland have been used to make anonymous edits which removed a paragraph which was critical of them.

Wikipedia is also being used as a weapon in disputes within organisations. Lesley Hinds, chairwoman of NHS Health Scotland, was criticised in an anonymous, ungrammatical and misspelt Wikipedia posting which came from an NHS Health Scotland computer.

It said: "Health Scotland is under the relocation review which will most likely see it being moved from Edinburgh to Glasgow. Lesley Hinds appears to support this which is surprising since she is meant to represent the interests of Edinburgh in her Lord Provost role. When this policy was released it was expected she would of resigned is [sic] protest but instead has continued working in both jobs."

Mike Emmott, employee relations adviser with the Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development, said: "Most employers would expect anyone wanting to edit Wikipedia to do it at home and in their own time. Employers are not Attila the Huns who will ban everything and they accept a little bit of give and take, but it is hard to see how vandalising Wikipedia pages is acceptable. A ringleader for this kind of activity could even find themselves being dismissed."

Andre Coner, a consultant with computer security firm Commissum, said: "It's a myth that everyone is anonymous online. They're not. In order for you to send and receive information, the various servers need to know where your computer is."

Spokeswomen for both the MoD and the Scottish Parliament said they were aware of the issue and were looking into the origin of the offending edits. A BA spokesman said it was also looking into the issue.

And South Lanarkshire Council pledged "appropriate action".

However, a spokeswoman for Aberdeenshire Council suggested that most of the edits would have come from youngsters using school computers and members of the public using library machines.

A spokeswoman for the Law Society of Scotland said it had removed inaccurate and outdated criticism and that since the number beside the edit could be identified as belonging to the Law Society it could not be construed as anonymous.

Cut and run

January 31, 2006, 6.58pm

A user going by the name of Sjharte, who identifies himself as being an Edinburgh-based lawyer, added the following paragraph to the Wikipedia page on the Law Society of Scotland.

"There has been criticism of the Law Society of Scotland from some sections of the Scottish public citing the level of complaints by members of the public against Scottish solicitors. The Scottish Executive has instituted studies into regulation of the Scottish legal profession."

February 8, 7.11pm

An anonymous writer deletes the paragraph. The edit can be traced to a computer on the Law Society of Scotland network.


Another Wikipedia editor, under the name of ALoan, restores the critical paragraph.

February 17, 1.22pm

Again an anonymous writer deletes the paragraph of criticism. Again from a computer on the Law Society of Scotland network.

February 19, 10.17pm

"Sjharte" edits the page to bring back the paragraph.

February 23, 5.27pm

Again an edit is made from a Law Society computer.


"Sjharte" puts the critical paragraph back in.

March 24, 3.18pm

Anonymous but traceable. The Law Society computer is used to wipe out the paragraph again.


Sjharte has another go, adding the critical paragraph and branding the anonymous edits as "vandalism".

April 13 ,2006, 10.56am

Resistance is useless. Again the criticism is blanked out. Again the edit is anonymous. Again it can be traced to a Law Society of Scotland computer.


Wikiscanner allows users to hunt for anonymous edits which came from computers at the networks of various organisations.

This is the basic Wikiscanner link, enjoy:

This is the link which takes the user to all the anonymous edits originating with computers on Ministry of Defence networks:

This is the link which takes the user to all the anonymous edits originating with computers on British Airways networks:

This is for the Scottish Criminal Cases Review Commission:

Wednesday, August 22, 2007

Law Society of Scotland touts high standards as lawyer gets 5 years jail

Philip Yelland, the Law Society of Scotland's Director of Client Relations, now Director of Regulation, never misses a chance to spin out unfortunate news coverage showing the Scottish legal profession to be anything but honest .. this time, in a case I covered earlier HERE of Shahid Pervez, who was sent to prison for five years & three months by Lord Hardie for giving a client who was charged with abduction & extortion, a false alibi.

The Scotsman newspaper quotes Mr Yelland - the infamous director of Client Relations at the Law Society of Scotland, responsible for seeing many crooked lawyers remain in practice as saying :

"On the incredibly rare occasions when a former member of the legal profession is caught on the wrong side of the law it is deeply regrettable.

