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