Friday, May 02, 2008

Scots public get raw deal in legal services as paralegals fall under Law Society of Scotland's dishonest regulatory regime

The Law Society has made a big song & dance this week about it's registration scheme for Paralegals, which is the result of 'agreements' reached between the Law Society and the Scottish Paralegals Association, inferring the scheme, which will effectively see the Law Society control and regulate paralegals, will be good for both the client and the legal profession at large.

While some may see the legal profession under the current rule of the Law Society may benefit from grabbing control of paralegals, if anything, the reverse is actually the case, where, as the Law Society has proved particularly through its recent history , it cannot effective manage any part of the profession, and adding the burden of administering, registering & regulating paralegals will do nothing to enhance either the Society's reputation or that of the profession at large.

Ostensibly, what is happening to paralegals, means that when clients have a problem with a paralegal, they will of course, have to take the matter up with the Law Society of Scotland, and as the new Scottish Legal Complaints Commission doesn't seem to be equipped to deal with paralegals, the buck will stop with the troublesome Law Society of Scotland who historically have ensured client complaints go nowhere.

So, in short, Law Society of Scotland control over paralegals is a bad thing for clients .... as we all know from how the Law Society has mismanaged complaints against solicitors for the past thirty years plus.

Want an example of what could happen to a client complaint to the Law Society of Scotland against a paralegal ? Well, there are plenty examples on this blog and in the media of how the Law Society of Scotland treat complaints against lawyers .....

Neil Stevenson - who was appointed by the infamous Douglas Mill to head up 'strategic change' at the Law Society of Scotland, wrote this week in the Scotsman law page on the subject of Law Society control over paralegals :

"There is no doubt that paralegals already provide a valuable service within the legal market, but at the moment anyone can call themselves a paralegal. Introducing a registered status will mean that employers can be sure of the standards met by employees. It will also give paralegals the professional recognition they deserve. And clients will benefit from knowing that the paralegal, who they may have more direct contact with than a solicitor, has been assessed properly.

This development also represents continuing change at the Law Society of Scotland. An innovative regulatory approach has been developed to tackle the issue, and state-of-the-art IT will underpin compliance"

I would remind readers that Douglas Mill, the outgoing Chief Executive of the Law Society of Scotland, is probably the one individual who has done the most damage to the Scots legal profession over the years, with policy failure after policy failure, leaving the profession with the highest levels of complaints, the highest levels of negligence cases, and the poorest level of public trust & respect for solicitors for decades ..... hardly a man who should have any lasting influence on things if the damage he and his kind have done, is to be repaired ?

"An innovative regulatory approach" from the Law Society of Scotland .. I wonder what on earth that could mean in the light of how they have handled regulation for all these years ?

Perhaps the Law Society of Scotland will simply lose the pretence of any honesty whatsoever and bin all complaints against paralegals as they are apparently doing at Drumsheugh Gardens in the run up to October 2008 when the Scottish Legal Complaints Commission takes over regulating service complaints and other issues relating to client complaints against Scottish solicitors.

What we are seeing in these moves by the Law Society over paralegals is simply a move to ensure it will control the legal profession from top to bottom, at every level, ensuring it will have influence & control over everything from the admissions process to control over rights of audience & representation, and of course, retain as much influence and control over access to justice itself.

As things stand, the Law Society will still be able to dictate and restrict the Scots public's choice of legal representatives in a continuing highly restrictive legal services market as indicated by last week's Law Society Alternative Business Structure proposals, and now the public are faced with an even greater danger in the quality & accountability of the present level of legal services on offer with the Law Society's annexing of the paralegals profession.

Unless the SNP Government or other political parties in the Scottish Parliament move forward with proposals to ensure the Scots legal services market is fully opened up to competition and freedom of choice, as recommended by the OFT and many consumer organisations, we will not see any increased quality, accountability or safety of legal services in Scotland.

So, over to less public choice and ever more regulatory failures as clients get a weaker, less safe legal service than ever in Scotland - where regulation of paralegals by the Law Society is definitely not good news for anyone except the Law Society control freaks and those who wish to further control the public's access to justice ..

The Scotsman article written by the Law Society Director of 'Strategic Change" :

Paralegal registration scheme is good news for the profession and for clients

By Neil Stevenson

WHAT will becoming a Law Society of Scotland registered paralegal actually mean?

The status is a badge of quality, indicating that the holder has met certain academic standards, has a certain amount of work experience and can carry out work to a prescribed standard.

We must emphasise that the exact arrangements are still under discussion, but having spoken to most of the concerned parties we have a clear idea of how the final proposal may look.