Yes Mr Yelland - very regrettable since most solicitors who should actually be caught on the wrong side of the law escape it, due to professional interference, and a reluctance from the Crown Office even to prosecute the ranks of embezzlers, fraudsters, thieves, and even a few would be killers who seem to lurk in the Scottish legal profession these days ...

Mr Yelland again : "Mr Pervez's actions are especially disappointing when compared with the high standards that are so frequently displayed by the vast majority of the profession.

Which "High Standards" are those, Mr Yelland ? The same "high standards" which have generated more than 5000 complaints a year for well over a decade against the 9,500 solicitors in Scotland ... indicating that every single lawyer has a complaints history, with common instances such as (John O Donnell case) being quite common ...

Once more Mr Yelland : "Integrity and honesty are the core values expected in the legal profession."

Clearly Mr Yelland you have to be joking. No one believes you.

How about examples such as this Andrew Penman, this Turcan Connell, this John O'Donnell, this Angela Baillie, and even a solicitor who was bribing clients to put in legal aid claims to name but a few ...

Where lies the legal profession's "integrity & honesty" there mr Yelland ? Somewhere in the sewer perhaps ?

The same legal profession which threatened our elected Parliament & Scottish Executive with legal action over reforming complaints procedures in favour of consumers .... How do actions such as those qualify in the integrity & honesty stakes ?

Lord Hardie, whom as we know wanted to kill off any opening of access to legal services in Scotland when he was Lord Advocate, had his say too as the sentencing judge, quoted by the Scotsman, branding Mr Pervez "a disgrace to his profession, his family and the Asian community"

Not content with that, Lord Hardie, as reported in the Scotsman went on to say :

"You have pled guilty to an offence which strikes at the heart of justice by committing perjury in support of a false alibi for someone charged with a serious offence for whom a trial was fixed.

"The public is entitled to have the highest standard of integrity and honesty from lawyers, and you have betrayed that trust and besmirched the good name of solicitors."

The public is and has been entitled to expect the highest standards of integrity & honesty from lawyers for many years, your Lordship - but as the statistics and client experience shows, we have been getting the lowest standards of integrity (hardly any at all) and honesty has been virtually non existent, where the profession has covered up for its own at every turn.

So, we have an interesting case comparison here, where a lawyer, admitted his guilt of giving a client who was charged with various offences, a false alibi .. and was sent to jail by a judge ... but had the lawyer given a professional colleague an alibi for ripping off an elderly pensioner of her life savings & house .. the judge would have let him off, if indeed the case had ever got to the unlikely stage of a court trial.

Lawyers don't give other lawyers alibis when it comes to complaints though, do they ? Oh yes they do in the case of solicitor Andrew Penman.. and not only lawyers, but accountants too as we well know in the case of accountant Norman Howitt. Doctors, Police, and a few other professions who happen to be self regulator also seem to have the habit of providing a cover story for their colleagues when facing complaints or even criminal charges ...

How common is it for alibis to be spun out by lawyers for lawyers facing complaints ? The answer is, as I and many have found out through experience - Extremely common.

Lawyers regularly give other lawyers alibis when it comes to complaints - that's why so many complaints are dismissed by Mr Yelland's office .. from writing false representations and submitting false evidence in favour of solicitor colleagues to Complaints Committees, to harassing clients who have made complaints, to even threatening the lives of complainers .. lawyers in Scotland have certainly made a profitable industry out of saving their own colleagues skin when it comes to the issue of ripping off clients wholesale and getting away with it, carefully seeing the poor client never gets anywhere near a court.

Quite a few clients who have taken issue with their solicitors conduct, by way of making a complaint to the Law Society, have been made aware of such alibis provided by colleagues for the lawyer who was the subject of the particular complaint .. and surprise, every time an alibi was provided, it was believed over that of even overwhelming material evidence to the contrary. Another example of professional cover up for colleagues in a well trodden track at the Law Society of Scotland and other self regulators ...

Alas Mr Pervez did break the law by what he did, admitted to it, and was sentenced accordingly. That was the right thing to do of course - the law worked in this case, unevenly of course, when you consider the destruction many of his colleagues still in the legal profession have caused to so many clients over the years.

Does anyone think Lord Hardie should break this uneven working of the law, and start insisting that all solicitors who are found guilty of ripping off clients or engaging in all their other grand schemes to embezzle clients money, fiddle clients legal affairs, etc ... come up before the Court for a public trial & sentencing ?

