Tuesday, October 28, 2008

Guarantee Fund ‘at risk’ as financial crises hits solicitors management of client funds while regulator dithers on oversight role

Money which your solicitors have been looking after may no longer be safe as it was revealed today lawyers have failed to keep a check on clients funds under their administration, being too busy trying to save their own personal financial deals and sweeteners they received from the big banks for steering clients funds into certain institutions which are now financially unstable or have been nationalised.

The Law Society of Scotland’s "Guarantee Fund" which is touted by lawyers as being the ultimate in consumer protection, may now not be able to handle the expected increase in client claims for financial losses suffered through their solicitors poor management of client funds .. and solicitors occasional use of slightly dodgy banking deals purely to shore up their own personal finance dealings.

One solicitor today expressed fears the Guarantee Fund was “hopelessly inadequate to compensate clients for an expected run of claims after the banking crisis”.

He went onto say “I have heard of two legal firms today who were struggling to recover funds for clients which have been lost in the financial fiasco in Iceland”. The sums in question are rumoured to be in the millions of pounds, which had been held on clients behalf, now possibly lost.

Jane Irvine, Chairman of the Scottish Legal Complaints Commission, whose functions include oversight of both the Guarantee Fund and the Indemnity Insurance scheme to protect clients against negligent solicitors would not comment on questions put to her relating to the instability of the Law Society’s Guarantee fund, probably because as I reported earlier, the SLCC has staggeringly decided to delay their implementation of monitoring the Guarantee Fund and the Master Insurance Policy.

Read my earlier report on the Scottish Legal Complaints Commission’s decision to delay oversight of the Guarantee Fund and Professional Indemnity Insurance here : Legal Complaints Commission to delay monitoring of discredited lawyers insurance as worries increase over poor regulation of crooked lawyers

The Law Society of Scotland describe their “Guarantee Fund” as the following : “The Guarantee Fund is for the protection of those who have lost money as a result of their solicitor acting dishonestly. It is operated by the Law Society of Scotland and those who have suffered loss in this way can apply to the Society for a grant of compensation. All solicitors in Scotland who handle clients’ money contribute to the Fund each year.”

In truth however, conditions are attached to this compensation fund, which has seen some claims last almost 15 years before being resolved … with the following conditions attached :

• The solicitor must have acted dishonestly in the course of their legal practice.
• The claimant must have suffered monetary loss.
• There must be no other means of recovering the money; for example, by suing the solicitor directly or making a negligence claim.

The last condition “no other means of recovery by suing the solicitor or making a negligence claim” , involves as you may expect .. trying to obtain the services of another lawyer to sue the lawyer you are attempting to claim against and as many people who have tried to claim against the Guarantee Fund in the past, have found to be a policy which the Law Society cooked up to ensure most claims fail.

As expected, it seems the “Guarantee Fund” may be of little use to thousands of Scots who may find out their money has been totally mismanaged to the point of being lost by their solicitor, with no compensation cover available simply because the Law Society is too busy protecting the backs of lawyers to care about clients.

To make matters worse, lawyers who are seeing their income from litigation and legal business dwindle to a trickle, are now inflating accounts for existing work up to extortionate levels.

One client who contacted me after he had received a revised bill which has been more than tripled from nearly £1000 to £3630, for work done on a boundary dispute which has so far got nowhere after two years.

The solicitor had already sent the client an account for £958.32 earlier last week, detailing work which had allegedly been done, but in the wake of the financial crisis it seems the legal firm felt they had inflate their demands, claiming 'court work' and 'court appearances' which apparently never took place must be added, along with a junior counsel's opinion which the client has never been asked to authorise or has seen - this all despite the fact the client had been promised access to court and the resolution of the fairly clear cut boundary problem within a year.

As the problem of solicitors inflating their costs and demands for more money all across Scotland, another client last night revealed he had received a bill demanding £600 for three telephone calls made by his solicitor to an unidentified individual for exactly 35 minutes each, work which has been of no apparent use to the client’s case whatsoever. The solicitor when asked by the client who the telephone calls were made to, staggeringly refused to identify the person he had called !

The Law Society of Scotland, rather doing their duty of protecting clients funds held by solicitors, have been too busy lobbying the high street banks to protect legal firms and solicitors personal financial deals and the standing of the legal profession's 'financial power' such as it remains.

As insiders to the profession put it simply last night “if the Guarantee Fund collapses, there will be a riot among clients who will lose a lot of money and it could get nasty”, while another solicitor joked “we might have to go begging to the Bank of England too !”

As a reminder of the Scottish Legal Complaints Commission’s powers, here are the relevant parts of legislation from the Legal Profession & Legal Aid (Scotland) Act 2007, which in the light of the international banking crisis, should now be implemented immediately to guard against severe losses of clients funds held by solicitors :

Legal Profession & Legal Aid (Scotland) Act 2007 : 39 Monitoring effectiveness of guarantee funds etc.

(1) The Commission may monitor the effectiveness of—

(a) the Scottish Solicitors Guarantee Fund vested in the Society and controlled and managed by the Council under section 43(1) of the 1980 Act (“the Guarantee Fund”);

(b) arrangements carried into effect by the Society under section 44(2) of that Act (“the professional indemnity arrangements”);

(c) any funds or arrangements maintained by any relevant professional organisation which are for purposes analogous to those of the Guarantee Fund or the professional indemnity arrangements as respects its members.

(2) The Commission may make recommendations to the relevant professional organisation concerned about the effectiveness (including improvement) of the Guarantee Fund, the professional indemnity arrangements or any such funds or arrangements as are referred to in subsection (1)(c).

(3) The Commission may request from the relevant professional organisation such information as the Commission considers relevant to its functions under subsections (1) and (2).

(4) Where a relevant professional organisation fails to provide information requested under subsection (3), it must give reasons to the Commission in respect of that failure.

Wednesday, October 22, 2008

Justice Secretary MacAskill fails in 'gag attempt' of Appointments Chief over quango jobs for lawyers sleaze

SLCC squarePapers just released show the Scottish Government’s Justice Department, acting on the authority of its Minister, Justice Secretary Kenny MacAskill attempted to impose a blanket of secrecy and lies to protect the legal profession over their release of inaccurate details of lawyers and their regulatory or service histories, who the Justice Secretary personally appointed to the 'independent' but now discredited Scottish Legal Complaints Commission.

Scottish Government attempted to gag independent Appointments Commissioner over lawyers service details :

Scottish Government blocks release of SLCC disclosure Page 1Scottish Government blocks release of SLCC disclosure Page 2

Amazingly, not only did the Scottish Government attempt to gag the Commissioner over disclosing the truth about the lawyer appointments, the Government also demanded that OCPAS swap their disclosure of the actual material for an entirely false statement which was to read as follows :

MacAskill tight lippedKenny MacAskill’s Justice Dept ordered OCPAS issue the public a misleading statement : "It is in our view that in this case the information in its present form should not be released without the consent of the individuals concerned. However, a general statement that no appointees had findings of professional misconduct recorded against them would be acceptable"

It is of little surprise the Scottish Government's Justice Department were so desperate to gag the Office of the Commissioner for Public Appointments in Scotland (OCPAS) over the release of documents, which now conclusively prove there were no proper disclosures from the legal profession over Kenny MacAskill's sleaze appointments of lawyers and former Law Society Committee members to the 'independent' but now discredited Scottish Legal Complaints Commission.

