Saturday, March 06, 2010

Consumer protection 'a low priority' as law firms call for split from Law Society masks solicitors power grab for Scots legal services market

Law Society of ScotlandLaw Society of Scotland faces division over Legal Services reform. LEGAL SERVICES REFORM which would bring Scots wider access to justice is facing a new , if perhaps temporary hurdle as several solicitors & law firms who are upset over the plans contained in the Scottish Government’s Legal Services Bill, call for a break away from the Law Society of Scotland, who are now being accused of not representing solicitors best interests, by not protecting the ‘independence’ of Scotland’s legal profession – which actually translates into not protecting solicitors current monopoly over consumers access to justice.

The Legal Services Bill, which you can read more about in my previous reports HERE, if passed by the Scottish Parliament, will effectively allow much wider competition in Scotland’s currently ‘solicitor only’ dominated legal services market, freeing consumers from being forced to use a member solicitor or law firm of the Law Society of Scotland to gain access to justice or legal services.

In a reformed legal services market, banks, supermarkets and others will be able to provide Scots consumers with legal services at costs much less than those currently charged by law firms controlled by the Law Society of Scotland, who are now more widely known for their failures to represent clients best interests while charging huge fees for little work, than achieving actual successes for clients who often end up worse off than before they walked in the lawyers front door.

Those leading the call to split from the Law Society are the Glasgow Bar Association, the Govan Law Centre, along with two Glasgow law firms, MacRoberts & Thomsons , all warning that introducing Legal Services Reform to Scotland (the same reforms introduced in England & Wales during 2007 with much less fuss) will undermine centuries of independent legal representation in Scotland. While client & consumer protection appear very low down on the list of priorities in this argument which is essentially between law firms & the Law Society vying for control over the consumers right to choose their legal representative, the Glasgow Bar Association have now called for a referendum for all solicitors to decide whether the Law Society of Scotland should represent their interests.

Now that certain sections of Scotland’s antiquated, monopolistic legal services market realise their income & influence via the current business model is under threat, a drive is underway by solicitors to influence members of the Scottish Parliament to vote against the Legal Services Bill, citing among the arguments, that Government Ministers will be able to interfere in the selection of members of the Council of the Law Society, where up to 20% of the 60 will be made up of members of the public Government stooges, who could be picked according to criteria set by ministers – just like we saw at the Scottish Legal Complaints Commission, where the Law Society managed to stuff the SLCC with its own people as I reported earlier here : Call for MacAskill appointments 'sleaze investigation' as revelations show Legal Complaints Commission member was subject of Police inquiry

The problem with that argument about Ministerial interference however, is as you can see that despite Ministers apparently having the power to make independent selections, they always appear to select more stooges from the profession itself, so in reality nothing much will change, other than perhaps certain sections of the legal profession not being able to stuff the Council of the Law Society as they have always been used to doing …

Clearly solicitors don't want anyone other than solicitors on the Law Society’s ‘Council’, although that would be fine with me if the Law Society were to be stripped of its regulatory & disciplinary role, and left to be nothing more than a representative union for solicitors, rather than the all controlling, all powerful, all crooked regulator it has always been.

An official from one of Scotland’s consumer organisations branded the current debate ‘a diversion’ and accused certain sections of the legal profession from trying to obstruct reforms which would lead to greater consumer choice and protection from Scotland’s notoriously poor legal services market.

He said : “Clearly certain sections of the legal profession seem intent on staging a coup for control of the Law Society in an attempt to thwart much needed reforms to Scotland’s legal services market. This is purely a selfish move designed to promote the interests of solicitors over consumer choice.”

He continued : “The only way to resolve the fears of solicitors in this debate would be to strip the Law Society of its regulation role and that of representing clients best interests, steps we would wholeheartedly welcome.”

Ian SmartLaw Society President Ian Smart – independence is essential. The response from the Law Society of Scotland was to claim it had always promoted independence of the legal profession as being fundamental to its support of the Legal Services (Scotland) Bill. Mr Smart said : “In its response to the Bill and during parliamentary evidence sessions, the Society insisted that independence is essential and that the role of the Lord President should be strengthened to ensure that this remains the case. The Society will continue to lobby changes to section 92, which has been raised as a concern by both the Society and its members.

