Law Society in its 60th year of ruining client-solicitor relations. SIXTY YEARS on from its formation, the Law Society of Scotland is about to hold its annual get together, however this year is special, at least for the Law Society itself, as it marks 60 years of running the show as far as public access to justice in Scotland is concerned.
While the Society claims 'an impressive line up' of speakers has been arranged to attend its conference, to be held on Friday May 8 and the morning of Saturday May 9, at the Edinburgh International Conference Centre, the Society's dual role of 'representing the client as well as the legal profession' once again comes in for a glaring neglect of the client's interests, as a talking shop of personalities gather to congratulate themselves for putting the interests of the legal profession above the public interest, time & again.
There will probably be not much mention if at all, of the catalogue of corruption scandals hitting the Law Society and Scots solicitors, nor will there be mention of senior officials from the legal profession campaigning against public pleas for legal reforms, nor perhaps will there be any mention made of the recent Law Society 'take over' of the now less than 'independent' Scottish Legal Complaints Commission.
Ex-Law Society Boss Douglas Mill claimed lawyers ‘were unloved’ – anyone care to wonder why ? Yes, to be fair, this is a gathering of lawyers, and those who love lawyers. After all, who on earth would attend a Law Society conference if they didn't hold at least some regard for the legal profession ... but on the other hand, since Scots Law has become so infamously corrupt, and easily twisted to political or corporate will, in scandals ranging from the Lockerbie Trial and its heavily biased, fiddled politically-suitable-to-some outcome, to court threats from the Law Society of Scotland itself against legislative legal reforms, to the now unusual, if constant scandals reported in the media of crooked solicitors ruining & pillaging their clients finances clients on a grand scale.
Kenny MacAskill will appear at Conference to praise the Law Society no matter how bad it gets. Some of those announced for the Conference include Cabinet Secretary for Justice Kenny MacAskill MSP who will take to the stage with Richard Susskind on Saturday morning, along with the Society’s CEO Lorna Jack, Simon Di Rollo, stable Director of Ampersand, and Graeme Garrett, partner and Compensate Director at Digby Brown, for a panel debate on the future delivery of legal services.
You can be assured that debate will swing the way the Law Society wants it to swing, however some of the sessions during the two-day event give a little glimmer of hope, which include a review of the civil court system by Lord Gill *lets hope he asks why the Law Society campaigned to keep out McKenzie Friends from the Scottish Courts for 39 years, as well as asking why Sections 25-29 of the Law Reform (Misc Provisions) (Scotland) Act 1990 were withheld for 17 years. There will also be a report on the international criminal court by Lord Bonomy.
Ex Bank Chief Sir Fred Goodwin not expected to attend, but RBS still sponsors Law Society. The Law Society's conference, is conveniently sponsored by its own bankers, the Royal Bank of Scotland, however, former RBS Boss Sir Fred Goodwin, who helped collapse the RBS and drive it into state ownership, is not thought to be attending. Sir Fred of course, is a great pal of Douglas Mill, the infamous ex Law Society Chief Executive who was toppled by a confrontation with Cabinet Minister for Finance John Swinney MSP over memos which revealed the Law Society routinely protected crooked lawyers from damages claims.
James Oliver, Relationship Director with RBS, main sponsors of the conference, said: "We're delighted to be sponsoring the Society's 60th anniversary conference. The conference is an important date in the diaries of legal professionals around Scotland and I'm very much looking forward to this year's event."
Oddly enough it was the policies of Douglas Mill during his time as Chief Executive which helped bring about the collapse of public trust in the Scots legal profession, where some of its more senior members seem happier to involve themselves in the covering up of rent boy scandals rather than attending to their duties.
To round off the
Nuremberg rally conference more than 100 guests including some solicitors from overseas have been invited to a Homecoming reception at Edinburgh Castle which the Society is co-hosting with the Scottish Government *remember that's the SNP controlled Scottish Government, while an international rugby tournament will take place during the week culminating with a prize – giving ceremony on Friday at the EICC.
Don't expect any issues relating to injustice or the public wellbeing to crop up at this conference ... its all about furthering the aims of the legal profession, most certainly over the public good .. however, if you do feel like getting your point across .. the venue is well known to many.
In a final blast from Richard Henderson, the outgoing President of the Law Society of Scotland, soon to be replaced by Ian Smart, we learn its going to be business as usual, despite the ever growing need for reform of Scots Law .. perhaps I rephrase that and say .. at least as far as clients are concerned, its going to be daylight robbery as usual ..
Richard Henderson writes in the Scotsman, showing us there's no hope for change in a profession which has become too used to getting its own way :
Published Date: 04 May 2009
I JOINED the profession in 1969 – if you count the apprenticeship as part of my professional life, which I think is the right approach.
There were about 4,000 members of the profession then; there are now about 10,000, which is a measure in itself of how different the legal services market is now.
There was a Dr Finlay's Casebook approach to business then. Even Sutherland's Law was set in a simpler world, and certainly law was less complex. European law was an interesting prospect on the horizon, and human rights – well that was something for others and couldn't possibly apply to us could it?
Judicial review was 15 years away, and feudal reform, while probably desirable, was the stuff of pipe dreams. And as for devolution, it was barely in sight.
There was no mention of deregulation, "Big Bang", or most crucially, of the seismic changes that the "information superhighway" would bring.
The solicitors' profession has faced profound changes over the 30 years I have been part of it. Society has developed in an increasingly global market, with information from around the world at our fingertips, influencing our options and choices. Solicitors, working in house and in private practice, have responded well to change and provide a comprehensive range of services both domestically and internationally, for private clients and large corporations.
Despite the challenges, solicitors are providing access to justice for clients, often in very difficult circumstances in which resources are scarce and demand outstrips supply.
But change is a constant, and the pace of that change continues to gather. At the centre of that change lies the market, and today's market is a very different place not only in terms of scale but also in terms of scope and access. Greater specialisation has developed across the whole market spectrum to address changing demands.
The internet has revolutionised the market, and as a result, clients are developing, or will develop, a more demanding approach. Online services will be expected, even if for a long time face-to-face service is also required. Clients have the capacity to be better informed and will come for services knowing more of what they should receive.
That in turn will transform the services solicitors provide. Systematising the operation, commoditising the product, packaging legal services; all of these will mean that, inevitably, legal services will begin to look different.
Bespoke service will remain, but is unlikely to be the norm. The recession is proving to be a catalyst for that change. We will emerge from recession with more regulation; but we must avoid over-regulation that will stifle recovery.
Getting the balance right is a major challenge. Within the next ten years the changes will become obvious, as new markets open up along with new methods of working.
A highly respected and successful international solicitor recently told me that good use of technology means he can write opinions, keep in touch with clients in the office and research information wherever he is in the world.
Anyone can access the entire UK statute book, connecting to the freely available statute law database; yes, freely available, and free to all.
Against such a background of developing change in demand and delivery, the profession must be agile and respond quickly and appropriately. That means looking at how we are organised, whether our structures restrict or empower, and ensuring that our systems and processes respond as the market requires.
New business structures are already being developed. Internet-based clearing houses, directing clients to online providers, are opening up. It is a short step from there to clearing houses for multi disciplinary services.
The profession's success in the market will, as justice minister Kenny MacAskill says, depend on the imagination and initiative of the profession itself. But I know that the profession has both of those in abundance as it looks forward to the next 30 and 60 years.
• Richard Henderson is president of the Law Society of Scotland.