Law Society of Scotland strategic partnership on cybersecurity

The Law Society of Scotland has agreed a new strategic partnership with Mitigo, a cybersecurity consultancy.  The partnership will provide targeted guidance, advice and resources for the legal sector, helping solicitors to keep their digital operations secure. As well as supporting CPD and training events and providing practical advice, Mitigo will offer security and resilience services directly to Law Society members.  This covers risk assessments, technology testing, training, governance and incident response.  They also provide a dedicated expert client helpline and sandbox to which suspicious content may be sent.

Paul Mosson, Executive Director of Member Services and Engagement at the Law Society of Scotland said: “Cybercrime is a major threat to all organisations regardless of size and law firms can be a particularly attractive target to criminals due to holding sensitive data, often in combination with the movement of large amounts of money. With most organisations currently working remotely, the need to have confidence in your cyber security has never been greater. The team at Mitigo has been working with firms in England and Wales since 2017 and has the technical expertise as well as extensive knowledge of the legal sector to help solicitors and their employees understand, anticipate and manage their risks.”

Lindsay Hill, CEO at Mitigo, said: “Law firms become victims of cybercrime when they confuse cybersecurity with their IT support. They are different things. We are seeing an alarming increase in attacks by criminal gangs involving ransomware and email account takeover. We are delighted to be working with the Law Society to help keep their members safe.”

See the Law Society’s full announcement.

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Law Society of Scotland launches new mental health action plan

On Wednesday the 3rd June, The Law Society of Scotland launched a three-year action plan that aims to tackle the stigma around mental health in the legal sector.

The plan follows the release of a survey in 2019 on the Scottish legal profession and individual views on mental health and the workplace. The full survey findings are broken down in the new report, The status of mental health stigma and discrimination in the Scottish legal profession

The survey was run in partnership with See Me, the Scotland-wide programme to end mental health stigma and discrimination.

The report, based on analysis of 1242 responses, found that 77% of respondents wanted to better understand mental health problems to be able to provide support. More than half of respondents also said that training for managers (62%) and staff (54%) would be beneficial to improve workplace culture.

The survey also explored if legal professionals felt they could discuss mental health issues at work. It found that:

  • 46% of respondents believed opportunities for staff to have open and honest conversations about mental health would create a more positive attitude
  • 39% of respondents felt the senior leaders in their organisation show their commitment to staff mental health
  • However: 24% thought supervisors/line managers knew how to support staff in relation to their mental health and wellbeing.
  • 24% had observed or were aware of stigmatising attitudes to mental health and 23% also said they had observed or were aware of discrimination within their own organisations.

In response to the survey findings, the Law Society has set out a seven-step framework for change. It includes working with leaders across the sector to create a more open culture, promoting mental health engagement and awareness campaigns and developing its existing Lawscot Wellbeing online portal as a one-stop-shop for all resources. The society has also committed to improving awareness of mental health issues within its own organisation and carrying out a follow-up review in 3 years time.

Amanda Millar, President of the Law Society of Scotland 2020-21 and who is an accredited specialist in both Mental Health Law, and Incapacity and Mental Disability Law, said:

“I’m proud that we have been the first professional body in Scotland to have carried out a sector-wide survey of this kind, and to be publishing our new action plan for change today. However some of the report’s findings are not easy reading and it is clear that there is work to be done to change how we view mental health issues in the profession.

We understand the challenges. Working in law is demanding and can be pressurised at times, with substantial workloads and long hours involved in helping people resolve their legal issues, which can affect both our physical and mental health.

However, we are committed to tackling stigma and discrimination in the legal profession. We will engage with the profession and respond to feedback on how we work towards changing workplace culture by opening up conversations around mental health and, importantly, developing the right support mechanisms over the next three years.”

See the full article on the LawScot site.

Read the action plan (PDF), or see the full report. (PDF).

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CMA releases report and recommendations on Scottish legal services

On the 24th March, the Competition and Markets Authority (CMA) released its review and recommendations on the legal services market in Scotland.

One of the key recommendations put forward in the report is that an independent body should be set up to regulate the profession, separating representative and regulatory functions. The CMA has suggested that  “Separating regulation from representation will increase trust in this sector and result in better regulation.”

The report also included recommendations that the Law Society of Scotland should carry out a review of price and service transparency guidance, with possible mandatory rules in order to increase public confidence in pricing and to implement rules to allow ABSs to establish, following legislation allowing them a decade ago.