Mr Smart continued : “The Bill as it currently stands provides ministers with powers to make regulations which could specify the criteria they considered appropriate for appoint ability and the number of lay members on Council and can prescribe a minimum number or proportion if they believe such a prescription is necessary. Before these regulations are made, Scottish ministers would have to consult with Council, the Lord President, OFT and other consumer bodies. That would only be the case if the Society failed to implement section 92 properly. Only the Society can appoint any lay members to the Council, not Scottish ministers. It should be remembered that most other professional bodies have for many years appointed lay members because of the qualities, expertise and talent they bring, including the GMA (General Medical Council, GDA (General Dentists ' Council), ICAS (accountants), RICS (surveyors) and the BMA (British Medical Council), which although is a representative body also has large patient representative committees.”

“It may be difficult to accept any input by politicians into how the Society functions, despite it being a body set up by statute, but the 20% lay membership on Council, which will become part of the Society's obligations, was decided by Council members and has been agreed as appropriate by ministers. This is despite continued pressure from the consumer lobby for somewhere between 50% to 75% of lay membership on the Society's council. Lay members have also been on the Society's regulatory committees for around 20 years and all now have 50% lay membership. Non-regulatory committees are predominantly made up of practicing solicitors.”

“None of this represents a handing over of independence of Scotland's largest legal profession and taking an antagonistic stance does not help negotiate any long term benefits for the profession.”

If solicitors are going to have a say in who represents them, without giving any regard as to who will represent the very clients who fund their ill deserved lavish offices & law firms, perhaps clients and consumers should also be able to have a referendum on who they want to regulate legal services and handle complaints against the legal profession.

Which logoWhich? revealed recently most want independent regulation of legal services. We already know from research which has already taken place on this issue, some of it dating back over a decade from the Scottish Consumer Council, to current research undertaken by UK consumer organisation Which?, consumers have always wanted a fully independent regulator of legal services in Scotland, rather than the half way, hapless, ‘just as crooked’ Scottish Legal Complaints Commission, which now ranks among most clients as Law Society MkII when it comes to dealing with complaints against solicitors.

Only fully independent regulation of Scotland’s legal services market will resolve these and many other problems faced by consumers and solicitors alike but as we have seen from the dithering Justice Secretary, fully independent regulation of solicitors is apparently a step too far for Mr MacAskill who according to his own civil servants, is too busy purging the Justice Department than addressing issues affecting Scots access to justice …

For more on this story, read THIS REPORT in the Herald

30 comments:

Anonymous said...

As I recall the Law Society has thrown its hat into the ring proposing it be appointed regulator for any new providers of legal services.....and the politicians are just the people to allow it despite the Law Society's appalling track record.

As for Mr Smart's contention that'lay members' are already on regulatory boards just take a look at the previous affiliations of the so called 'lay members' on the SLCC board for an indication of the unlevel playing field the legal profession in Scotland fosters and profits from.

Anonymous said...

I dont live in Glasgow so have no use for the Glasgow Bar Assoc. Govan Law Centre or Thompsons but why should they be allowed to dictate the pace of reform for the rest of us ?

Anonymous said...

Your call for a referendum among clients is amusing considering most clients are as thick as two planks and probably couldn't answer a multiple choice question even if there was only one choice.

How would you word your referendum ? something like : Would you like to see your solicitor

A) Shot at dawn ?
B) Shot before dawn ?
C) Shot after dawn ?

Anonymous said...

Govan Law Centre is worth avoiding so no wonder they are afraid of competition

Anonymous said...

In a reformed legal services market, banks, supermarkets and others will be able to provide Scots consumers with legal services at costs much less than those currently charged by law firms controlled by the Law Society of Scotland, (YES AND THIS MUST BE A GOOD THING) who are now more widely known for their failures to represent clients (LAWYERS DO NOT HAVE CLIENTS, THEY HAVE VICTIMS) best interests while charging huge fees for little work, (EASY EASY MONEY, LAWYERS DAYS FOR LEGALISED EXTORTION ARE RUNNING OUT) than achieving actual successes for clients who often end up worse off than before they walked in the lawyers front door.

Good Evening Peter,

Yes the Law Society can be a union for lawyers, stripped of its other functions.

We handed out leaflets today about mortgage money being taken by lawyers and people were all ears.

We told them it is dangerous trusting a lawyer, and how a victim of a crooked lawyer needs another lawyer to help them, and that never happens. The word will spread and we will keep doing this until our last breath, or we get the corruption stopped. Great reporting again and hopefully others will do the same as us to help you and ourselves derail this scourge of self regulation and monopolistic provision of poor legal service. It is time to destroy the power these people have, by targetting the consumers of legal services, so that they know it is ultimate folly to trust a lawyer.

Anonymous said...

Having read yours and then the Herald's story I think this is about Dailly and his mates wanting control of the Law Society itself.

