Tuesday, February 03, 2009

Scottish Government set to defy OFT over lawyers self regulation in legal services consultation as MacAskill demands Law Society powers 'be protected'

Kenny MacAskillMuch like demanding there should be no inquiry into the worldwide banking collapse, Scotland's Justice Secretary Kenny MacAskill is set to defy the Office of Fair Trading's views of removing all powers of self regulation currently enjoyed by the Law Society of Scotland, in favour of creating a new independent legal services regulator similar in nature to the system now operated in the rest of the UK, where the Law Society of England & Wales is now little more than a 'trade union' for its member solicitors.

In Scotland, the Law Society of Scotland, while certainly being a 'trade union' for its members, also remains the prime regulator for the legal profession, despite recent moves to shift complaints to the troubled, scandal hit Scottish Legal Complaints Commission, which cannot seem to perform its intended function of 'ultimate consumer protection' against some of Scotland's notorious crooked lawyers.

Wider Choice & Better Protection Govt consultwation on Scots legal services Page 33Revelations from the recently announced 'public consultation' into reforming Scotland's legal services market structure, entitled "Wider choice & better protection - a consultation on the regulation of legal services in Scotland" show that while the OFT have made known their view the Law Society of Scotland should be completely stripped of any regulatory functions whatsoever, the Scottish Government are set to defy the wishes of consumers, most consumer organisations, and the OFT itself, by virtually guaranteeing the continuation of the Law Society's dual role as regulator and promoter of solicitors interests.

OFT - remove the Law Society's regulatory powers : “The Office of Fair Trading (OFT), amongst others, has expressed concerns about the regulatory and representative roles of the Society. Its view is that, in the interests of consumer protection, there should be a clear separation of the regulatory function from the responsibilities for representing and promoting the interests of the profession. It is argued that, for a profession that places emphasis on the avoidance of conflicts of interest (of even the appearance of such), undertaking both roles creates such a conflict."

Quite rightly, the OFT has taken the view, after reviewing the considerable evidence of lawyers closing ranks to protect each other against client complaints & claims of poor service, the legal profession is unfit to regulate itself. Improvements in regulation south of the border in England & Wales have already taken place, separating the functions of the solicitors governing body from regulatory responsibilities, a move which many had campaigned for & hoped would be implemented also in Scotland.

Wider Choice & Better Protection Govt consultwation on Scots legal services Page 34Mr MacAskill, however has apparently ruled himself, albeit after a disturbingly intense, albeit private campaign by senior elements of the Scots legal establishment, that the Law Society's powers as regulator of the legal profession, along with it's responsibilities for representing and promoting the interests of the Scots legal profession should remain, allowing the solicitors notoriously crooked, closed shop governing body to prevent clients & consumers getting a fair hearing when it comes to complaints against 'crooked lawyers'.

MacAskill tight lippedKenny MacAskill : We must protect Law Society : "It is the Government’s view that the Law Society should remain as the regulator of individual solicitors, and we are sympathetic to their aspirations to regulate ABS. However we believe that this will require a move towards a clearer separation of the regulatory function. In respect of this aspect of the work of the Society, we also believe that the argument for majority non-lawyer representation on any regulatory committee has considerable merit.”

Mr MacAskill has already made it clear, he feels he and the Scottish Government must protect solicitors from any changes which may affect their 'income' or powers to protect each other from complaints …

ScottishGovernmentA source from within the Justice Department today condemned Kenny MacAskill's blank cheque to the Law Society, claiming "This consultation is nothing but a front for the Law Society who have badgered at ever turn for wording to be changed and fanciful claims to be inserted over their conduct on complaints which everyone knows to be dishonest"

I asked the legal insider whether they felt the consultation paper in its present form was impartial enough to actually do some good and produce some results which may benefit Scots consumers of legal services. They felt however, that intentions were otherwise :

"Parts of the consultation paper look like a Law Society scripture intended for a solicitors conference rather than a genuine attempt to inform the public and seek their views on regulation of solicitors and how they feel legal services in Scotland should be reformed"

"It is widely thought by some of my colleagues there is an organised attempt by the Law Society and other organisations in Scotland which represent solicitors to stage manage the whole consultation process and I & others would not be surprised if some of the returning submissions from the legal profession were the work solely of a few from the Law Society itself"

Another official from within the Scottish Government further lambasted Mr MacAskill's consultation exercise, condemning it little more than a talking shop, and stated, rather strongly ; "Mr MacAskill's condom for the Law Society would not work as Scots will & should demand the same level of protection the rest of the country has from these beasts of the legal system".