Yes, at least I think that would be a good thing - much better sending a crooked lawyer to a jury trial than having them face the Law Society of Scotland and the Scottish Solicitors Discipline Tribunal, having little or no punishment administered in the name of covering up for one's own colleagues ...

The Justice Secretary could start the ball rolling by getting the Crown Office to prosecute more crooked lawyers ... and drop their professional reluctance to do so, or to even admit to how many lawyers have been charged with criminal offences over the years ...things which almost make one wonder whose side the Crown Office is really on ...

Perhaps the story of Mr Pervez, would have turned out slightly different if there had been more robust, independent regulation of the legal profession, with mechanisms in place for a solicitor to report receiving alleged threats from clients to give then an alibi or else .. but of course we know this kind of thing doesn't happen too often in the Scottish legal profession now .. don't we ...

Time for reform of the Scottish legal profession and fast, as the following Scotsman report clearly demonstrates ...

'You are a disgrace to your profession, your family and the Asian community'


A LAWYER who provided a "serious criminal" with a false alibi for his High Court trial went to prison for five years and three months yesterday.

Solicitor Shahid Pervez, 39, was branded by the judge, Lord Hardie, as "a disgrace to his profession, his family and the Asian community".

He told Pervez: "You have pled guilty to an offence which strikes at the heart of justice by committing perjury in support of a false alibi for someone charged with a serious offence for whom a trial was fixed.

"As a result, the trial was adjourned for investigation and the accused was allowed bail and is now a fugitive from justice," Lord Hardie went on.

"The public is entitled to have the highest standard of integrity and honesty from lawyers, and you have betrayed that trust and besmirched the good name of solicitors."

Pervez, of Crookston, Glasgow, admitted attempting to pervert justice by providing the man who was accused of abduction and extortion, with a false alibi in 2005.

In a sworn statement, Pervez, a conveyancing solicitor, said the man was in his office discussing an insurance claim at the time the crime was committed.

Paul McBride, QC, defending, described the man who was given the alibi, who cannot be named for legal reasons, as a "significant player" who inspired fear amongst criminals.

He said a terrified Pervez agreed to provide the alibi because the man threatened his life and the lives of his family.

Mr McBride's comment that it was an "absolute tragedy" for the lawyer prompted a remark from Lord Hardie: "It is also an absolute tragedy for the course of justice."

He said that after he was threatened, Pervez should have reported the matter to police and he told Mr McBride that if the rule of law was ignored the courts would be governed by criminals.

Lord Hardie said: "The rule of law is greater than any of us, and in this case it hasn't prevailed because there is a fugitive from justice as a result of Pervez's actions."

The Law Society of Scotland, the ruling body of the country's solicitors, described Pervez's action as "regrettable" and "disappointing".

Philip Yelland, its director of regulation, said: "On the incredibly rare occasions when a former member of the legal profession is caught on the wrong side of the law it is deeply regrettable.

"Mr Pervez's actions are especially disappointing when compared with the high standards that are so frequently displayed by the vast majority of the profession.

"Integrity and honesty are the core values expected in the legal profession.

"Clearly, Mr Pervez has betrayed those values."

Pervez has since resigned from his practice at the firm of Belton Pervez in Victoria Road, Glasgow, and is no longer a solicitor.

Lord Hardie told Pervez that in sentencing him he was taking into account the fact that he had given evidence for the Crown in the trial of a Glasgow policeman.

The officer, who also cannot be named for legal reasons, allegedly tried to buy a witness's silence in the fugitive's trial with a £50,000 bribe.

The constable was found not guilty.

Sunday, August 19, 2007

Scottish Law Commission omit calls for protection from crooked lawyers & executors while recommending Inheritance Law reform

Wives & children of the deceased should be given greater protection against a possible disinheritance by their partners & parents under new proposals to grant greater rights over the current 'laws of succession', reports the Herald newspaper.

The current laws on inheritance & wills are rather antiquated - just like many parts of Scots Law these days sadly, antiquated and not really reflective of life in the 21st Century (although some ex-judges and a few members of the judiciary seem to prefer it that way .. or worse, fight to preserve ancient law with the odd loophole, having to rely on judicial whim to let cases through).

At the moment, dependents have a right to one-third of a deceased parent's 'non heritable', or more commonly referred to "moveable estate" regardless of the terms of a will, whether they are included in it or not.