The Office of the Commissioner for Public Appointments in Scotland thankfully refused to be drawn into the Scottish Government’s web of secrecy, and promptly released the documents, which I covered in an earlier report here: Legal Complaints Commission discredited after revelations Law Society lied during ‘stage managed’ appointments process

All this may cause some to wonder why the Justice Secretary is so determined to protect the Law Society of Scotland and his own appointees to the discredited legal complaints commission.

Kenny MacAskill – I will always defend lawyers …

Well .. there isn't much need to wonder, because not only does the release of the Law Society documents make the Justice Secretary look at best, misleading, the released documents now also contradict responses given by the First Minister, Alex Salmond, who was asked in January to conduct a full investigation into the appointments to the SLCC after revelations of sleaze.

Scottish Government lied over SLCC appointmentsFirst Minister's letter now contradicted by Law Society disclosure ".. we must abide by the OCPAS Code of Practice which ensures that selection is based on merit and individuals selected will be those who have demonstrated that they best match the skills, knowledge and personal qualities requiredfor the appointment in question.Candidates were also probed on probity and potential conflicts of interest.As you may be aware from the recruitment literature shortlisted lawyer candidates were subject to checks on their disciplinary records”

however, from my earlier report here :

Philip YellandPhilip Yelland only gave limited information on the lawyer applicants : "I should point out to you that in terms of upheld complaints the only issues which it seems to be would be relevant would be if there were findings of professional misconduct against any of the individuals. Service complaints run against firms rather than individuals."

So, clearly the First Minister was misinformed by the Law Society and his Justice Secretary over the state of the checks on the appointees disciplinary records, because there were none – only the Law Society’s say so, which has now been revealed to be inaccurate in its content.

It does stretch the bounds of credibility Mr Salmond wasn't able to find out for himself what really happened .. and make no mistake - what really happened was that the legal profession, along with elements of the Justice Department of the Scottish Government stitched up what was to be an 'independent' complaints commission which has now been turned into just another rubber stamp quango for 'crooked lawyers', as many of you are attesting to yourselves in comments and emails.

Inquiry into police chief who promoted his lover - the ScotsmanScottish Government feared stories of impropriety on MacAskill’s jobs for lawyers and ex-cops on law complaints quango appointments : “Chief Superintendent Douglas Watson is facing an internal inquiry after he walked out on his wife to be with an officer he hand-picked for a specialist squad.Watson, the former head of CID, was picked by Chief Constable Paddy Tomkins to head up the Capital Project, which will completely change the way Edinburgh is policed and create a single 1,000-officer super-division….”

Apparently OCPAS were denied access to material relating to the internal investigations into SLCC appointee and former Police Chief & Law Society Committee member Douglas Watson, nor were details of those investigations made public, raising questions on why the Justice Department covered it up.

Its a pity that our own fellow Scots in the current Scottish Government are going along with this, protecting crooked lawyers and an ever corrupt Scots legal system from reform and genuine change. Is that what 'Scottish Government' is all about these days ?, bending over to the professions, promoting injustice, and protecting the dishonest and crooked at any cost ?

Thursday, October 16, 2008

Legal Complaints Commission discredited after revelations Law Society lied during ‘stage managed’ appointments process

SLCC squareThe little credibility left of the 'independent' Scottish Legal Complaints Commission has been thrown into question once more after revelations the appointments process was corrupted by the Law Society of Scotland.

It has been revealed from documents obtained from sources, that Philip Yelland, the Law Society's Director of Regulation effectively provided the Justice Department with false information relating to regulatory disclosures on the solicitor applicants, which the Justice Department then amazingly failed to verify.

Exclusive : leaked for the first time – a deceptive regulatory disclosure from the Law Society of Scotland

Law Society of Scotland to Scottish Government re SLCC applicants Page 1Law Society of Scotland to Scottish Government re SLCC applicants Page 2

Philip YellandPhilip Yelland only gave limited information on the lawyer applicants : "I should point out to you that in terms of upheld complaints the only issues which it seems to be would be relevant would be if there were findings of professional misconduct against any of the individuals. Service complaints run against firms rather than individuals."

However, the Law Society’s own website contradicts Mr Yelland’s claim to the Government, having details of how to proceed service complaints against individual solicitors and even listing some of the limited sanctions which can be applied against solicitors found guilty of inadequate Professional Service (I.P.S).

How the Law Society handles Service complaints :

Service issues : such as poor communication, avoidable delay, failing to follow instructions and failing to advise about rising fees/outlays.

Service Complaints Before 1 October : For a transitional period until 2010, the Society will continue to deal with service complaints relating to business instructed before 1 October 2008. The Commission refers these complaints to the Society. Sanctions include the correction of mistakes, a full or partial refund or waiver of fees and payment of compensation.

Mr Yelland carefully limited his disclosure only to the individuals, as service and conduct complaints are rife at most legal firms in Scotland including those legal firms which the lawyer applicants to the SLCC worked : "I am assuming that you are not wishing any information about that given that it is individuals who have made the applications to the Commission."

A source within the Scottish Government’s Justice Department amazingly claimed there was no will within the Department after the change in Government administration last May to implement all the promises of independent regulation and ensure the SLCC was impartial enough.

He said: “Everyone here at Justice just wanted to get the thing going or hand the whole mess over to the Law Society who were constantly hammering away for control of it”. He went onto claim there was little doubt among the Justice Department's staff, the current Justice Secretary Kenny MacAskill hated the idea of independent regulation of solicitors.

Staggeringly the Justice Secretary failed to check the false information provided by the Law Society of Scotland. However,Mr MacAskill is an 'experienced' solicitor and must have realised what was provided by Mr Yelland was completely untrue - raising the possibility there has been a cover up to prevent the appointments information leaking to the public domain.

The Law Society’s Director of Regulation, Mr Yelland, who signed off on the regulatory disclosure, also did not disclose the actual levels of complaints against the solicitors, as again many are well aware the Law Society either does not issue findings in complaints or carefully puts them to bed so there is no record.

A legal insider today said "it is impossible these solicitors have never had a complaint made against them ... there isn't a lawyer in Scotland who hasn't had client complaints and there isn't a firm with a clean complaints record"

A constituent of John Swinney today said he felt it important the true picture of these SLCC board members and their legal firms involvement in complaints and claims against lawyers was fully disclosed to the public :

He said : "Philip Yelland's letter to the Scottish Government is a pack of lies. In Law Society investigations into my own complaints against my legal agents, the Society determined and found the solicitor in question guilty of I.P.S (Inadequate Professional Service) and this has occurred on more than one occasion I can tell you"

Jane Irvine, the SLCC's Chairman and its board members could not be contacted for comment on the revelations, little wonder as it is now quite apparent there was a deliberate attempt by the Law Society to mislead the Government and the public over the solicitor applicants to the Commission.