To further ascertain who else in the Scottish Government held the view the Law Society should be allowed to remain as regulator of solicitors, I asked a senior Government insider for their opinion. He replied “This is not actually the view of the entire Scottish Government as the wording in the consultation suggests, it is simply the view of Mr MacAskill, the Justice Secretary”.

So, who actually does think the Law Society should be allowed to remain as regulator of solicitors ? Only it seems, lawyers, or ex-lawyers turned politicians are willing to cling to those ideals …

Law Society of ScotlandLaw Society ran consultation ? One further area attacked by officials who feel their efforts to reform the Scots legal services market are being hampered, are the various 'inserts' into the consultation paper demanded by the Law Society, suggesting all is well with current regulatory models operated by the profession's governing body, particularly those relating to the compensation schemes offered to ruined clients of crooked lawyers, who invariably never receive a penny while their solicitor usually seems to get off 'Scot free'.

Here follows one such example from Mr MacAskill’s public consultation, seemingly the work of the Law Society instead.

Consultation quote on Master Policy : "Currently, consumers enjoy a greater level of protection if the legal services they receive are delivered by a Scottish solicitor working within a traditional firm, as opposed to an unregulated legal services provider working outside the reserved areas. If alternative business structures are to become a reality in Scotland, it is important that the same level of consumer protection applies to alternative business structures as it does to traditional business models."

The above quote, looks like it comes straight from the Law Society of Scotland itself, and I have to say I do remember over the years, previous Law Society Chiefs such as Kenneth Pritchard, and Douglas Mill, using the same phrases to describe the Master Policy Professional Indemnity Insurance of Scots solicitors, which is widely recognised as being the most corrupt insurance arrangement in existence, with the sole aims to protect crooked lawyers from financial damages claims from ruined clients.

You can read an interesting story about the work of the Master Policy to protect crooked lawyers here : Law Society intervention in claims 'commonplace' as ex Chief admits Master Policy protects solicitors against clients

You can read some of my previous reports on the woes of the Master Policy here : The Master Policy - a policy of protection for crooked lawyers

You can download the Scottish Government’s legal services consultation (in Acrobat pdf format) here : Wider choice and better protection: A consultation paper on the regulation of legal services in Scotland

You can read my earlier report on the consultation here : Lawyers monopoly on legal services set to last until 2011 as MacAskill's 'dithering consultation' delays wider access to justice for Scots

If there is to be genuine change & reform of the Scots legal services market, so consumers can get the transparent, impartial regulation they deserve, while solicitors get the 'trade union' they deserve, there must be a change in attitude at the Scottish Government from protecting the professions, to embracing the public interest and putting people first, rather than bowing to the likes of the Law Society of Scotland, who are twisting the public interest, and the public debate away from genuine change, back to the protection of long held monopolies and closed shop regulation once again.


Anonymous said...

Wow Peter.I liked the comment about Kenny MacAskill giving the Law Society a condom !

You should have had that one as the headline !

Keep up the great work !

MacAskill loves lawyers ... and hates the rest of us said...

So long as MacAskill remains in post (and Salmond is to blame for this lawyer-loving crook being at the helm of Scottish "Justice" of course) then there will be no end to self-regulation at the Star Chamber at Drumsheugh Gardens, Law Society HQ. That is the reality of the situation Peter.

Does no-one have any real dirt on that scumbag? ... who cares not a jot about those suffering injustice in Scotland today.

Perhaps the Daily Record should really go to town on this impostor and expose him for the charlatan he really is once and for all ... for the sake of all those seeking justice in Scotland today ... for it will NEVER be found at that crook's (or the SNP's) door ... and that is a FACT.

Keep at 'em nonetheless Peter ... sterling job as always my friend.

Anonymous said...

“This is not actually the view of the entire Scottish Government as the wording in the consultation suggests, it is simply the view of Mr MacAskill, the Justice Secretary”.

Who said that ? They definitely have a point !

Why should it say "Scottish Government's view" if it only represents the view of one Minister ?