"Moveable estate' doesn't really include properties, it's more like cash, bank accounts, etc .. but one point on this would be that in several observed cases, lawyers have taken advantage of such incidents by altering the wills of deceased clients to write out family members, and then scooping the remaining properties of the client for themselves or selling them to preferred clients & colleagues .

However, the Scottish Law Commission has strangely missed the most glaring recommendations for overhauling the laws of succession - and those are, stronger regulation & oversight of how wills are handled by the likes of the legal profession & courts, protection for beneficiaries against negligence, corruption & incompetence by crooked lawyers, accountants & other professionals, including protection against crooked executors.

One could ask why the Scottish Law Commission didn't recommend increased protection from the likes of negligent, corrupt & incompetent solicitors & executors ... could it be too many links to the legal profession or perhaps, not enough statutory powers given to them by previous administrations because the legal profession itself doesn't want the SLC to have too much power, much like the position of Scottish Legal Services Ombudsman has been since it was formed from the Law Reform (Misc Provisions) (Scotland) Act 1990

The answer to that may well be that if such protections were put in place, the likes of actions of crooked lawyers such as Andrew Penman, of Stormonth Darling WS, Kelso, and crooked Executors such as the Norman Howitt of Welch & Co, Accountants in the Scottish Borders , wouldn't so frequently take place .. and the legal profession wouldn't be so easily able to milk dead clients assets for furthering their own legal firm's profits & wallets while many families in Scotland get ripped off in an almost daily occurrence from the Scottish legal profession.

Of course, I have the example of what happened to my late father's estate to illustrate what so many in Scotland go through when dealing with crooked lawyers & crooked executors out to ruin an estate for their own personal profit & gain.

Norman Howitt, the Executor of my late father turned up the day after my father died, with a hand written list of 'addittions' to my father's will in Mr Howitt's own favour and of other unspecified relatives & 'unidentified people'. The 'additions' were written in Mr Howitt's own handwriting, and also strangely wrote myself and my mother out of the will - much to the amazement of myself, my mother, my own lawyer, family & friends, and the Police.

Suffice to say the 'amendments', seemingly written after my father's death, with nothing to prove otherwise, and in the Executor's favour, didn't get the time of day but these unsubstantiated handwritten 'amendments' didn't stop Norman Howitt, teaming up with the lawyer crooked lawyer Andrew Penman Andrew Penman to ruin my late father's assets & estate, in their own interests. paying themselves fat fees along the way and making sure no one got anything.

Not content with ruining my late father's estate and trying to write myself and my mother out of my father's will, Norman Howitt then went on to take all my mother's assets too including her bank book & pension book, while Mr Howitt and Mr Penman made sure no one bought the properties of my late father in Jedburgh ... no doubt so they could be sold to a preferential colleague perhaps ...

A severe example of a crooked lawyer & crooked executor one might think ? but in reality a common occurrence which only goes on and on because lawyers regulate complaints against their colleagues via the corrupt Law Society of Scotland, and make sure that when a family of a deceased client complain a crooked lawyer has wiped out their inheritance, nothing is ever done against the offending legal firm or lawyer concerned - and to make sure nothing is done, the family of the deceased client are obstructed to the nth degree by the protectionist Law Society of Scotland and prevented at all costs by the most senior members of the legal profession to obtain legal representation to pursue the likes of crooked lawyers & crooked executors for negligence & compensation for what was done.

So you see - when lawyers & executors rip off a will and a family - nothing gets done, ever - and the lawyers & executors get away with their frauds & rip offs because their professional regulatory bodies, the law, the Police and politicians all take a back seat, seemingly quite content to do so, and safe in the knowledge the many victims are never given a significant public voice calling for reforms.

The dead client is robbed (easy since they are dead), the remaining family & beneficiaries are robbed (easy because nothing can be done about it since lawyers regulate themselves) and executors get away with it too because they cut the crooked lawyer in on the deal ... all the while politicians & the courts stand by doing nothing because of their good friends in the legal profession need to make their fat profits.

Here's another common example of what happens to residual estates of deceased clients, involving the famous Scottish legal firm of Turcan Connell : Law Society of Scotland rejects complaint over estate ruined by huge legal fees

Reform is needed - but the rules & laws governing Executors etc are stuck in the dark ages, with the approval of many in the legal profession it seems because they make money from it in an easy hit against deceased clients and grieving families whom the likes of solicitors, accountants & others easily target for money.