I have covered problems with the SLCC’s appointments process before, which you can read more about here : Call for MacAskill appointments 'sleaze investigation' as revelations show Legal Complaints Commission member was subject of Police inquiry

Here follows the full text of the Law Society’s Regulation Director Mr Yelland’s disclosure, now revealed as defective and questionable in content …

Miss A. McArthur
Access to Justice Division
Civil & International Justice Directorate
The Scottish Government
St Andrews House
Regent Road
Edinburgh EH1 3DG

Dear Angela

Appointments to the Scottish Legal Complaints Commission

I write to acknowledge receipt of your letter of 11 September addressed to my colleague Michael Clancy. Please note that communications in relation to the Commission should be addressed to me for the future.

I attach below the information which you are seeking about the six candidates highlighted in the letter.

I should point out to you that in terms of upheld complaints the only issues which it seems to be would be relevant would be if there were findings of professional misconduct against any of the individuals. Service complaints run against firms rather than individuals. I am assuming that you are not washing any information about that given that it is individuals who have made the applications to the Commission.

In terns of the information which you are seeking I would advise as follows :-

1 (Censored)

2. David Hay Smith

Mr Smith was enrolled as a solicitor on 14 October 1971 and is a Partner with Messrs Shepherd & Wedderburn, LLP in Edinburgh. There are no findings of professional misconduct against Mr Smith and there is no period in the intervening thirty six years where he has not been enrolled.

3. (Censored)

4. Margaret Scanlan

Mrs Scanlan has been enrolled as a solicitor since 5 September 1972 and there are no periods in the intervening thirty five years where she has not been enrolled as a solicitor. There are no findings of professional misconduct against her.

5. (Censored)

6. David Chaplin

Mr Chaplin was enrolled as a solicitor on 30 October 1972 and is a Partner with Messrs Anderson Fyfe LLP in Glasgow. There are no findings of professional misconduct against Mr Chaplin and there are no gaps in his enrolment in the last thirty five years.

I trust this is the information you are seeking. If you need more information, please let me know.

Yours sincerely

Philip J Yelland,
Director of Regulation,
Client Relations Office
DD 0131 478 8163
E: cro@lawscot.org.uk

Tuesday, October 14, 2008

Legal Profession bill has little potential for change as Justice Secretary indicates no will to reform legal services

Justice Secretary Kenny MacAskill believes that lawyers should be trusted to regulate themselves and continue to run the ever important legal services market as a monopoly, despite the promise of the Legal Profession Bill, which aims to open up the public's access to justice after intervention from the OFT last year.

Mr MacAskill's all too easy dismissal of any further regulation or consumer protection against scandals in the legal world similar to those which have recently rocked the banking world, is echoed in the Scottish Government's questionable willingness to adopt the Law Society's edicts on the proposed legislation, which has now been almost completely hijacked by lawyers and vested interests from the legal establishment.

Kenny MacAskillKenny MacAskill – little independence from the Law Society of Scotland : "Our starting point for the Bill is to develop the proposals put forward by the Law Society and Faculty of Advocates earlier this year. Rather than ruling in or ruling out particular business models, I agree with the Law Society that the way forward is to concentrate on developing a robust system of regulation.”

So, from that early start, one can conclude fairly easily there will be not too much hope of anyone else getting much of a say in how to open the legal services market in Scotland if the Law Society has its way ... which certainly seems to be the case.

Mr MacAskill himself a solicitor, has spoken before of his muddled views, which have clearly indicated he and the SNP have no wish or desire to open the legal services market, preferring rather to keep it a closed shop for lawyers.

You can read more about Mr MacAskill's varying protectionist policy for legal services here : Justice Secretary rejects independent regulation of lawyers and public right of choice in legal services market

Mr MacAskill also lets slip his attitude against any increased regulation of the legal services sector, something the Law Society of Scotland is campaigning to retain sole regulatory power over by itself

Kenny MacAskill : "I have always been clear that the regulatory framework must be proportionate to the size and scope of the legal services market in Scotland. We must guard against having too many bodies and unnecessary tiers of regulation."

The Justice Secretary's view on regulation is certainly outdated in view of the recent financial crisis which crushed most of the UK's banks into nationalisation, effectively coming about due to poor regulatory structures which allowed banks and lenders to operate almost as they pleased, risking the publics money and now having to be bailed out by the taxpayer.

Mr Macaskill went on “This is a once-in-a-generation opportunity to create a more flexible and modern regulatory framework for legal services – but one which protects the profession's core values. The profession's commitments to service, probity and excellence are centuries old, but as relevant as ever."

Yes, quite right Mr MacAskill, a once in a generation opportunity, which you are not going to allow the rest of Scotland to enjoy, simply because the needs of the Law Society and the business of litigation must take preference over the public interest.

A suitable example of Mr MacAskill’s idea of a ‘flexible and modern regulatory framework’ can be found here : Call for MacAskill appointments 'sleaze investigation' as revelations show Legal Complaints Commission member was subject of Police inquiry

Kenny MacAskill – A debt too far from the SNP for lawyers ?

The remainder of Mr MacAskill's speech doesn't deviate much from the protectionist line for his colleagues in the legal profession, and indicates a Justice Secretary who only serves the needs of lawyers and their pockets, rather than putting the public's right of access to justice first.

In Kenny MacAskill's world, it will still be the legal profession who decide if you have a right of access to legal services, rather than you having a choice of legal services ... and that is most definitely not in the public interest .. is it …

The Scotsman reports (Kenny MacAskill)

Kenny MacAskill: Time to embrace change and face the future boldly

THE Scottish Government is committed to a strong and independent legal profession that can compete internationally, and a legal system which is part of the supportive environment for Scotland's businesses.

At a time of great challenges for the profession, it is even more important that it can grasp opportunities to develop new business and serve the public in new ways.

We have recently concluded our consultation on reforms to Scotland's arbitration legislation, which forms part of our drive to make Scotland a centre of excellence for arbitration and other forms of dispute resolution. I have also established a group of legal and business experts to look at how Scotland's legal system can be more attractive to businesses, and I look forward to their report in the next few weeks.

But the cornerstone of our strategy is the Legal Profession Bill, which was announced as part of this year's legislative programme.

The Bill will free up the profession to organise itself differently, to offer services to the public alongside other professionals, and to seek alternative sources of financial support to grow their business.

This is a once-in-a-generation opportunity to create a more flexible and modern regulatory framework for legal services – but one which protects the profession's core values. The profession's commitments to service, probity and excellence are centuries old, but as relevant as ever.

Our starting point for the Bill is to develop the proposals put forward by the Law Society and Faculty of Advocates earlier this year. Rather than ruling in or ruling out particular business models, I agree with the Law Society that the way forward is to concentrate on developing a robust system of regulation.

I have always been clear that the regulatory framework must be proportionate to the size and scope of the legal services market in Scotland. We must guard against having too many bodies and unnecessary tiers of regulation.

Regulation should also avoid any potential to confuse or disadvantage consumers where there are new structures which may bring together different professions.

That is a complex challenge, but one I am sure we can meet. I have been greatly encouraged by the willingness of the Law Society and the Faculty to embrace change, and I am determined to maintain the pace of reform in the coming months.

I intend to consult widely on the Government's proposals to allow new business structures to deliver legal services. But before putting these to the Scottish people I have asked some of the country's leading legal and consumer experts to join a new consultative group set up to explore these issues.

That group will help us shape a robust regulatory regime that will allow alternative business structures to operate in an open, transparent and accessible way in Scotland's legal services market.