Attempted coup ?

Anonymous said...

Really who cares about a bunch of self promoting lawyers who want to go off on their own ? Let them !

Anonymous said...

Anonymous said...

Your call for a referendum among clients is amusing considering most clients are as thick as two planks and probably couldn't answer a multiple choice question even if there was only one choice.

How would you word your referendum ? something like : Would you like to see your solicitor

A) Shot at dawn ?
B) Shot before dawn ?
C) Shot after dawn ?
===================================
Thick as two short planks, you are an idiot my friend, we want lawyers barred from policing their own activities, you patronizing twit.

Grasp the real issue, if you are a solicitor, you are a member of a legal dictatorship, accountable to your colleagues, the antithises of a justice system.

Anonymous said...

Ah a split in Nazi Party headquarters, by the footsoldiers, and lay members already on regulatory boards.

These people are still an unit albeit possibly a fragmented one. Trust no lawyer or lay member, they are all the same rotten group who oppress the public for financial gain.

Anonymous said...

The peasants revolt, Smart ain't so smart after all.

These unclean lawyer reprobates have no credibility or integrity left.

Anonymous said...

Lay members Mr Smart, having lay members on your committees is like Hitler having the Brownshirts on his committees ie Ernst Rohm et al. Lay members are protectors of lawyers, you are talking B******t.

Do you people not hear too good, or perhaps you are lacking in grey matter? Lawyers and honesty are mutually exclusive.

Anonymous said...

Govan Law Centre can go stuff itself Bring on Tesco lawyers ASAP !

Anonymous said...

Referendum at 7:49PM

I wouldn't waste time waiting until dawn!

Anonymous said...

Good reporting, just goes to show what happens when thieves fall out......

Anonymous said...

Who does Ian Smart think he's kidding ?

Anonymous said...

I saw Dailly & Smart on the Politics Show - both as bad as each other and a damn good advert if one is needed legal services have to change so others can enter the market.If anyone else saw that programme please give their views because if it came to a choice between Smart & Dailly I'd uses neither!

Anonymous said...

As you say Peter none of this matters unless there is full independent regulation of lawyers and anyone handling legal services.Since there is no such proposal in the Legal Services Bill it will end up another fudge to allow lawyers their usual right of way against consumers.

Keep up the good work!

Peter Cherbi said...

Thanks for your comments on this article.

# Anonymous @ 5.51pm

A good point, and as far as lay members go, as you rightly point out I would never trust any 'lay member' who had anything to do with regulation of the legal profession .. their values are usually bought up very quickly by those they are allegedly there to regulate ...

# Anonymous @ 7.04pm

Clearly they shouldn't be allowed to dictate anything .. after all its the client who pays for it all ...

# Anonymous @ 7.49pm

Interesting choices .. I will let my readers comment on it instead ...

# Anonymous @ 8.45pm

Thanks, and my best wishes for your leaflet campaign ... consumers need to be better informed of how bad legal services are in Scotland under the Law Society of Scotland's regime ...

# Anonymous @ 11.50am

Yes ... precisely ...

# Anonymous @ 3.20pm

Thanks for letting me know .. I missed the programme.

# Anonymous @ 7.36pm

I agree ... and with regards to the sudden arguments between the Law Society and certain sections of the legal profession over Legal Services reform, it all seems a bit staged ...

We had a similar outbreak of disagreements, threats & counter threats prior to the Legal Profession & Legal Aid (Scotland) Act 2007 passing through its various stages at Holyrood during 2006.

What happened at the time, the threats coming mostly from Douglas Mill, along with some arm twisting of MSPS from others at the Law Society, led to several amendments to the LPLA Act in favour of the legal profession .. which I assume will happen once again in this no doubt carefully choreographed debate ... which is conspicuously ignoring the consumer/client, who has to pay for it all.

Anonymous said...

Anonymous said...

Your call for a referendum among clients is amusing considering most clients are as thick as two planks and probably couldn't answer a multiple choice question even if there was only one choice.

How would you word your referendum ? something like : Would you like to see your solicitor

A) Shot at dawn ?
B) Shot before dawn ?
C) Shot after dawn ?

YOU LAWYERS NEVER CEASE TO AMAZE ME.

TO ALL YOU CLIENTS OUT THERE, THIS CABBAGE THINKS YOU ARE ALL THICK. I URGE ALL PEOPLE TO MAKE UP LEAFLETS WITH THE FOLLOWING EIGHT WORDS,

GOOGLE "CROOKED LAWYERS" BEFORE YOU TRUST A LAWYER.