The Scottish Parliament must have it's say on this issue, and people, particularly those who have experienced the full horrors of solicitors & executors mishandling wills should write to their MSP and the Scottish Executive with their experiences, to bring reforms & protections against the mishandling of wills by the law and those professions & executors charged with such duties.

Report from the Herald newspaper to follow :

Shake-up of law on wills aims to protect children

CALUM MacDONALD August 17 2007

NEW PROPOSALS: Parents will no longer be able to cut dependant children out of their will

Parents would no longer be able to disinherit their dependent children by cutting them out of their wills under new proposals which amount to the most radical shake-up of Scotland's inheritance laws in a generation.

Spouses and dependent children would be given greater protection against being disinherited while co-habiting partners would see their rights to make a claim on an estate extended under the proposals.

And in cases where a person dies without leaving a will, surviving spouses should inherit their entire estate, according to the Scottish Law Commission (SLC), which published the proposed reforms yesterday.

Scotland's inheritance laws, otherwise known as the laws of succession, are in need of a radical overhaul to reflect changes in society such as the legal recognition of gay relationships, the increasing number of step-families and divorces, according to the SLC. The report from the SLC deals with two major issues: the position of surviving spouses, civil partners and co-habitants when a person dies without having made a will; and the protection of close relatives from being disinherited.

It says that the current rules governing intestacy, when a person dies without a will, sometimes fail to provide a fair result for surviving partners and therefore should be changed. At present if a person dies and leaves a large estate or a mainly heritable one - in other words one comprising land and buildings - and is survived by a spouse or civil partner but has no children, the spouse will be the major beneficiary.

However, a substantial proportion may go to the dead person's parents, siblings and even the sons and daughters of siblings who died before them. In some circumstances they can inherit more than the spouse.

The SLC proposal is that in this situation the surviving spouse or civil partner should be entitled to the whole estate.

The other major proposal contained within the SLC report deals with close relatives who are disinherited. Under Scots law someone who makes a will is able to disinherit any member of his or her close family by leaving all of their estate to other people.

The SLC said: "There is strong and consistent public support for some protection for spouses, civil partners and issue and dissatisfaction with the existing regime of legal rights applicable to them."

It proposes that in these circumstances spouses and civil partners should be entitled to a quarter of what they would have got had there been no will, and that dependent children should be able to apply to court for maintenance from the estate. The definition of who would qualify as a "dependent" child under the new proposals has still to be decided.

It also recommends that co-habitants be entitled to a share of the estate in these circumstances.

The report also calls for new legislation to prevent a person evading the protections against disinheritance by giving property away before they die instead of leaving it in a will. Currently in Scots law there is nothing to prevent a person doing this.

The SLC proposals were welcomed by academics and legal practitioners alike.

Alan Barr, a partner with Brodies LLP, said: "I think these proposals are entirely reasonable.

"It's not a root and branch removal of the law as it stands, but it's modernising and deals with problems that people have perceived about it.

"There is always a balance to be struck between whether on the one hand you should be able to do exactly what you like with your estate, and on the other whether people should be bound to provide for at least some of their family.

"This is an attempt to change that balance slightly and to simplify what is very complicated law."

Michael Meston, emeritus professor of Scots law at the University of Aberdeen and one of the foremost authorities on the Scots law of succession, said: "The law in this area is undoubtedly in need of improvement.

"These proposals are very welcome and address a much-needed improvement in the law."

Friday, August 17, 2007

Scottish Executive Health Secretary pledges inquiry into contaminated blood products

As the culture of injustice in Scotland beings to be broken down, ever so slowly, our new Health Secretary & SNP Deputy leader Nicola Sturgeon, made a personal pledge there would be a public inquiry into how people were infected with Hepatitis C through contaminated blood products used on the NHS.

I have covered this issue before here : Blood infections Inquiry to be held as Executive challenged to clean up the injustices of the past

If you would like to learn more about the tainted blood products scandal campaign, please visit their website here :

You can also find out more details and the petition calling for Westminster to hold a public inquiry into the matter here :

Many eyes will be on how the SNP led Executive handle this inquiry .. for instance, who will be appointed ? What powers will it be given ? How unrestricted a remit will it really have ? Will the victims finally get justice for the incredible injustice which was done to them ?

