A Year of Challenge and Change, Law Society of Scotland AGM will Hear

The solicitors’ profession should move forward with a renewed sense of purpose following a year of change and challenges, the Law Society of Scotland’s annual general meeting will hear tomorrow, Thursday, 27 May.

The Society’s President, Ian Smart, will outline key issues facing the profession during his address to the AGM in Edinburgh. He will also highlight achievements from 2009, the Society’s 60th anniversary year.

Ian Smart said: “The past year was a landmark in terms of progress made on significant projects yet the profession also faced a number of challenges, not least dealing with the downturn in the economy. The suddenness of the collapse in the property markets took all sections of the profession by surprise.

“The Society’s response was to ensure that we were clearly focused on providing support to solicitors, which we did in a number of ways. Our own robust budgeting process allowed us to deliver a £100 reduction in the cost of the 2009/10 practising certificate, helping in a small way to deal with the effects of the recession.”

He said the Society made progress in other key areas, including:

• modernisation of governance arrangements to remain an effective, efficient and transparent regulator for the profession and the public;

• combining the expertise of professional practice, law reform and the events team in a single department for a more cohesive approach to delivering all aspects of representation and professional support;

• adapting to the first full year of operation of the Scottish Legal Complaints Commission, also challenging its budget and the annual levy, resulting in £40 reduction in the main levy;

• moving from consultation to implementation of the review of every aspect of education and training;

• beginning the phased introduction of a new database to provide greater flexibility and efficiency for members and staff; and

• carrying out the most comprehensive research undertaken into solicitors’ views of the Society’s services.

Ian Smart added: “Tomorrow’s AGM will allow us to reflect on the progress made on these issues as well as consider the best way forward on the proposed introduction of alternative business structures, which have attracted considerable attention in recent months.

“Three ABS motions will be put to members at the meeting. Whatever decisions are made, I continue to hope that common ground can be found in order for the profession to unite around a settled position and move forward with a renewed sense of purpose.

“My term of office as president ends at the close of the AGM. It has been a privilege to serve the profession and I would now like to welcome Jamie Millar into the post. A number of new members were also recently elected to our Council. Together, I am sure they will bring some fresh thinking to what we do and the policies we develop.”

Other AGM business includes the approval of previous minutes and the Society’s accounts. Draft practice rules on wills, incorporated practices and foreign lawyers are also on the agenda for approval.

ENDS 26 May 2010

Note to editors

The three ABS motions to be debated at the AGM 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 proposed by SLAS and 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”.

Contact: Suzy Powell
Phone: 0131 476 8115
Email: suzypowell@lawscot.org.uk
Website: http://www.lawscot.org.uk