Three ABS Motions to be Debated at Law Society AGM

Three motions on alternative business structures are to be debated at the upcoming Law Society of Scotland AGM on Thursday, 27 May. The AGM will be held from 10am the Hilton Grosvenor Hotel in Edinburgh.

The existing Scottish Law Agents Society motion against all forms of ABSs and eternal investment will be put to solicitors along with two compromise proposals from the Law Society and from Govan Law Centre.

The Law Society Council’s new position of permitting majority solicitor ownership with other regulated professionals and a cap at 49% external investment and Govan Law Centre solicitor Mike Dailly’s motion proposing 25% of non-solicitor ownership of law firms and no external investment, will also be voted on.

Ian Smart, president of the Law Society, said: “While we have welcomed the attempts to seek compromise, I believe that the Society’s motion is the only one which can unify the profession and provide a means to move forwards. There has been a significant compromise on the part of those solicitors who backed ABSs in full, and saying to those who want to be part of an ABS that they cannot but that they must stay within this professional body, is not sustainable long term.

“I do not want to see the profession split and I believe that the Society’s motion will provide the safeguards that those with concerns want to see by limiting external ownership of law firms, yet create enough freedom for those who want to compete on a level playing field with those operating south of the border.

“Just as importantly, I would urge as many of our members as possible to vote, and if they can’t attend the meeting in person in Edinburgh on 27 May, to make sure they do so by proxy before the deadline on Monday, 24 May.”

The Society's annual report and accounts will be signed off by the meeting and new practice rules will be put forward for approval.

Solicitors are also voting on the role of the Society as a representative, support and regulatory body for the profession. The referendum closes on 25 May at 12 noon.

Further Information:

Journalists and press photographers are invited to attend, however please note that it for those members attending the AGM to agree to non-solicitors remaining for the full meeting. Photography won't be permitted during any speeches or debates. A short press call will be held in the Osbourne room at the Hilton Grosvenor, after the meeting closes.

The three motions in full are:

Motion from the Council of the Law Society of Scotland.

“The Council of the Law Society of Scotland in general meeting call upon the Scottish Parliament to set out and maintain the position in the statutes and regulations of the Scottish Parliament and, in particular, to amend the terms of the Legal Services (Scotland) Bill presently before Parliament to the effect that the majority ownership of any business authorised to carry out work which is reserved to persons qualified to practice as solicitors in terms of the Solicitors (Scotland) Act 1980 should (except in relation to any business not vested in persons so qualified, but which provides legal services as authorised by current law) be vested in persons so qualified or persons so qualified together with other persons who are regulated professional owner managers of that business”.

Motion proposed by Mike Dailly, Govan Law Centre and seconded by Lorraine Barrie, Govanhill Law Centre.

The members of the Law Society of Scotland in general meeting call upon the Scottish Parliament to amend the terms of the Legal Services (Scotland) Bill, presently before parliament, to the effect that at least 75% ownership and control of any entity authorised to carry out work which is reserved to persons qualified to practice as solicitors in terms of the Solicitors (Scotland) Act 1980 should (except in relation to any entity not vested in persons so qualified but which provides legal services as authorised by current law) be vested in solicitors who hold valid practising certificates free of conditions (as construed by reference to section 15(1) of the 1980 Act); and that no more than 25% of said entity should be owned or controlled by natural persons not being solicitors with a valid practising certificate, each of whom provides services which are in support of, incidental to, or complementary to the provision of legal services by the entity.

Motion passed at the Special General Meeting on 21 April brought before the Annual General Meeting in terms of Article 13 (6) of the Constitution

“The members of the Law Society of Scotland in general meeting find that –

It is essential in the public interest in the retention of an independent legal profession that the ownership of any business authorised to carry out work which is reserved to persons qualified to practice as solicitors in terms of the Solicitors (Scotland) Act 1980 should (except in relation to any business not vested in persons so qualified, but which provides legal services as authorised by current law) be vested in persons so qualified,

And call upon the Scottish Parliament to set out and maintain that position in the statutes and regulations of the Scottish Parliament and, in particular, to amend the terms of the Legal Services (Scotland) Bill, presently before Parliament to that effect”.

Further information about the AGM can be found on the website: http://www.lawscot.co.uk/Members_Information/AGM/

For further information about ABSs please see the website: http://www.lawscot.co.uk/Members_Information/abs/

The Law Society Council adopted a new policy on ABSs on 30 April following the contrasting results of SGM and referendum votes.

http://www.lawscot.co.uk/media_centre/news_arch/news_20100430.aspx

For information about the current referendum on the role of the Society please follow the link: http://www.lawscot.co.uk/Members_Information/referendum2/

FOR FURTHER INFORMATION:
Please contact Val McEwan or Suzy Powell on 0131 226 8884 / 0131 476 8115.
Email: valeriemcewan@lawscot.org.uk

Contact: Val McEwan or Suzy Powell
Phone: 0131 226 8884 or 0131 476 8115
Email: valmcewan@lawscot.org.uk
Website: http://www.lawscot.org.uk