As well as the president of the Law Society of Scotland, the dean of the Faculty of Advocates and the chief executive of the Scottish Legal Aid Board, leading officials from Consumer Focus Scotland and the Office of Fair Trading are taking part in this exercise, as is Professor Alan Paterson of Strathclyde University.

The group met for the first time on 8 October and made good initial progress. Issues being considered by it include how best to protect the core values of the legal profession and ensure a high quality of service; how to regulate firms that combine legal and other professional services; and how best to support access to justice in the new environment.

The group's deliberations will, together with views offered by other interested stakeholders, inform the public consultation which is expected to be held early next year, with the Bill expected to be introduced later in 2009.

The current economic situation is making life difficult for lawyers, just as it is for many businesses and families.

In that environment, the temptation is to resist change and seek safety in familiar ways of working. I believe we must do the opposite – be ready to embrace change and face the future boldly.

If we do, I have no doubt that the profession which has served Scotland so well over the last 300 and more years will continue to do so for decades to come.

• Kenny MacAskill is the Scottish justice secretary.

Sunday, October 12, 2008

Judges 'a law unto themselves' as calls grow for First Minister to inject transparency into 18th Century style Scots judiciary

Scotland's Chief Judge, Lord Hamilton and the rest of the self serving, unaccountable club of Scotland's judiciary come off rather detached from the rest of Scotland (and reality) in an excellent investigation carried out by the Sunday Herald newspaper today.

Many people who have found themselves made the victim by an unaccountable and almost freewheeling Scots judiciary over the years in cases questioning the judges decisions or support of colleagues in the legal profession should breathe a sigh of relief the spotlight of transparency is now once again firmly on those who who profess to be impartial, but in reality support their brethren at almost any cost, and enjoy almost no checks on their power.

While the legal profession itself is now subject to a degree of independent regulation though the Legal Profession & Legal Aid (Scotland) Act 2007, Scotland's Judiciary have little or no independent systems to regulate appointments or cases of judicial misconduct - most of those powers being centred on one person, the Lord President, Lord Hamilton, who appears to believe the position of one man running an entire Judicial system in a democracy is a natural thing which should worry no one ...

Here you can see the Lord President's take on his own powers of regulation and appointment :

Lord Hamilton - trust me people, I'm a Judge ...

As you can see from the above video .. transparency and independence .. .calls for which led to the establishment of the 'independent' Scottish Legal Complaints Commission, have not penetrated the ivory towers of Scotland's judiciary.

It is true that over the years, there have been attempts at creating organisations, or 'quangos' for want of a better word, to reign in the powers of the judiciary and the legal establishment.

However each of those organisations which were created to perform, or give the impression they would introduce or give a level of independent scrutiny over such things as appointments and the general workings of the likes of the judiciary and the legal profession, have been co-opted by those who they were tasked with keeping an eye on.

The recent demise of the Scottish Legal Complaints Commission’s much vaunted ‘independence’ by the Justice Secretary’s stuffing the Commission of ex Law Society Committee members, ex-Police, and former Law Society staff, have effectively neutered the SLCC before it even began its work .. much to the noticeable delight of the legal establishment … which I have reported previously HERE, with a notable report on just how the legal establishment saw to it their people were co-opted onto the SLCC here :

Call for MacAskill appointments 'sleaze investigation' as revelations show Legal Complaints Commission member was subject of Police inquiry

One such body created to scrutinise the appointments of Judges, the Judicial Appointments Board, has been totally taken over by the legal establishment, and is itself full of lawyers, serving Judges, some even scandal tainted themselves, and are themselves appointed on the recommendation of - yes - Scotland's Chief Judge, the Lord President, Lord Hamilton.

I reported recently on revelations of scandals within the appointments process to the Judicial Appointments Board here :

Justice Secretary MacAskill misused Government appointments regulator in ‘jobs for lawyers’ scandal

I have reported on problems with accountability and transparency of the Judiciary in an earlier story concerning the Judiciary & Courts Bill, now passed by the Scottish Parliament, here :

Judiciary & Courts Bill 'not worth the paper it's written on' as Scottish Parliament hears judges ask for 'a measure of trust'

Also, lets not forget the fairly poor relationship between Scotland’s judiciary and the SNP Government, which occasionally breaks out into public with each side blaming the other for failures attributable to both :

Justice Secretary MacAskill blames Lord President for delays in ‘access to justice’ applications row

Scotland needs a much more transparent and accountable judiciary .. that much is clear, but perhaps more importantly, it remains to be clear whether the SNP Government, even with the popular First Minister Alex Salmond at the helm, has the power, or perhaps even .. the will … to actually take the Judiciary in hand and give Scotland a 21st Century judicial system, rather than continue to allow it to operate in the 18th Century in which it and it’s members have become accustomed to …

The Sunday Herald's excellent report follows :

Male, white, middle class, privately educated, Edinburgh resident, New Club member ... is it time to change the face of the Scottish judiciary?

INVESTIGATION: By Paul Hutcheon, Investigations Editor, and Tom Gordon, Scottish Political Editor

IT IS not often the heads of government and the courts come together in the same room in Scotland. The separation of political and judicial power, one of the mainstays of the nation's democracy, means the first minister and lord president are rarely in each other's company However, in the coming weeks, Alex Salmond will be legally obliged to confer with Lord Hamilton on the selection of three new judges.

Together, they will pore over a list sent to Salmond on Tuesday by the Judicial Appointments Board, recommending who should be awarded the scarlet robe, known colloquially at court as the "red jersey". Their decision will then be forwarded to the Queen for final approval.

The rarity of the encounter emphasises its importance, as judges are at the heart of Scotland's establishment. Their decisions not only reflect the civil and criminal law, they also contribute to it, establishing precedents that affect the lives of thousands.

In 2001, Lord Abernethy's acquittal of a student accused of rape because there was no evidence of force, despite the woman repeatedly saying no, threw the country's rape laws into chaos. Although a later review rejected this interpretation, it is only now that legislation is passing through Holyrood to reform Scotland's antiquated sexual offence laws.

Yet in spite of their power, precious little is known of the men and women in wigs who earn some of the largest salaries in the public sector. On the eve of a momentous decision for Salmond and Scotland's legal system, a Sunday Herald investigation of the 35 judges in post on January 1 this year reveals the country's bench to be deeply unrepresentative of Scotland in terms of race, gender, and class.

While appointments must be made on merit - no-one would argue for incompetent judges - the investigation shows how the Scottish bench invites a perception that is a self-perpetuating and well-guarded clique likely to deter applicants with the "wrong" background.

Earlier this year, amid much media approval, three female Scottish judges made history by sitting together on the same civil case. What was less well publicised by the Scottish Court Service was that the trio constituted almost the entire female judiciary of the nation.

Only four women - Ladies Paton, Dorrian, Smith and Clark - wear the scarlet robe, compared with 31 men at the start of the year, a paltry 11%.

Other areas of public life, such as politics and less elite parts of the law, have managed to address equally striking gender inequality, but never the Scottish bench.

According to Sex And Power, an index produced by the Equality and Human Rights Commission, female appointments to the bench lag significantly behind other areas of public life. Women filled 32% of all public appointments in 2007-2008, covering 26% of all head-teacher posts in secondary schools and 21% of university principals. A third of MSPs are women.