The traditional culture of inquiry in Scotland has been to fudge the issues, not blame anyone in particular, avoid the mention of negligence , and rely on secrecy to let those off the hook who were guilty of omission, dereliction of duty, negligence, or even criminal cover up - which may well be the case here, given the quantities of documentary evidence & records destroyed ...

Will the SNP break with that culture of the past fiddles where those who were guilty were protected ? or will the victims of this terrible scandal be given the inquiry they and Scotland truly deserves ? I hope so. It's about time something was done for the people who have suffered in this scandal and hats off to Ms Sturgeon for taking this step. Now it's time for action, accountability, transparency & honesty for the victims of the tainted blood products scandal.

My very best regards to all of those, particularly the long suffering victims, who campaigned for this inquiry and best wishes for a successful outcome.

Pay attention to this please Cabinet Secretary of Justice Mr Kenny MacAskill - there are victims of injustice in the justice system who deserve a similar inquiry pledge - from YOU.

Following report from the Herald newspaper :

Campaigners hail blood products inquiry pledge

WILLIAM TINNING August 17 2007

Campaigners yesterday welcomed a personal pledge from Health Secretary Nicola Sturgeon of a public inquiry into how people were infected with hepatitis C through contaminated blood products.

The SNP deputy leader made her pledge yesterday after meeting campaigners at the Scottish Executive's offices in Glasgow.

The inquiry was a manifesto commitment of the Scottish National Party. It was announced shortly after the SNP took office that the new executive would hold a Scottish inquiry.

Ministers will await the outcome of the Archer inquiry in England and Wales into Hepatitis C and HIV infections from NHS blood supplies, before deciding on the scope and remit of the Scottish investigation.

Following yesterday's meeting Philip Dolan, chairman of the Scottish Haemophilia Group, who has been part of an eight-year campaign for a Scottish inquiry, said: "The speed and recognition of the need for this inquiry is a matter for which Nicola Sturgeon should be congratulated.

"We look forward to working with her in helping with the remit."

Gary Kelly, 43, from Glasgow, beat leukaemia as a young man only to find out later that he had been given contaminated blood during a bone marrow transplant operation in 1986 which condemned him to live with HIV for the rest of his life. Mr Kelly, is recovering from his fourth heart attack which he blamed on anti-viral drugs he has been forced to take since being contaminated.

He said: "Hopefully sufferers like myself will at last learn how we became infected and why the government at Westminster ignored warnings from groups, including the World Health Organisation and the United Nations, about the potential dangers of importing infected blood products."

Frank Maguire, of Thompsons solicitors, which represents hundreds of the victims and their families, said many had died during the campaign for an inquiry.

However, he added: "The survivors and the relatives of those who have died have remained committed to forcing a public inquiry. At last they have the real prospect of finding out the truth.

"For them it's not about compensation. It's about knowing why it happened, what could have been done to prevent it, and what lessons have been learned to prevent it happening again."

Hundreds of people in Scotland, including haemophilia sufferers and other patients, were given contaminated blood in the 1970s and 1980s. However, the previous administration resisted calls from victims and their families for a public inquiry.

The executive yesterday said a public inquiry in Scotland to find out why people were infected with hepatitis through NHS treatment was "the best way forward".

Monday, August 13, 2007

Open access to legal services & poorly regulated paralegals wont resolve public's lack of trust in lawyers

While the problems of the public's access to justice may be somewhat resolved by following the OFT's recommendations for opening up the legal services market in Scotland, there remains the larger issue of restoring public trust to the services offered by Scottish legal profession, trust which has most certainly been lost over the past 20 years due to an anti client, anti complaint policy operated by the Law Society of Scotland which has seen the profession's reputation hit an all time low.

Today, the Scotsman reports on these very same consumer concerns we all feel in dealings with the legal profession, and also interviews the interim Chief Executive of the Scottish Legal Complaints Commission - the new complaints body which, next year, will take over some of the regulatory functions of the Law Society of Scotland in dealing with complaints against solicitors. One issue particularly in focus is the use of paralegals by the legal profession ...