Andrea Coscelli, the CMA’s CEO said:

“It is important that people in Scotland have access to high-quality and good value legal services. In addition to increasing transparency of information, our recommendations are intended to introduce greater liberalisation that could foster growth and innovation in the delivery of legal services which would help the sector grow.”

The full report is available here.

The recommendations are available here.

The Law Society of Scotland’s response is available here.

 

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Law Society of Scotland and Information Commissioner’s Office collaboration on legal tech

A collaboration between the Law Society of Scotland and Information Commissioner’s Office (ICO) is set to provide a boost to the legal tech sector in Scotland, through assistance in developing technology-based solutions to GDPR issues.

The Law Society of Scotland has signed a memorandum of understanding with the ICO which allows it to act as a gateway to the ICO’s innovation hub in Cheshire, which is working in partnership with technology innovators on ‘Data Protection by design’. The project aims to help companies engineer technology designed to ensure GDPR compliance from the outset and provides bespoke guidance from the ICO.

Paul Mosson, Law Society of Scotland Executive Director of Member Services and Engagement, said: “This is a very positive step for us. The shared aims of the MOU will enable closer working between the Law Society, our members and the ICO, allowing us to take a more collaborative approach and exchange information to support our growing legal tech community.”

To read more click here.

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Legal services reform in Scotland – regulation, international competitiveness and seizing opportunities for innovation

Edinburgh,  Wednesday, 25th March 2020

This conference will discuss the next steps for legal services in Scotland.

Delegates will examine:

  • Major proposals for regulatory reform;
  • The sector’s international competitiveness going forward; and
  • The impact of innovation in legal technology.

The conference includes a ministerial contribution – and will be an opportunity to discuss the issues as The Scottish Government consults on the future of legal services regulation following its response to the Independent Review of Legal Services Regulation in Scotland, also known as the Roberton Review.

We also expect discussion on the CMA research which is currently being undertaken, and anticipated to be published soon, to support The Scottish Government in its final response to the review.

With the review recommending the creation of a single independent regulator for all providers of legal services, accountable to The Scottish Parliament, stakeholders and policymakers will assess the next steps for government and what any decision will mean for the sector, its customers and partners.

Read more and register

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Law Society of Scotland releases guidance to improve price transparency

The Law Society of Scotland has published guidance on pricing for solicitors, aimed to improve consumer understanding of the cost of legal services. The guidance encourages firms to publish indicative pricing up-front, allowing consumers to gain a broad overview of price comparison before they contact a solicitor. The guidance will come into effect on 1 April 2020 and will not apply to practitioners solely engaged in legal aid work, or firms that exclusively provide services to businesses.

Craig Cathcart, Convener of the Law Society of Scotland Regulatory Committee, said: “The guidance has been developed to improve price transparency for legal services and encourage solicitors to proactively publish information to help consumers in Scotland make better-informed choices. Whether someone is thinking of buying a new home, wants to make a will or set up a power of attorney, or they may have separated from a partner or have an employment problem, we hope members of the public will be able to get a better idea of the typical costs involved in such cases early on. As well as increasing clarity for consumers, this can help improve access to justice.”

The guidance will take into account the difficulty in creating a ‘one size fits all’ approach and will give firms the option to publish average or typical costs for cases or alternatively fixed fees for specific services such as residential property sales or certain types of divorce proceedings.

Further commentary from the Law Society is available here.

The full guidance is available here.

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UK Competition and Markets Authority to research Scottish legal services market

The Competition and Markets Authority has issued the following press release regarding its impending research into certain aspects of the Scottish legal services market to support the Scottish Government’s response to the Roberton Review.


The following release was published 17 June 2019.

This work has been prompted by the Roberton Review, an Independent Review of Legal Services Regulation in Scotland, and will provide evidence to assist the Scottish Government in determining how to take forward the recommendations made by that report. Led by Esther Roberton, that Review made a number of recommendations, including that there should be a single independent body to regulate the legal profession, set standards and handle complaints.

Building on work already done as part of the Competition and Market Authority’s (CMA) market study into the supply of legal services in England and Wales, this work will examine whether there is evidence of a lack of competition among legal services providers in Scotland, as was the case in England and Wales.