In the law in Scotland, there has been progress in terms of women taking up the profession. Half of this autumn's trainee advocates are women, compared with one in 20 in the 1990s, but on present form, there is little prospect of this being mirrored on the bench. In the past six years, only two of the 14 judges appointed have been female.

The legal establishment's record in appointing ethnic minority judges is also poor, as not a single member of the bench is black or Asian, and two Jewish judges, Lord Caplan and Lady Cosgrove, have now retired.

"We need to work towards a truly representative judiciary," said a spokesperson for the Equality and Human Rights Commission. "How many disabled people, people from the LGBT lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender community or from different race or faith groups sit on the bench? What are the barriers that prevent these groups from progressing in our legal system? Our judiciary needs to become more reflective of Scottish society."

The living arrangements of the 35 judges also point to a caste far removed from those appearing before them in the dock. Although the court of session, which hears civil and appeal cases, is in the capital, the high court, which hears the most serious criminal trials, moves around the country.

Yet public records show that 89% of the "senators of the College of Justice" live in the Lothians, 83% in the capital itself, and 71% in just four plush Edinburgh postcodes. Twelve judges, or 34%, live in the New Town area, and five in the Grange. Another five, or 14%, have an EH4 1 code, which covers the most affluent parts of Edinburgh's west end, while 8% stay in Trinity. Not a single judge lives in Glasgow, Dundee, Aberdeen or any other Scottish city.

The most recent Scottish Index of Multiple Deprivation, which two years ago divided the country into 6505 small neighbourhoods and ranked them according to poverty and affluence, confirms the extent to which the country's judges and their families are physically cut off from most of Scotland.

The second-least deprived neighbourhood in Scotland - area 6504 on the index - consists of a handful of streets and just under 800 people, but they include no less than five judges: Lords Carloway, Kingarth, Turnbull, Uist and Nimmo Smith all live within a few yards of each other in the west end of Edinburgh, near the Dean Bridge Two judges live three doors apart on Ann Street, regarded as the city's most desirable address. The average house price in area 6504 last year was £488,143 - more than three times the national average. The pattern is repeated across the judiciary.

The most affluent 1% of Scotland on the index is home to 13 judges, or 37% of the total. The richest 5% is home to 20 judges, or 57% of the bench. By contrast, the poorest 5% of Scotland's council wards produce 25% of the prison population.

Wealth, of course, is a factor. On the lowest rung of the judicial pay ladder, remuneration for the 21 senators of the College of Justice currently sitting in the court of session's Outer House is £170,200. Above them, the 11 judges of the Inner House, who hear appeals, each earn £193,800.

The country's most senior judge, the lord president, earns £211,000, while his deputy, the lord justice clerk, earns £203,800. Lord McGhie, chair of the Scottish Land Court, who makes up the 35th member of Scotland's judiciary, is a relative pauper on £136,500. All told, the combined bill for judges' salaries this year will exceed £6 million.

A survey of the senators' schooling suggests judges have a similar upbringing, as well as similar tastes in property later in life. While only 4.5% of children in Scotland attend private schools, 71% of judges were educated in the independent sector. A third attended either George Watson's College, Edinburgh Academy or Glenalmond in Perthshire.

Sometimes the clubbishness is quite literal. Membership of the exclusive New Club, a lynchpin of the Edinburgh establishment, appears de rigeur amongst senators, with 43% of judges listed as members in Who's Who.

The patterns becomes even more vivid at the highest levels of the judiciary.

While four members of the 35-strong bench are female, only one woman currently sits in the Inner House, equivalent to 9% of the total. Similarly, while 71% of all judges live in just four Edinburgh postcode sectors, such as EH3 6 and EH4 1, the percentage jumps to 90% for the Inner House. Attendance at independent schools also increases for Inner House judges, from 71% to 82%.

The creation in 2002 of the JAB, which advises ministers on the selection of judges, appears to have made little progress in modernising the bench. Set up to make the appointments system more transparent, the board's recommendations have helped appoint 14 judges. Of these fourteen, two (15%) are women - a slight improvement on the overall figure of 11% - while four (29%) attended state schools, the same figures for judges overall.

Both the board and the wider legal profession acknowledge that a problem exists. Neil Stevenson, head of diversity at the Law Society of Scotland, said: "It is vital that membership of the judiciary is diverse and reflects modern Scotland and that the system of appointing judges is open and transparent.

"The society is working with the JAB and others to examine the barriers that might exist - or that people perceive exist - about becoming a judge or sheriff. We want to ensure that Scottish solicitors are supported and encouraged to apply to become a judge, if that is their career choice."

It is against this backdrop that the three vacancies to the bench have taken on an added significance. Two of the vacancies are the result of recent deaths - Lord Macfadyen and Lord Johnston - while the third has arisen through the forthcoming retiral of Lord McEwan. Applications for a red jersey are supposed to be secret, but in the gossipy world of the Scottish legal system, a handful of favourites have already emerged.

These include Gordon Jackson, the former Labour MSP for Glasgow Govan, and the QCs Valerie Stacey and Paul Cullen. As Glasgow residents, Jackson and Stacey buck the trend for living in the capital - although both have houses in the exclusive Pollokshields area.

Cullen, a member of the New Club, lives in Edinburgh's Morningside. Another name being mentioned is sheriff Ian Peebles.

There is a growing consensus that increasing diversity on the bench is a worthwhile goal, although not everybody signs up to this ambition. Lord McCluskey, a retired judge, said he was sceptical of the arguments for diversity. "It isn't just a case of saying we should appoint three women to the bench," he said. "If I am going to be in hospital for an operation on my brain, I don't want the surgeon to be picked by reason of diversity. I don't want a one-eyed woman from Jamaica. Merit is the only consideration."

Thursday, October 09, 2008

Cabinet Secretary Swinney admits Law Society is 'vigorously resisting' reforms to regulation of legal profession as client protection fails once more

Constituents of John Swinney, as well as thousands more in a stunning admission by the Cabinet Secretary himself, the Scottish legal profession has vigorously resisted reforms to regulation of complaints against lawyers but these changes still do not address the 'sins of the past' including some of the largest scandals in Scots legal history, which the Law Society and even the new Scottish Legal Complaints Commission are demanding should be buried without atonement.

John Swinney's admission on regulation of legal professionJohn Swinney : 'New legislation is no aid to most victims of crooked lawyers' "Finally I would reiterate my view that you have achieved a great deal in this case, not last more stringent legislation in the field of complaints about the legal profession. I know that does not address your own circumstances, but you should be aware of the significant impact of your intervention has had on delivering change that was vigorously resisted by the legal profession but was long overdue."

SLCC squareMr Swinney is indeed correct in that the Legal Profession & Legal Aid (Scotland) Bill 2007, which created the 'independent' but now co-opted Scottish Legal Complaints Commission, will be of no help to thousands of Scottish victims of crooked lawyers, which the SLCC has abandoned by ruling it will not investigate or handle cases of complaints against 'crooked lawyers' before 1st October 2008.

There have been attempts to change the stubborn resistance of the SLCC to address the Law Society's sins of the past, where for my own part, I raised Petition PE1033, as a gesture to employ a procedure of "Truth & Reconciliation" where either the SLCC or a new Commission formed comprising individuals independent of the legal profession would consider the past and many cases where members of the public have been ruined by Scottish solicitors, with the Law Society rather letting the crooked lawyer off the hook than doing something for the client.