The issue of paralegals was left out of the Legal Profession & Legal Aid (Scotland) Act 2007 .. something some people including myself find a bit strange .. almost leading to charges the legal profession itself saw to it that paralegals didn't get a mention, so their services could remain under the control & regulation of the legal profession itself ....

Richard Smith, the interim Chief Executive of the SLCC is quoted in the Scotsman article, with regard to the increasingly worrying issue of the conduct of paralegals and how they will be supervised by solicitors & the legal firms which employ them.

Richard Smith : "The Scottish Paralegals Association advises that there are now more than 6,000 paralegals working in public-facing practices. The Legal Profession and Legal Aid (Scotland) Act 2007 doesn't mention paralegals - it makes the assumption the practitioner is responsible for actions by staff.

"It is very likely the commission will uphold some complaints against solicitors where, as revealed in the investigation, it was a paralegal and not the solicitor who was directly involved. Any such failures will trigger the question of whether the solicitor adequately supervised that member of staff. I can see the commission pressing the Law Society of Scotland to consider inadequate supervision as a matter of misconduct."

Mr Smith is right to point out the issue of paralegals will become a concern, as the Law Society has viewed the paralegals issue as one to retain it's control over legal services in Scotland.

Paralegals do play an important part of work in the legal profession, allegedly freeing up solicitors for ever increasing workloads & courtroom representation, but some at the Law Society saw their use as a way to circumvent the new regulatory regime about to hit the legal profession in 2008.

The Law Society had also hoped that increasing the numbers of paralegals, who work for the very same legal firms with poor regulatory histories and trails of ruined clients, would keep control over the public's access to legal services, thus circumventing charges from consumer organisations & campaigners there was a monopoly on legal services operated & controlled by the legal profession in Scotland.

In short .. a policy along the lines of ... 'oh if you don't feel you can trust a lawyer to do your legal work, you can always go to a paralegal' ... but that wouldn't work, because the paralegals are employed by the same legal firms who have appalling regulatory histories and have ruined many clients in the past ...

It may be that some legal firms such as those featured HERE or HERE or HERE or even any of the ten legal firms listed here HERE could swell their ranks of paralegals in an attempt to disguise their past .. but when things go wrong, the client finds out there is as little redress against the negligent actions of paralegals under the supervision of their solicitor seniors with long complaints records, as there has been against lawyers under the supervision of the Law Society of Scotland.

If, for example, you were to ask me, would I go to a paralegal who worked for Stormonth Darling Solicitors in Kelso - the same firm of Scotland's most famous Crooked Lawyer - Andrew Penman ... I'd say, definitely not, with a complaints history such as theirs !

So before you dash off to use a paralegal on the premise it might be safer than using a crooked lawyer, find out something about the legal firm which employs the paralegal first, how that firm and its solicitors have treated clients in the past, how they have dealt with complaints etc ... because a paralegal will only be as good as the firm which employs them.

At the end of the day, the problems of trust & accountability will only be resolved by removing all regulatory function away from lawyers, which as is evident, remains the legal profession's power base in all dealings with, and against the public.

To restore public trust in the legal services offered by the Scottish legal profession, there has to be an acceptance by it's members of their past sins against clients, made worse by the complete failure of self regulation in many cases. Only an honest attempt to correct those issues and do the right thing for many clients who have suffered injustice by the legal profession for so long will to some extent ease the general perception of widespread corruption in the world of regulatory practice in the legal profession.

My message to the Justice Secretary - give the public a level playing field in dealings with lawyers, this time around. Clean up the mistakes of the past and bring accountability, transparency, honesty, and the public's independence of choice, to the legal services market in Scotland. It will do everyone some good.

Consumer concerns don't begin and end with alternative business structures


WHEN it first emerged that Which? had made a super-complaint to the Office of Fair Trading (OFT) about the Scottish legal services market, few solicitors seemed to expect it would amount to much.

After all, it was barely a year since the Scottish Executive's Research Working Group report, which had included significant input from the OFT, recommended that there was no need to intervene in the marketplace - at least not yet anyway.

But following the super-complaint, the OFT has, indeed, called for some significant changes with potentially far-reaching implications for the profession and the public.

While it has stopped short of endorsing the call for an independent Legal Services Board to take over the regulatory roles of the Law Society of Scotland and the Faculty of Advocates, the OFT has agreed with Which? that allowing lawyers to adopt alternative business structures may benefit consumers.

