Law Society’s argument to maintain closed shop legal services weak. The debate on the Legal Services Bill, which aims to open up Scotland’s monopolistic legal services market, currently dominated by solicitors & the Law Society of Scotland, took another twist at the weekend with the appearance on television of the current President of the Law Society, Ian Smart & the Govan Law Centre’s Mike Dailly, where chiefly, the concerns of the profession itself were debated, rather than how consumers would ultimately benefit from long needed changes to the way we choose our legal representatives & access justice.
A clip of the interview, from BBC Scotland’s The Politics Show, passed onto me makes for interesting viewing for all those concerned about how the legal profession wish to keep their business market stitched up as the long held monopoly which lawyers have been used to maintaining over the public’s access to justice.
Both Mr Smart & Mr Dailly appeared not so interested in the lot of the client, (who is after all paying for them to offer legal services as a business, rather than some noble cause which serves the community) more the representatives of the legal profession, minus anyone from the consumer lobby, appeared to focus on the internal squabble for control of the Law Society itself, and its current dual roles of representing solicitors as well as regulating them, and of course its alleged claims to represent the clients best interests, claims which we all know to be .. well … a deceit.
Law Society President Ian Smart & Govan Law Centre’s Mike Dailly on Legal Services Reform.
From the debate I note Mr Dailly brings up the well known issue of supermarkets & banks price fixing their services & products. Well of course we all know the legal profession does exactly the same, and gets away with it time & again as there is no recourse to question solicitors bills (false, padded, or genuine) other than submitting the account to an almost bogus audit to the auditor of the court, who also usually happens to be a solicitor.
I think we need less of those one sheet A4 letters with four lines of text on it, charged at £160+VAT each which solicitors are so famous for charging clients for (usually around 10 or more at a time over at least a year and nothing achieved in the client’s case) and more competition where consumers will be able to shop around for legal services rather than be ripped off by the current crop of … well .. for the want of a better term, qualified robbers ?
Fortunately for Scots, there are more sensible forces in the debate on legal services reform such as Which?, who have done a lot of work to bring the Legal Services Bill to the Scottish Parliament, after the whole process was kicked off by the Which? “super-complaint” to the Office of Fair Trading, which you can read about in a previous report, here Consumers call for OFT Inquiry to investigate restriction of legal services in Scotland
Which? recently did a survey of consumers, supporting the notion that most Scots wish to see a more open legal services market, and be given freedom of choice on who represents their legal interests, rather than being forced to use a solicitor who can basically charge what they want (that old price fixing model solicitors have been used to all these years).
Which? research concluded most Scots want more open legal services market & independent regulation (click on images to view larger versions)
For consumers to be able to trust & depend on legal services, independent regulation is a must, considering the disgraceful history of the Law Society of Scotland and now the Scottish Legal Complaints Commission on the subject of regulating complaints against solicitors.
Sadly the Scottish Governments Legal Services Bill currently lacks any significant proposals for independent regulation of legal services in Scotland, as the Law Society seems to have easily arm twisted the likes of Justice Secretary Kenny MacAskill into backing away from that idea for now … but the campaign goes on to bring fully independent regulation to Scotland’s currently ill served legal services market.