You can read more about Petition PE1033 here :

Petition PE 1033 - A call for action, review & settlement for victims of the Scottish legal profession's injustice against client complaints.

Michael Clancy - Director of Law Reform - Law Society of ScotlandMichael Clancy ‘killed off law reform proposals’ … However, Petition PE1033 was one step too far for the Law Society of Scotland, who, via their Director of Law Reform Michael Clancy, ordered the Scottish Parliament to terminate PE1033 just in case the idea caught on. You can read more about the Law Society's "vigorous resistance" to the Truth & Reconciliation idea here :

Law Society kills Petition PE1033 amid calls for review of injustice & regulatory sins of the past

and not content with allowing the Law society to kill off the idea to heal the legal profession’s sins of the past, the Justice Secretary Kenny MacAskill joined in and made sure there would be no further help to the many victims of crooked lawyers :

Truth & reconciliation fails as MacAskill follows Law Society orders to Parliament on attempt to heal public confidence in legal profession

Given what has happened recently to the Scottish Legal Complaints Commission, which is now staffed mostly by former Law Society staff .. I doubt the Commission as it currently stands could ever find a place in a truth & reconciliation role.

The fact the SLCC is now staffed by ex-Police officers, ex-Law Society Committee members, and is operating under an unwilling attitude to acknowledge the failings of the past are not a good recipe for engaging in the idea of truth & reconciliation ... in fact, I would call it a very backward step coming from the legal profession’s policy of “vigorous resistance” as Mr Swinney admits himself, which has served the Law Society of Scotland very well in avoiding having to deal with reforms to regulation and the way it operates in general.

However, it is still a fact that if the legal profession’s ‘sins of the past’ were to be tackled, and admitted as Mr Swinney seems to be doing himself, there would be great benefits to all in Scotland, as I wrote in an earlier article here :

The polluter pays - Why cleaning up lawyers sins of the past would be good for the public & legal profession alike

John SwinneyJohn Swinney fought against crooked lawyers as an MSP but its time to come off the fence now he’s in Government and help the victims he acknowledges the legal profession has mistreated

While Mr Swinney in his Cabinet Secretary role obviously feels comfortable to admit the legal profession is dishonest when it comes to regulation, it is surely unacceptable for the Government to continue to allow thousands of victims of crooked lawyers to go without help .. simply because of alleged taunts from the Law Society they will challenge the Government if any effort to remedy the sins of the past is made ...

Tuesday, October 07, 2008

Scottish legal profession and client relations 'in tatters' as Law Society Chief Douglas Mill marks last day

Douglas Mill, the man who probably did the most to ruin the public's trust and respect for Scotland's legal profession, marks his last day in office as Chief Executive of the Law Society of Scotland.

With the expected no regrets expressed on how many clients lives lie ruined at Mill's hands, he departs the scene leaving the solicitor client relationship firmly in the waste basket, after years of ensuring even the most 'crooked' of lawyers survived to malign ever increasing numbers of clients.

I covered Douglas Mill's actual announcement of his resignation back in January of this year, which you can read here :

Breaking News : Law Society Chief Executive Douglas Mill who lied to Parliament, pursued 'personal vendetta' against critics - to resign

... and news of his replacement being appointed, Ms Lorna Jack, here :

Law Society of Scotland announces new Chief Executive but will there be change for the better after Douglas Mill ?

Interestingly over the past few days, a few of you have expressed opinions that Ms Jack may not last long in the job, and that her appointment was arrived at without consultation from the membership.

Well I do agree with both points, in that there should be a fixed term for the Chief Executive's role, as leader of the Law Society and the profession at large ... and doubtless, solicitors do deserve a one member one vote on such a powerful appointment as some of you have pointed out.

Whatever is said about Douglas Mill, there can be no reflection on his term at the Law Society without looking at how strained the legal services market in Scotland no finds itself, with the highest numbers of complaints, lowest quality of legal service, poorest levels of conduct, the worst levels of embezzlement, you name it .. the legal profession is currently suffering it .. and as far as a client's perspective on things is concerned, there is no remedy in sight, certainly not from the co-opted Scottish Legal Complaints Commission, now staffed by the Law Society itself.

For most, the memory of Douglas Mill will be of a man who simply lied to the Parliament when challenged by Cabinet Secretary John Swinney over the content of his own secret 'case fiddling' memos, which most feel put an end to Mill's stint as Chief Executive.

The final memo - Douglas Mill & John Swinney battle it out at Holyrood’s Justice Committee

You can read more about the events surrounding the Parliamentary confrontation between John Swinney & Douglas Mill here :

Law Society boss Mill lied to Swinney, Parliament as secret memos reveal policy of intervention & obstruction on claims, complaints.

Personally as you all know, I don't have much regard for Douglas Mill - the man who saw to it my own life was interdicted by himself and his colleagues at the Law Society of Scotland, all in an effort to save the consistently crooked lawyer Andrew Penman of Stormonth Darling Solicitors in Kelso, down in the Scottish Borders. It all began with Penman, and for Mill, it ends in disgrace, a man who even stooped to blame myself and other critics for the attack on his colleague Leslie Cumming.

What kind of a man indeed would thrive on the destruction of clients lives for monetary gain and power .... but there are many left at the Law Society of Scotland such as Philip Yelland, who have served their master well in helping to ruin the lives of many, to protect a few crooked lawyers ...

The Scotsman has run an article looking back on Douglas Mill's term as Chief Executive, which follows next ... without about a thousand omissions by the looks of it ... but if you want to read a more realistic account from the Scotsman on how things happened under Mill’s leadership, have a look at this : The Scotsman reports : How crooked lawyers escaped with the held of Douglas Mill

Mill reaches end of his long goodbye

By Jennifer Veitch

SINCE it was announced in late January that Douglas Mill was to step down as chief executive of the Law Society of Scotland, some people might be forgiven for thinking that he had already gone.

Yet, despite the fact that his successor, Lorna Jack, was unveiled on Friday, Mill's last day in post actually will be tomorrow.

Although he has largely disappeared from public view over the past nine months, he insists he's "not been hitting golf balls", and has instead been in a "phased withdrawal" from the post. While he has scaled down public engagements, he has worked on special projects, such as paralegal regulation, and his spare time has been spent working on his next venture – his own consultancy business.

But when Mill could have remained in a salaried post until retirement – both his predecessors stayed more than 20 years – leaving to go it alone seems like a big risk, especially during an economic downturn. So what has prompted his resignation?

Many in the profession concluded he simply had had enough of the pressure after several years of fighting the profession's battles over issues including complaints handling – a battle that most think the society lost. It is also suggested he became frustrated with the structure of the society and the length of time involved in trying to get things changed.

Certainly, Mill admits that, by late last year, he had lost much of his enthusiasm for the role. After just over a decade in the job, his gut reaction told him it was time to move on.

"I had been in the job 11 years, and each of my predecessors did about 22 years," he says. "But with all due respect to them, it's a totally different world out there. I have probably admitted more solicitors in the last 11 years than the two of them put together.

"The job as it evolved is very different from the job I applied for. Having said that, I have absolutely no regrets. This is not 'bitter and twisted Douglas Mill goes in a big huff' or anything like that."