The Law Society is proud that this is a true partnership project, with the society and the Scottish Paralegal Association working closely to ensure that this new scheme brings benefits to everyone involved.

Paralegals who have attained a formal recognition under the scheme will be eligible to apply for entry to the register. A wide range of qualifications are likely to be considered relevant, from HNC/HNDs provided by Scotland’s colleges to provision from respected commercial providers such Central Law Training and Rewards Training.

We are also delighted to have worked with the Scottish Qualifications Authority (SQA) to redevelop an HNC/HND in legal services, and are now moving to develop professional development awards in a variety of key areas of law. For the first time this will provide a qualifications framework for paralegals.

Paralegals will then need to undertake an assessed year in practice, supervised by a solicitor. Those already with office experience may be able to follow an accelerated route, with the emphasis on ensuring all those becoming registered meet the required standard.

Those achieving registration will be required to complete annual ongoing training and will have to uphold standards laid out in a code of conduct. A complaints process will be put in place, but the emphasis will be on upholding standards through a variety of regulatory approaches.

There is no doubt that paralegals already provide a valuable service within the legal market, but at the moment anyone can call themselves a paralegal. Introducing a registered status will mean that employers can be sure of the standards met by employees. It will also give paralegals the professional recognition they deserve. And clients will benefit from knowing that the paralegal, who they may have more direct contact with than a solicitor, has been assessed properly.

This development also represents continuing change at the Law Society of Scotland. An innovative regulatory approach has been developed to tackle the issue, and state-of-the-art IT will underpin compliance.

This is also a year when the Society’s own governance arrangements are being reviewed and are likely to significantly alter following the move to bring in more experience from outside the profession and streamline our management.

• Neil Stevenson is from the Law Society of Scotland.


Anonymous said...

You are spot on Peter.Law Society can't be trusted with holding the reigns of paralegals or anyone else.

Great stuff and keep it up.

Anonymous said...

I agree completely but as you point out the Law Society want to keep control of things as much as possible hence their move on paralegals.

Anonymous said...

I think you sank Neil Stevenson's battleship.Good.I don't think the Law Society should be allowed to regulate a dead flea after its track record has been looked at.

Poirot said...

Yes another good report Peter and I'm pleased to see you keeping us all informed of whats going on in the legal side of things.

I think you should be advising people to watch how they handle their legal business now.Perhaps pointing out that everyone in their lawyers office is basically coming under the influence of one organisation so there is little chance of any breaking ranks when things inevitably go wrong.

Keep up the good work as everyone says.

Anonymous said...

I have a slight problem with this in that it was never intended the Law Society get control over paralegals.What you have witnessed is actually coup by the Law Society who demanded they get the paralegals registration scheme or "life would be made difficult" etc

Good thing you reported it this way and hopefully people will be more wary now.

Anonymous said...

News met with yet another deafening silence from Mr. John Swinney and Co.

Anonymous said...

Stevenson is a laughing stock putting his name to that and if it doesn't work it all hangs on him courtesy of dear Douglas.

Anonymous said...

I had a big problem with a paralegal in my lawyers office who falsely claimed she had witnessed a signature when I was out of the country (passport proves it) and when I tried to complain I was told there was no one to complain to.The lawyer tried to cover the whole thing up and the Law Society said the couldn't get involved.I will have to approach a newspaper about it and you too for some publicity as Im sure they do it to many

Fran said...

I'm sure its been said before but anyone who has to use a lawyer should first read this blog.

Good work and good luck.

Anonymous said...

been reading this all evening i agree its very dangerous to have to use a lawyer in scotland so best avoid them !

brilliant writing btw !!

Anonymous said...

I share your views on the Law Society.They are the ones who have caused all this and should be made to pay.Any ideas on what should come next ?

Anonymous said...

Seems like a very bad idea to let this go ahead.Where was the Justice Secretary when this was going on ? How about someone give an opinion on how this affects competition in legal services ? Pathetic to say the least of MacBuckie to let this go ahead.

Basher said...

I don't think lawyers can be trusted with anything these days and they definitely shouldn't be allowed to regulate themselves or anyone who works for them - that much is obvious.

Keep up the good work.

Anonymous said...

I wouldn't trust a lawyer if my life depended on it.Just look at that nutcase lawyer today in London who was hanging out of his house with a gun.They are all lunatics and if they can't get away with ripping someone off they just shaft the law when they like.After reading some of your stuff I bet if that same thing happened in Scotland they would just let the lawyer get away with it.Good thing we have better cops in England then.

Maybe we should make Hadrians Wall a bit taller?

Anonymous said...

It might be comforting to believe that there are 'better lawyers in England" however they also are required to rely upon Professional Indemnity Insurance courtesy of the disgraced Insurance provider Marsh - whose "shameless and unlawful conduct" is a matter of record.