Provided "appropriate safeguards" are in place to protect consumers and the integrity of the profession, the OFT argues the current restrictions are unnecessary, and prevent both solicitors and advocates from "innovating" to meet the needs of their clients.

For those solicitors who want to see a level playing field with English firms in the post-Clementi era - and those advocates who have recognised the need to gain a more competitive edge in the marketplace - a move towards alternative business structures may be welcome, if only because it provides some clue to the likely way ahead.

Some of the current market restrictions, such as the Faculty's controversial "mixed doubles" rule, preventing advocates from teaming up with solicitor advocates, certainly seem ripe for reform. Many clients will also see the merit in cutting out the so-called middle man and allowing consumers to instruct an advocate direct, without also paying for the additional expense of a solicitor.

From the Faculty's point of view, allowing consumers to go straight to an advocate might also help to counterbalance increased competition from solicitors and solicitor advocates. Adapting to compete in the marketplace will be crucial if alternative business structures erode their key selling point of being independent sole practitioners.

But wider concerns for the profession and consumers must remain. Both the Society and the Faculty have already warned of the danger of applying Clementi-style reforms to the Scottish marketplace when access to justice is already a significant problem in remote and rural areas.

However, the OFT takes the view that this is not sufficient justification for maintaining the status quo. Indeed, its response to the super-complaint notes that firms reported this problem was closely related to rates of legal aid and falling profit margins, and that outside ownership of firms might actually help to improve their management.

Yet questions are also being asked as to whether there could be unintended negative consequences for consumers of opening up the market. Is there potential for alternative business structures to impact on the quality of service in future?

Richard Smith, the interim chief executive of the new Scottish Legal Complaints Commission, which will become the gateway for service complaints next year, suggests the new commissioners may want to explore the implications, for example, of solicitors supervising more non-legally qualified staff.

"The OFT response has prompted discussion about the so-called Tesco-Law business model," he says. "This is caricatured as an office block full of paralegals, supervised by a handful of solicitors. I think the commissioners would want the debate on the reform of business structures to include proper consideration of how to assure competent service delivery and that clearly includes the issue of adequate supervision."

Smith points out that, even without the advent of alternative business structures, the issue of supervision of staff is already "an important and growing concern".

He adds: "The Scottish Paralegals Association advises that there are now more than 6,000 paralegals working in public-facing practices. The Legal Profession and Legal Aid (Scotland) Act 2007 doesn't mention paralegals - it makes the assumption the practitioner is responsible for actions by staff.

"It is very likely the commission will uphold some complaints against solicitors where, as revealed in the investigation, it was a paralegal and not the solicitor who was directly involved. Any such failures will trigger the question of whether the solicitor adequately supervised that member of staff. I can see the commission pressing the Law Society of Scotland to consider inadequate supervision as a matter of misconduct."

It seems clear any firms wishing to adopt alternative business structures - particularly if it involves moving towards a greater volume of work - will need to ensure they have robust quality-control systems in place to avoid falling foul of the new commission.

Earlier this year, Smith sent out a strong message to the profession that it should set new standards for service, before the commissioners start defining them through their investigations into complaints. "If the professional bodies do not move far enough and fast enough, the commission will, through its adjudications, start to determine what is acceptable service practice," he said.

The Society has started working on two key initiatives that it argues will address such issues. It is currently engaging with the profession on the question of alternative business structures: it will hold a major conference next month, followed by a consultation paper in the autumn.

An expert working group is also drafting new standards of conduct and service, which are expected to be brought before the Society's next AGM in the spring, ahead of the new commission opening for business.

Richard Henderson, the Society's vice-president, described this as an opportunity for the profession to "debate seriously... what actually sits at the heart of legal practice and to spell out what lawyers stand for".

Certainly, the Society is taking pains to communicate the message that the profession is not resting on its laurels and wants to drive up standards.

But the fact both the Society and the Faculty called on the OFT to take no action on the super-complaint suggests they may still need to grasp that, in future, it will be the consumer, not the lawyer, who will sit at the heart of legal practice.

Yet the profession does have a window of opportunity here.

The OFT has urged the Society and Faculty to update their practice rules to sweep away the restrictions identified in its report.

They might do well to take the initiative swiftly or find that further reforms are imposed from on high.