There are around 10,000 solicitors in Scotland as many of you well know, and all of those solicitors are members of the Law Society of Scotland. If solicitors are not members of the Law Society of Scotland, they are not allowed to practice law and you are not allowed to choose anyone to represent your most delicate legal affairs who is either not a member of the Law Society of Scotland or who isn't regulated by the Law Society of Scotland.
There are many solicitors within that vast army of 10,000 members of the Law Society of Scotland, who have client complaint records as long as your arms & legs put together, many of those complaints relating to things like .. embezzlement, theft, false accounting & billing, fraudulently altering clients documents, prolonging clients work & cases just to increase fees, theft of property, family homes, double dealing in property sales to see preferential bids & colleagues secure properties on the cheap .. and then there's the criminal complaints, many of which don't see the light of day simply because the Crown Office feels it's 'not proper' to prosecute a solicitor ... a decision the Law Society of Scotland seems to have a hand in too ...
So, if you go down to your solicitor's office today, you might be in for a big surprise, because you know nothing at all about them - nothing of their history, nothing of their client record, nothing of their regulatory record .. nothing at all.
You, as a prospective client, have to take at face value, what they tell you they can do, how competent they are, and how they go about their business ...
Solicitors certainly wont disclose their client complaint & regulatory records to you where perhaps they may have been through hundreds of client complaints of many serious offences .. and all whitewashed by their colleagues who regulate themselves ...
Solicitors wont for instance, tell you they faked up files to stop a complaint from being properly investigated where they stole 300,000 from a dead client. They wont tell you for instance, they created false statements & evidence to try and get themselves off the hook from an investigation into their dealings where, perhaps, they stole a client's home and sold it to a business partner.
Solicitors certainly wont tell you if they have embezzled clients money in the past and got away with it, or been subject to countless negligence claims which the good old Law Society of Scotland will cover up, just to keep them practicing and ripping off more clients.
Solicitors also wont tell you if they have any criminal records, maybe occasionally run drugs into the courts for their clients, organise a hit on a colleague to shut him up, that kind of thing ...
... and in all of this, Scotland's Justice Secretary, Kenny MacAskill, is happy. Happy, that you, the client, have no chance at all to find out anything about your solicitor, how good or bad they are, how good or bad they have treated clients in the past, and how they have wormed their way out of complaints & investigations into their dealings, how they have avoided paying clients compensation after ruining them financially .. nothing of that at all .. Kenny MacAskill, wants all that kept secret .. doesn't want you finding out any of that .. is happy you just trundle along to your lawyers office and stick your head in the lion's mouth, ready to be chomped like the unknowing victim you are almost guaranteed to become.
Kenny MacAskill is so motivated to ensure you find out nothing about crooked lawyers, he vehemently rejected any independent regulation of his legal colleagues, to ensure they can carry on doing what they do best - fleecing their clients.
You can read more about Mr MacAskill's rejection of an independent regulator for Scotland's failing legal profession & dismal quality legal services and perhaps some of his odd, unexplained, rather protectionist and selfish motives for doing so, here : Justice Secretary rejects independent regulation of lawyers and public right of choice in legal services market
Some examples of Scotland's legal profession perhaps ?
Your solicitor could be as bad as any of the above, and you wouldn't know anything about it, until it was too late ...
Well, that's not how it is now in England & Wales.
England & Wales, have again, gone one better than Scotland, and slipped the bounds of secrecy & protection for the crooked & guilty, with the English Solititors Regulatory Authority approving moves to allow solicitors who treat their clients badly and have poor service records, to be named & shamed, for all to see and all to know.
What's good enough for England though, isn't good enough for Scotland, as Mr MacAskill totally rejected the idea of a Solicitors Regulatory Authority, because he is still far too in love with the Law Society of Scotland and it's quest to retain a hand in regulating complaints against it's own members - something it has managed crookedly to do for far too long, which has given Scotland some of the worst standards of legal services in the developed world.
Why, since we have a Scottish National Party now in power, does the party allow the Justice Secretary to protect crooked lawyers from widely accepted & needed independent scrutiny, while also restricting the rights of Scots to freely choose their legal representatives ?
Is it the Scottish National Party's mission to protect crooked lawyers ?
Personally, I think not, as some within the SNP have eluded to me they have no love of the legal profession and there are of course, people within the SNP such as Cabinet Secretary John Swinney, a man who enjoys considerably more integrity compared with those others who emanate from the legal establishment and who are seemingly hell bent on preventing law reforms in the public interest.
Indeed, Mr Swinney has vigorously tackled the issues of corruption in the legal profession, seeking out & exposing particular points of shameful conduct, and well understands the problems as I have previously reported here: Law Society boss Mill lied to Swinney, Parliament as secret memos reveal policy of intervention & obstruction on claims, complaints.
Perhaps its just Mr MacAskill's mission to protect crooked lawyers then ... and if that is so, then we certainly do need a new Justice Secretary, because the rights of the public and values of the community have to be held over & above professional privilege and favouritism for one's colleagues ...
Let's see how the English are going to manage things from a report in the Times newspaper - something we in Scotland can only dream of it seems, while Mr MacAskill obstructs changes & reforms in the public interest ...
How about lets give us Scots the same rights and access to justice as the rest of the country... and lets give Scotland and Scots, a Happy New Year in the legal services market ...
The Times reports :
Frances Gibb, Legal Editor
Thousands of solicitors who are found guilty each year of a range of crimes and misdemeanours, from ignoring letters to plundering clients’ money, are to be identified publicly.
Solicitors in England and Wales found guilty of breaching professional rules will be listed on a Solicitors’ Regulatory Authority (SRA) website open to the public.
The move took effect at the start of the year and is the latest initiative by the SRA, which is responsible for the training, standards and discipline of 100,000 solicitors. Details are expected to appear at the end of this month.
The Solicitors’ Disciplinary Tribunal, which deals with the most serious cases of misconduct, publishes its findings. By the end of this year it will have dealt with more than 300 cases, 20 per cent up on last year. But hundreds more solicitors are disciplined by the authority for lesser offences of misconduct, which are dealt with privately. In the past 12 months from November 2006 1,984 solicitors had conditions put on their practising certificates and 351 were given warnings, rebukes and reprimands.
Peter Williamson, chairman of the board of the SRA, said: “The findings of misconduct that we deal with are not those most serious ones that go to the tribunal. But they are the majority, and you could say that any finding of misconduct is a serious matter in itself.
“This is about making our decision-making process transparent, which in turn helps create public confidence in the system for regulating solicitors by demonstrating where action has been taken. That is the most important thing.
“It will also provide information to the public to enable prospective clients to make a more informed choice, as well as enabling people to decide if a solicitor’s behaviour is such that it should be reported to us.”
All cases leading to a reprimand, rebuke, fine or conditions on practising certificates will remain on the website for three years, along with cases where the regulatory authority steps in to take over the running of a firm, for example when a solicitor has absconded with clients’ money. The website will also give details where the solicitor takes action to remedy a failing, such as refunding a client.
The regulatory authority came into effect a year ago as a body run independently from the Law Society, in a move to distance the regulation of the profession from the representative or trades’ union activities.