WE WILL SHOW THIS IMBECILE HOW THICK WE ARE. WHEN PEOPLE LOOK AT THE INTERNET THEY WILL NEVER TRUST ONE OF SCOTLANDS SELF REGULATING CABBAGES AGAIN.

Anonymous said...

Sounds like you know the lawyers tricks better than they do !

Anonymous said...

# Anonymous @ 8.45pm

Thanks, and my best wishes for your leaflet campaign ... consumers need to be better informed of how bad legal services are in Scotland under the Law Society of Scotland's regime ...

=====================================
Tell everyone about the scourge that sit in law firm offices in a network of self protectors who rob the public, kids of their inheritance, old ladies of their life's work. Tell everyone they steal and are protected by their lawyer brothers, and tell everyone they are as compassionless as the Nazi's in Russia, Poland, or the Japanese in China. The would gas or machine gun their victims to protect the profession if they could. But lawyers, accountants, are the true Untermenchen, not us.

Anonymous said...

Your call for a referendum among clients is amusing considering most clients are as thick as two planks and probably couldn't answer a multiple choice question even if there was only one choice.

How would you word your referendum ? something like : Would you like to see your solicitor

A) Shot at dawn ?
B) Shot before dawn ?
C) Shot after dawn ?

Multiple choice, A, B, C, too quick.

I would rather speak to you, than cause you physical harm, to see if I could reach into your mind. What you have written here is simply silly, a reflection of your intellect.

Anonymous said...

What happened at the time, the threats coming mostly from Douglas Mill, along with some arm twisting of MSPS from others at the Law Society, led to several amendments to the LPLA Act in favour of the legal profession .. which I assume will happen once again in this no doubt carefully choreographed debate ... which is conspicuously ignoring the consumer/client, who has to pay for it all.
9:57 PM
===================================
YES PETER IN BLOOD, SWEAT, MONEY AND TEARS. IT WAS FINE FOR MR MILL WHO WENT HOME WITH HIS LIFE INTACT. CLIENTS ARE PUT THROUGH THE MILL, AND THE LAWYERS, AND ACCOUNTANTS ENJOY THE SUFFERING, BUT NOT IN THE LONG RUN.

Anonymous said...

Well Tesco law will cost lawyers lots of money, and save clients money. They are quick to oppose any threat to their power, but power must be controlled because if not it becomes oppressive.

Just as dissent renews politics, dissent will crush Scotland's legal dictatorship. Money, that is what lawyers care about, and maintaining a system that allows them to steal with impunity.

Regarding the lawyer who said clients were thick, you are an idiot, because what you actually mean is that lawyers can rob clients because they do not have the intellect to fight back. From the evidence available, it is lawyers who are thick. Gutter dogs in powerful positions.

Anonymous said...

Yes I agree Peter the whole thing does have an air of being staged to it.Arguments at the last minute between lawyers and surprise the Scottish Executive now say they are open to ideas.
Very fishy and probably organised in advance.

Anonymous said...

Rats deserting a sinking ship, even though they have helped to sink it.

Anonymous said...

Someone said they thought this was an attempted coup.I believe it is.Mr Dailly & friends will be installed as Chief Pimps at the Law Society if his Glasgow gang has their way

Anonymous said...

A ruling which allows a clinician who botched a teenage cancer patient's treatment to keep on working has been branded a "whitewash" by her father.

Ken Norris spoke out after a Health Professions Council hearing upheld charges against Dr Stuart McNee but decided he should not be struck off.

Dr McNee worked at the Beatson Oncology Centre in Glasgow where Lisa Norris was given 19 radiation overdoses.

Now professor Sikora changed his mind too, so there is no causal link. This is the norm as Mr Cameron Fyfe knows when doctors or lawyers careers are on the line.

Peter Cherbi said...

# Anonymous @ 10.14pm

Indeed .. the expert witness suddenly changes his mind ...

Personally I believe the overdoses of radiation killed Lisa Norris, as I'm sure most of us do, no matter what courtroom dictator may try to persuade us otherwise.

Anonymous said...

Peter Cherbi said...

# Anonymous @ 10.14pm

Indeed .. the expert witness suddenly changes his mind ...

Personally I believe the overdoses of radiation killed Lisa Norris, as I'm sure most of us do, no matter what courtroom dictator may try to persuade us otherwise.
===================================
Exactly Peter, they have to be like Shipman. I know Fyfe and I would not be surprised if the family receive £0.00 compensation. The insurers will give Fyfe an brown bag for his holiday fund. He is a master of the coverup.