The research will also focus on:

  • the benefits of independent regulation of legal services in Scotland and whether the current institutional arrangement – where the bodies regulating the professions are also those representing and lobbying for them – dampens competition
  • the impact of the current legal services regulatory framework in Scotland on competition, particularly on innovation and the entry of new business models to the market

It is the CMA’s first Scotland-specific project since the expansion of its Edinburgh office last year to help the organisation better identify and resolve issues that harm Scottish consumers.

The CMA has today also published a document setting out its views on the Roberton Review’s recommendations. The CMA welcomes the review, which has sparked a debate about how to ensure the regulation of Scottish legal service providers delivers value for money and choice for consumers, as well as benefitting businesses and the economy.

The CMA intends to publish its findings in early 2020. More information can be found through the CMA here.

Notes to editors

  1. The Independent Review of the Regulation of Legal Services, led by Esther Roberton, was invited by the Scottish Government to review the regulation of legal services in Scotland. It reported in October 2018
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The Law Society of Scotland proposes reforms to legal services regulation

The Law Society of Scotland has called for wide-ranging reforms that will allow it to keep pace with global developments within the sector and improve consumer protection. It has set out a series of recommendations in its submission to an independent review of legal services regulation which include expanding consumer protections to currently unregulated areas of legal services, regulating firms operating beyond Scotland and overhauling the legal complaints system, which it says is overly complex, expensive and lacks proper oversight.

The recommendations also include:

  • expanding consumer protections to currently unregulated areas of legal services
  • better regulation of legal firms as entities in addition to the regulation of individual solicitors to better protect consumers
  • new powers to suspend solicitors suspected of serious wrongdoing
  • widening the Law Society’s membership to improve standards amongst other legal professionals
  • protection of the term ‘lawyer’ to mean those who are legally trained and are regulated
  • The repeal of the Solicitors (Scotland) Act 1980 and those parts of the Legal Profession and Legal Aid (Scotland) Act 2007 which relate to the regulation of legal services and for the introduction of new enabling and permissible legislation for the regulation of legal services in Scotland and the Scottish solicitor profession, with the flexibility to move with the times and which allows for proactive regulation to ensure consumer protections remain robust.
  • Amending those sections of the Legal Services (Scotland) Act 2010 which relate to the regulation of legal services and the Scottish solicitor profession to address the difficulties in interpretation and application.
  • A new regulatory framework allowing for the flexibility for the Society to seek approval from the Legal Services Board to be an authorised regulator for those multi-national practices operating in Scotland.
  • That any new regulatory framework makes provision for the regulation of legal services provided remotely by artificial intelligence.
  • Retaining an independent professional body for the regulation and professional support of the Scottish solicitor profession.
  • Retaining a separate and independent discipline tribunal for decisions in serious cases of professional misconduct.
  • That all legal service providers providing services direct to the consumer be regulated, strengthening consumer protections and enhancing consumer confidence in the Scottish legal sector.
  • That the term ‘lawyer’ be a protected term, in the same way as solicitor, and only those able to demonstrate recognised legal qualifications, and who are regulated, are permitted to use the term.
  • That primary legislation provides the permissible powers for the Law Society of Scotland to extend entity regulation to those firms wholly owned by solicitors.
  • That a new system for dealing with complaints about legal services and solicitors is introduced, recognising the paramount aim to protect consumers whilst allowing the Society to continue to deal with the professional discipline of its members, and adopting relevant processes to make the system speedy, effective and efficient whilst recognising the differences between consumer redress and professional discipline.
  • That primary legislation provides for the permissible power for the Law Society of Scotland to open up membership to non-solicitors.

Read the full submission – The Case for Change: Revisited

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Attitudes to dishonesty by health and care professionals

This research looks at public and professional attitudes towards dishonest behaviour by health and care professionals. The researchers used qualitative methods to explore responses to a number of scenarios based on real-life cases of professional dishonesty.

The research was commissioned by the Professional Standards Authority (PSA), which oversees the work of nine statutory healthcare regulators UK, and conducted by independent research agency Policis.

Broadly, the report finds that healthcare professionals and the public share a common moral framework and a shared understanding of what constitutes aggravating and mitigating factors.

Read report on PSA website

Read copy of report on ICLR.net

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80% of major jurisdictions use central qualifying assessment

In an international benchmarking exercise, the Solicitors Regulation Authority (SRA) in England and Wales finds that almost 80% of the jurisdictions surveyed have a common assessment as part of lawyer qualification.

Press release on SRA website

Report on SRA website

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