He points out the Law Society of England and Wales has gone through three chief executives during his time at Drumsheugh Gardens. "Heading up an organisation like the Law Society is much more of a burn-out job that it used to be," he says.

"I slept in 27 different beds last year, which I stress is not as exciting as it sounds. I had a job which evolved into 14 weekends a year of conference and other commitments."

Mill concluded that if he were going to seek a new challenge, he would have to do it while he still had the drive and energy. "I was 51 in January, and I was 40 when I started here – I thought if I leave this for another five or six years, I'll be a twilight case."

Since resigning, he has travelled around Scotland to write a report on paralegal regulation. His swansong came last month when he presided over the International Institute of Law Association Chief Executives conference in Namibia.

"It was a very elegant and symbolic high note to finish on," he says.

Now he hopes his experience will be of benefit to firms across Scotland who want to improve their business efficiency.

"I have always been interested in management," he says. "I graduated with my MBA in 1990 and I thought I would be the first of a drove of young lawyers to do MBAs. Frankly, you can count them on the fingers of one hand."

With just over 1,200 firms in Scotland, Mill predicts many won't survive the twin pressures of the economic downturn and increased competition arising from alternative business structures.

"They have had an incredibly good decade," he says. "But they are starting to realise over the past few months that the recession has bitten hard and deep.

"The plain fact is, basically all areas of the profession are affected. The big boys don't have the deals any longer, but particularly the high street has remained too reliant on domestic conveyancing. The warnings went out ten or 15 years ago not to have too many eggs in one basket, but that's not happened."

Mill intends to offer advice and training on general management issues as well as more specific areas, such as succession planning and preparing for partnership.

He acknowledges that, in some cases, if he's called in to give advice, he may simply be telling the firm they don't have a viable business. And over the years at the society, Mill has noted an emerging "bifurcation" in the profession between big firms and smaller operations.

The role of the Law Society in representing the interests of solicitors is further complicated by the fact that more than a quarter work in-house. He predicts that the society may have to focus its efforts on smaller firms and, indeed, he foresees a point where larger firms who operate in the rest of the UK may choose to be regulated by the Law Society of England and Wales.

"They've always had that option," he says. "The amount of business that big firms do that actually requires a practising certificate is probably fairly marginal."

Regardless of the detail of the proposals brought forward by the Scottish Government for alternative business structures in Scotland, Mill anticipates that regulation will be a major challenge for his successor and the profession.

"I am perpetually frustrated that no-one has yet looked in any depth at the regulation of alternative business structures. How that grafts on to our collegiate insurance, our collegiate fidelity and so on is a mystery to me."

If Mill has one advantage in the consultancy marketplace, he says it is that few other people understand the implications of alternative business structures and the other pressures on firms better than he does.

"I can go into firms and add real value," he says. "There is a gap here in the market in Scotland."

Friday, October 03, 2008

Law Society of Scotland announces new Chief Executive but will there be change for the better after Douglas Mill ?

Fearful of the multiplying calls from consumer organisations and campaigners to open the legal services market, the Law Society of Scotland have brought in a Chartered Accountant, Ms Lorna Jack, to 'lead' Scotland's fractured and untrustworthy legal profession in the coming years which should see significant improvements to the public's right of choice of legal representation and access to justice.

Ms Jack, formerly president of the Americas division of Scottish Development International which is part of Scottish Enterprise, must of course, walk the path set for her by the ‘politburo style’ politics of the Law Society of Scotland, where, after the demise of Douglas Mill, one of the 'most hated' figures in the Law Society's 59 year history, power now mainly rests with the "Council of the Law Society of Scotland", a shady group of characters with vested interests who have no interest in raising levels of consumer protection against the rogue element of solicitors in Scotland.

Ms Jack's power to steer the Law Society's ‘no voting rights’ solicitor membership through what are expected to be troubled times, will be bridled by elements within the Law Society's powerful Committee structure and the Council of the Law Society itself, which has ensured throughout the years, that clients and consumers have always suffered against a growing corrupt element within the legal profession, who have had their sins continually washed clean by the Law Society's Client Relations team, dedicated to burying even the most extreme cases of complaint against solicitors up and down the length of Scotland.

Ms Jack is only the fifth Chief Executive in the Law Society's history, and has a significant hurdle to overcome, given that many regard the position itself as being a 'poisoned chalice' which had been made all the worse by Douglas Mill's considerably arrogant stance on many issues involving the legal profession, and not to mention the scandals surrounding Mr Mill's predecessor, Kenneth Pritchard, who himself did plenty to ruin clients of crooked lawyers, as you can read in an earlier report I made here : Law Society intervention in claims 'commonplace' as ex Chief admits Master Policy protects solicitors against clients

Holyrood in Solicitor's Sights Octover 30 2006 The HeraldMany people remember Mr Mill's well publicised and extraordinary threats of court action against the Scottish Parliament & Scottish Government over legislation designed to usher in a new era of independent regulation of Scotland's solicitors, stupidly citing by way of an English QC's opinion, it was against a lawyer's "Human Rights" to have someone other than a lawyer investigate complaints made against them.

Douglas Mill Memo to Martin MacAllister 5 July 2001Many will also remember Douglas Mill's now infamous confrontation with the Cabinet Secretary for Finance, John Swinney, which revealed Mill's own memos documenting direct interference in claims & complaints made against well known Scottish legal firms, in what became known as a policy to protect crooked lawyers.which now has died a death at the hands of the co-opted Scottish Legal Complaints Commission, staffed almost entirely by the Law Society itself.

Douglas Mill - A Lawyer's never loved in his own home land - The Scotsman 15 August 2006Law Society Chief Executive Douglas Mill enjoyed hitting clients hard rather than hitting the rogue element of Scotland’s legal profession, and in one ludicrous newspaper interview, made a ridiculous, and highly embarrassing suicide jibe after the Herald newspaper reported the exposure of Mill’s interference in claims & access to justice.

For many though, the memories of Douglas Mill will be that of the man who blatantly lied before the Justice 2 Committee of the Scottish Parliament, when under questioning from Cabinet Secretary for Finance John Swinney, Mill consistently contradicted the contents of one of his own memos, which Mr Swinney exposed as a concerted, and well practiced action to prevent client claims & complaints against leading firms of solicitors from making it to court.

I have reported a few times on Douglas Mill's unbelievable account of the complaints & claims process against negligent & crooked lawyers ... a recent article summing things up fairly well : Law Society boss Mill lied to Swinney, Parliament as secret memos reveal policy of intervention & obstruction on claims, complaints.

Most solicitors clients and even a few solicitors, will breathe a sigh of relief the outgoing Chief Executive, Douglas Mill, who one leading figure in the Law Society today claimed "had to be pushed to go, rather than go willingly" will be no more a thorn in the side of thousands of clients of Scottish solicitors who found themselves at the mercy of Mr Mill's beloved colleagues, whom he spared no expense, no corner to protect, no matter how horrible, sinister or corrupt the offences were against clients.

The Scotsman today reports that Douglas Mill is now planning to set up his own 'consultancy business'. Well I hope people don't forget the suffering, harm, hurt, and ruin Mr Mill has caused people throughout his 11 year dictatorial reign as Chief Executive of the Law Society of Scotland, and just for the sake of informing the public once more, here is a repeat of my tribute to Douglas Mill - the man who ruined Scotland's legal profession all on his own by making the client the target rather than giving clients the due respect and protection we all deserve.