The whole thing stinks and just to protect lawyers again by the sounds of it.

Anonymous said...

asking for views from the public then telling us nothing will change doesn't do much for confidence in MacBuckfast's management of the justice portfolio

why doesnt wee eck kick his lawyer arse out and put someone in who knows what they should be doing ?

Anonymous said...

I have been reading the consultation and it does seem skewed against any real reforms.

Maybe with your reports and exposes they might change their mind a bit.

Anonymous said...

Why would Kenny try to fit a condom on the Law Society anyway ? They are a self destructive bunch as you have proved time & again Mr Cherbi. I don't think too many people nowadays think of the Law Society as being anything other than crooked after your onslaught against them.
Keep it up you will do us all a favour if you get rid of it

Anonymous said...

I hope someone at Holyrood has the balls to question this when it goes to whichever committee looks into it.

Just also want to say I agree with the OFT that the Law society should be left as a trade union and nothing more than it

Anonymous said...

Neither do I believe it is the view of the entire Scottish Government which is being shared in that 'consultation'.You know who wrote it don't you ?
Lawyers - that's who wrote it !

Anonymous said...

Interesting story and comments !

So who actually is running the Government these days in Scotland ? Alex Salmond or the Law Society + Kenny MacAskill ?

Anonymous said...

If the OFT are reading this they must be fuming or thinking we are a bunch of lawyer loving idiots (which we are not)

Kenny's bartender said...

This must be MacAskill's attempt to better Henry Ford's "You can have any colour as long as its black" comment.

MacAskill's version : "You can have your consultation but no changes and bent lawyers get the usual protection because I might need to go back to being a lawyer when my political career is over"

Anonymous said...

I don't really have any beefs against lawyers but if the SNP choose a fight with Westminster to protect lawyers they are going to look like a right bunch of crooks don't you think ?

Anonymous said...

MacAskill has already been quite properly accused of prejudiced published opinions by a feloow MSP, and it is not difficult to see why.

Clearly his contemptuous dismissal of the OFT's position must now see it and Which - author of the Super-Complaint - report the Law Society of Scotland's monopoly to the Competition Commission as a matter of urgency.

Anonymous said...

Well written Peter.I can imagine there will be a witch hunt now for your sources.
MacAskill will have to get in his Nasti team to waterboard all the Justice staff until he comes up with some answers.

Anonymous said...


someone trying to fiddle the vote Peter - get on the case please with that good intel you always seem to have !

Anonymous said...

Screw Macaskill and his lawyer buddies and bring on the OFT now ! I for one would welcome our Westminster overlords if they are going to save us from these bloody lawyers !

Anonymous said...

scary to think all this is going on and the damned newspapers cant do anything to let us know about it

hootsmon bought off too although thats not too difficult from what I hear

Anonymous said...

Why bother with the consultation if he wants the Law Society to remain as regulator no matter who says what ?

Anonymous said...

Law Society gets its way as usual.Typical.Who gets the fat brown envelope for all this ?

Anonymous said...

despite the significance of the OFT's statement it was buried on page 33 leaving it to Peter Cherbi to report because no one else can write about the law in Scotland these days without fear of the lawyers bawling them out

Good work Peter its a pity you don't have a newspaper column but I suppose because we have the advanced version of censorship in Scotland many people wont be able to follow what is really going on in the legal world.

Anonymous said...

I am a solicitor myself, and I know many who would be happy to be rid of the Law Society hanging over our backs.

Personally I think it was very unwise for Mr MacAskill to express his view like that in the consultation document.
I assume the Scottish Parliament will take a more impartial look at matters and hopefully come to a conclusion his proposal to allow the Law Society to remain as it is does not come to fruition.

Anonymous said...

Hopefully Captain MacBuckfast's wording will be corrected by someone less inclined to defend lawyers !

Anonymous said...

The mind boggles on this to say the least.

If the consultation is just that then why exclude an approach which probably everyone except only the legal profession wants ?

I have downloaded the paper and will send mine back completed of that opinion.

Anonymous said...

I would add a comment simply to express my disgust at the SNP for protecting lawyers but it seems everyone has said just about anything I could think of to say anyway.

Good luck and keep up the fight!

Anonymous said...

I think you could be the legal world's answer to Robert Peston !