It has been revealed that staff from the Scottish Legal Services Ombudsman who are intending to migrate to the new Scottish Legal Complaints Commission will face lower salaries and lower employment prospects and promotion possibilities than their counterparts migrating over to the new Commission from the Law Society of Scotland.
As if that isn’t enough to take, the former Ombudsman staff will have to endure concerted attempts by the legal profession to replace them in favour of yet more staff from the Law Society itself, in what is being seen as a well planned attempt by the legal profession to force out anyone from the new Commission who isn’t connected with the Law Society of Scotland.
It has emerged that :
* former Ombudsman staff who are migrating to the SLCC will receive up to £18,000 less than former Law Society of Scotland staff who are themselves
undermining migrating over to the new Commission under TUPE legislation, with similar but apparently far less equitable provisions for public sector employees for the Ombudsman's staff transferring over.
* Law Society staff are to be considered for managerial and senior posts (rumours that some have already been appointed via strong lobbying from the Law Society itself) where former staff from the Ombudsman are to be excluded from any possibility of promotion.
* Law Society staff who are promoted to senior positions and who will be in charge of former Ombudsman staff, will be able to influence and control investigations still being carried out into their work from their time at the Law Society.
*The Scottish Government, aware of the huge disparity in salaries between Law Society staff and former Ombudsman staff, are rumoured to be hoping that if it all goes quietly, former Ombudsman staff will leave the new Commission over their lesser salary and job entitlements, to be replaced by Law Society staff who are apparently already being lined up to replace anyone considering leaving !
According to sources within the Law Society itself, the campaign is being orchestrated to "hound out" the former members of staff from the Scottish Legal Services Ombudsman's office, who the legal profession apparently see as "outsiders" who, according to one solicitor “should not be given any say in how complaints against lawyers are handled”.
Dreadful comments from the legal profession, if of course, expected. I for one feel there shouldn’t be any Law Society staff working at the new Commission because the Law Society and its teachings in the field of regulation, simply cannot be trusted, ever.
Kenny MacAskill – no comment so far on SLCC scandal. The Justice Secretary, Kenny MacAskill has so far refused to comment directly on turmoil at the new Commission, however a Scottish Government spokeswoman today made the following statement, confirming many of the the reported revelations :
The Scottish Government : “The creation of the Scottish Legal Complaints Commission will see a transfer of activities of all functions of the Scottish Legal Services Ombudsman and some functions of the Law Society of Scotland to the Commission.”
“Accordingly staff whose job functions will transfer to the Commission will be eligible to transfer with that job function. Where there are salary differences for employees from the SLSO and the LSS performing the same function at the Commission then this is a matter for the Commission to address in due course.”
So, the Ombudsman staff have been left to fend for themselves in their new posts at the SLCC, while the Law Society staff get their full salaries ! Disgusting to say the least.
I wonder how the former Ombudsman staff feel about that one … what a disgraceful situation to be in for the few people from the Ombudsman’s office who are giving the public the sole hope of independence within the new Scottish Legal Complaints Commission.
On the allegation that staff from the Law Society had already been ‘lined up’ for managerial posts and senior positions within the new Commission, the Scottish Government denied that would be the case :
“This is incorrect and is non compliant with COSOP and TUPE. Consideration of appointment to managerial posts and promotion will be a matter for the Commission to decide.“
Well, it seems they will have to remind the Law Society of that one, who are apparently now busy arranging positions for their own staff to take up at the new Commission … and we all know that when the Law Society wants something, it usually gets it.
There is little doubt among those in the know, the former Ombudsman staff may well find themselves at the bottom of the barrel when it comes to appointments to managerial and senior posts at the new SLCC – hardly any inspiration to stay where one is being treated worse than those migrating over from the Law Society of Scotland.
Given the prospect of Law Society members of staff being in senior positions and placed in charge of investigations into their own poor conduct, the Government remained un committal, citing that “Staff promotions, work content and work practices will be a matter for the Commission to decide.”
However, leaving staff promotions up to the new Commission wont work I fear, as much of the Commission itself are members of the Law Society of Scotland who will be familiar with their staff who are migrating over from the Law Society, leaving the former Ombudsman staff out in the cold.
Some of my previous coverage of problems at the Scottish Legal Complaints Commission :
Without doubt, the legal profession are in a state of fear the former Ombudsman staff, or "outsiders" as the Law Society seem to feel they are, will break some of the ‘lawyer covering up for lawyer’ habits which have plagued regulation of the legal profession in Scotland for decades, and this latest attempt, to take over the Scottish Legal Complaints Commission itself, is certainly a move in that direction.
The Law Society would prefer to have the new complaints commission staffed entirely by members of staff from Law Society itself, and unfortunately the former Ombudsman staff now find themselves in the middle of a war with the legal profession to see it gets its way.
With possibly only Jane Irvine, the new Chairman of the Scottish Legal Complaints Commission, being the only champion of her former staff from her time as Scottish Legal Services Ombudsman, positions are looking somewhat precarious for not only the staff at risk but also the credibility of what was to be an independent complaints commission, which is now mostly staffed from the very organisation, the Law Society of Scotland, whose problems brought about the new commission's existence in the first place.
Jane Irvine, Chairman of the SLCC, sought to defuse the situation by commenting : "I think you have to bear in mind that there is a complex picture here, Law Society staff do not know everything and we are creating a new organisation with a new culture and a new drive towards resolving complaints swiftly and fairly."
Yes, I agree of course, Law Society staff who are migrating over to the new SLCC have been trained to do the opposite of what they are about to do, for years. Decades have went by while those same Law Society staff, now transferring over to the SLCC have thwarted client complaints at every turn, made sure claims for solicitors negligence, even claims for solicitors theft from client funds have gone unanswered or have been deliberately delayed to the point they can no longer be pursued in a court of law.
Creating a new organisation with a new culture and a new drive towards resolving complaints swiftly and fairly, will be difficult, considering the habits, and misplaced loyalties which will inevitably resurface in the Law Society staff, some of whom themselves aspire to be lawyers if not already qualified to be.
Further comments from senior sources within the legal profession predict the Law Society will assume control of the SLCC 'within a year at most', a move which would spell disaster for many who had hoped the new Commission would be a breath of fresh air in dealing with complaints against lawyers, but a move which will be made much easier and faster, with the forced departure of former Ombudsman staff, if the Law Society has its way ...
Kenny MacAskill – Scottish Govt. owes lawyers a great debt – to be repaid taking away the independence of the SLCC perhaps ?
Jane Irvine countered any attempt to control the SLCC from outside : "It is not the Law Society who control the new body. We are entirely independent."
I hope Jane Irvine is correct, and I do support the independence of the Scottish Legal Complaints Commission as it was intended to be, but most people who are about to go into court against the Law Society say the same thing .. something like .. “the Law Society doesn't control the court, we will win ..” and that is the end of their case and the end of their access to justice as we all know only too well.
If I may make a suggestion, one I know which wont be taken up but one which seems more consistent with the term ‘independence’ than what is currently being delivered in the SLCC : keep the former Ombudsman staff, and look for new recruits who don't come from the legal profession or the Law Society of Scotland.
Sadly however, the Law Society of Scotland, through its determination to maintain control of all aspects of regulation of the legal services sector, wont be allowing anything as honest, accountable and acceptable as that suggestion to become reality.
Back to the drawing board on complaints against lawyers, everyone ? This time, lets make it a fully independent regulator with no staff stuffed into it by the legal profession itself …