Anonymous said...

To the last comment on the gun toting London lawyer - Today's Telegraph is full of it so go buy yourself a copy !

Maybe in view of what happened lawyers should not be allowed to have guns ! or even be lawyers !

Anonymous said...

Quite an interesting read and one important point shines thru to me - NEVER USE A SCOTTISH LAWYER EVER

John Drummond said...

Very interesting to see the replies from people who are not taken in by this obvious move on the Law Society's part.

I don't doubt there are equal problems in England & Wales as you have in Scotland and I would advise anyone who is going to use a lawyer anywhere in the UK to think things through very carefully beforehand because many of the things Mr Cherbi writes about here are very common occurrences when dealings with lawyers go bad.

1. Do you really need a lawyer ?

2. Are you prepared for what may happen if you lose your case or your lawyer gives you poor legal advice or service ?

3. Do you have the resolve to make a complaint against your lawyer if you do get into trouble with them and can you devote time to it ?

4. Are you prepared for the consequences of what the legal profession may do to you by way of 'closing ranks' against you ?

Personally, after reading many of the things written about lawyers especially up in Scotland, I would stay away from them at all costs and advise anyone to do the same but this open legal market thing may be a good idea and bring new people into the area who are less willing to stick together in a clique such as lawyers notoriously do.

Fantastic reporting, Mr Cherbi and hope people who read this think twice about lawyers before going into their offices like sheep !

Anonymous said...

I am currently involved in a civil litigation case brought about by a paralegal, i.e. Chamberlain McBain, Edinburgh. This company were reported to the Law Society, the Director already has an interdict on himself for purporting to be a Solicitor. They colude with a 'blindfold' Solicitor in Edinburgh i.e. John Taylor of Machlachan Mackenzie who takes an underhand paymentto rubber stamp their documents. They have invloved us in costs for over £18,000 and placed my wife in hospital with their persecution on us -why? have we done anything - No they just dont like us and are using the Court system to vilify an innocent family. The Law Society have received our complaint and done nothing, they are not interested, although they have admitted they have been trying to 'get' this company and their cohort Taylor for a while. So what is going on. The Law Society ate toothless tigers, operating on the same principles as Doctors. The Public must be protected, we are forced from our home and now living in fear. Who can help?

Peter Cherbi said...

Sorry to be tardy with a reply but things have been rather busy, together with a few case investigations which have led to less than my usual number of articles.

I am happy to see that people do understand that giving the Law Society control over paralegals is a bad thing, and simply consistent with the Law Society's moves to retain full control of the legal services market.

While there is an overriding need to open up competition in the legal services market - just as any other service such as finance, banking & otherwise, there will have to be an effective regulator of that opened legal services market, and the Law Society of Scotland cannot be allowed to have any more to do with regulation of the legal profession, based on their previous & consistent refusal to properly regulate solicitors in Scotland, and their failure to protect the clients interest.

A new fully independent legal services board, along the lines of what has been created in England & Wales, must be put in place to handle aspects of regulation of an opened legal services market, to ensure standards, quality of service, and consumer protection - all of which the Law Society of Scotland has never managed to do.

Several consumer organisations are calling for such an independent regulator for Scotland, but as you have read from my previous reports, the current Justice Secretary Kenny MacAskill, a lawyer himself, has refused to progress the matter, on the basis perhaps of personal bias ? ... leading one to conclude that someone who is not a member of the Law Society must consider the issue instead of the Justice Secretary, who is clearly caught up in a conflict of interest, reflected by his public attacks on anyone who seemingly disputes the Law Society's policy line ...

I note some have commented that it may not be safe to use a Scottish Lawyer given what is happening in the Scots legal services market currently.

That may well be true, although I do know of one or two solicitors who certainly rank as honest, hard working and can address the needs of clients ... there are some out there .. not many perhaps ...

Peter Cherbi said...

#John Drummond @ 8.57pm

I share your concerns and agree with what you say.

I note your advice offered, which I would also recommend people think about before using a solicitor.

#Anonymous @ 4.49pm

Thanks for your comment and I'm sorry to hear about your wife being in hospital over what has happened.

I think your story is deserving of media attention, and if you would like to get in contact with me, or send in a comment marked "DO NOT PUBLISH" I will see matters are attended to.

I would also like to know more about the case please and how the Law Society have dealt with your complaint.

Anonymous said...

Hope to hear more on the case of the crooked paralegals et all ! Keep us informed Peter.

Anonymous said...

Giving paralegal to the Law Society will do no good for the rest of us and might even cause friction within offices where solicitors will no longer have effective management control over them.