Douglas Mill's term as Chief Executive saw a policy of deep personal attacks develop against clients & campaigners, who dared take issue or criticise the standards of Scotland's legal profession. In as many cases as possible Mr Mill involved himself and intervened to halt complaints against fellow solicitors, even when there were serious allegations of fraud, embezzlement, falsification of files and concerted attempts to pervert the course of justice.

For many though, the memories of Douglas Mill will be that of the man who blatantly lied before the Justice 2 Committee of the Scottish Parliament, when under questioning from Cabinet Secretary for Finance John Swinney, Mill consistently contradicted the contents of one of his own memos, which Mr Swinney exposed as a concerted, and well practiced action to prevent client claims & complaints against leading firms of solicitors from making it to court.

John Swinney confronts Douglas Mill over secret memos documenting his direct intervention against client claims ..

I have reported a few times on Douglas Mill's unbelievable account of the complaints & claims process against negligent & crooked lawyers ... a recent article summing things up fairly well : Law Society boss Mill lied to Swinney, Parliament as secret memos reveal policy of intervention & obstruction on claims, complaints.

The Herald 5 June 2006 - Would granny swear by the law societyMany clients and reporters alike will also remember the unforgettable story by the Herald’s Paul Rogerson on the Justice 2 Committee confrontation between John Swinney and Douglas Mill, titled “Would granny swear by the law society ? (not if granny were still living ...). The story would later spark a demand by the Law Society the story be retracted !

Scotland on Sunday February 2001 - Legal Profession in the dock over complaints about self regulationMy own memories of Douglas Mill will be the man, along with Philip Yelland and a few others at the Law Society, who helped prevent the prosecution of Scotland's most famous crooked lawyer - Andrew Penman of Stormonth Darling Solicitors Kelso before the Scottish Solicitors Discipline Tribunal and engineered the absolution of a very crooked lawyer who went onto harm many other clients.

You can read the Scotsman stories on how the Law Society of Scotland and Douglas Mill stage managed the Andrew Penman investigation here : Andrew Penman & Norman Howitt : Lawyer & accountant team up to ruin Cherbi executry estate

Scotsman 5 June 1998 Law Society accused of closing ranks as claim failsDouglas Mill personally hounded me over the years when it came to the Andrew Penman case, and the further complaints which resulted from dealings with solicitors associated with the estate of my late father, and even later on, with the worst chapter of my family over the death of my mum through medical negligence, another crooked lawyer - Michael G Robson, took the opportunity to ruin my legal affairs and nothing was done.

Cash link to law chief stabbingDouglas Mill then went on to use the infamous attack on his colleague, Chief Law Accountant Leslie Cumming, as a media excuse to silence all critics of the legal profession and target my blog for closure ... even insinuating it was such criticism of the legal profession which caused the mafia style ‘hit’ attack on poor Mr Cumming, which was later revealed to have come from within the legal profession itself .. and suspiciously no one has yet been caught for the incident ...

Douglas Mill's roll of shame continued, with his direct opposition to the opening of the legal services market, which campaigners had also been calling for years to be opened up to competition. Douglas Mill was hell bent it seems, on maintaining the Law Society of Scotland's monopoly on legal services ... so much that it took the Which? organisation to launch a "super complaint" to the Office of Fair Trading, resulting in eventual & widely praised recommendations to break up the closed monopolistic legal services market in Scotland.

Although some in the profession may disagree - simply because Douglas Mill has shielded them from transparency, accountability, honesty, customer demands for higher standards, and prevented the need to pay adequate compensation to those poor clients ruined by the legal profession, I would have to say that Douglas Mill has been almost the single biggest obstacle to change at the Law Society of Scotland, given his pursuit of a high profile campaign of vendetta after vendetta against anyone who would dare raise a complaint against one of his colleagues.

Douglas Mill’s tenure will certainly be hard act to follow .. and lets hope the well trodden path of protecting crooked lawyers at all costs, as well as lying to achieve one’s aims, doesn’t rub off on the new Chief Executive …

So, can Ms Jack change the Law Society of Scotland and turn it around from Douglas Mill’s “client hating, client killing organisation”, to a client respecting one ?

Will Ms Jack dare to clean up her colleague’s ‘sins of the past’ against clients, which remain one of the blackest marks on Scotland’s legal profession ?

Only time will tell, but the odds are well against change, as the pockets of the legal profession must come first against consumer protection … and lets face it, it’s hard to mention the Law Society of Scotland these days without referring to Douglas Mill …

Here’s the Law Society of Scotland Press Release on the appointment of Lorna Jack as the new Chief Executive ;


Lorna Jack is to take on the mantle of the Law Society of Scotland’s Chief Executive in January 2009.

She will replace departing chief executive Douglas Mill, CEO of the Law Society for the past 11 years, and return to Scotland after spending six years in Boston as President Americas for Scottish Development International, part of Scottish Enterprise.

Lorna Jack said: “I am delighted to be joining the Law Society to lead an ambitious and innovative organisation through a period of unparalled change. My impression is that the Society already has a first class team of office bearers, council and staff and I look forward working with them as colleagues in the new year.

“The Law Society has a vital role to play in business, political and civic society in Scotland and elsewhere. With the external economic environment as tough as we’ve seen it and the legal profession in Scotland set to make some of the most fundamental changes in its history, this is a challenging and exciting time to help lead the Society through the next stage of its journey. It’s a terrific opportunity for me and there is much to do. I will start by building on improvements already made and continue from there.”

Richard Henderson, president of the Law Society, said: “I believe that Lorna Jack is the right person to lead the profession in the coming years. She brings a wealth of skills and experience to the Law Society at a time of significant change in the legal profession and at the Society itself.

“Lorna has a considerable track record in promoting the interests of Scotland's business community. I am confident that she will use her talents to benefit one of Scotland's important and distinctive economic sectors.

“Lorna will join us at a time when there is a new focus on how the Society works, its governance structure and the services it provides for its 10,000 members to help ensure that Scotland’s solicitors continue to meet the high standards demanded of them by their clients.

“The Legal Profession Bill in this year’s Scottish Government legislative programme will make way for radical changes to how law firms can operate. It is our hope that this will improve access to legal services for members of the public and business alike as well as create new opportunities for Scottish solicitors to ensure they thrive in highly competitive markets in Scotland, the UK and internationally.

“This is a key point in Scotland’s legal history and I am more than confident that Lorna will be equal to the challenges ahead.”

Jack Perry, Chief Executive of Scottish Enterprise said: "Lorna will bring to her new role a wealth of business and international experience, knowledge of working with government in the public sector and a strong track record of delivery at such a critical time for the law profession and businesses in general across Scotland."


Note to editors
Lorna Jack is a Chartered Accountant. She graduated from Aberdeen University in 1982, with an MA in Accountancy and Economics, and qualified as a CA in 1984. Previous roles include head of National Food Industry Team, Scottish Enterprise, Head of Global Companies Research Project, Scottish Enterprise, CEO/chief operating officer for Scottish Enterprise Forth Valley before her current position in Boston, USA, as President Americas, Scottish Development International. She takes up post on 4 January 2009.