Vote 'No; No' in the Referendum on Alternative Business Structures

All of us hold dear the principles essential to the administration of justice in Scotland: independence, confidentiality, avoiding conflicts of interest. All of us regard justice not as a product at the sole mercy of profit but as a crucial service that must be available for all our communities in Scotland. All of us now have a chance to re-affirm these ideals. Vote NO; NO to the Law Society Referendum.

To not do so would be to open up control of our legal services to purely commercial organisations. No amount of regulations or regulators stopped the banks undermining our whole banking system. ABS will allow them to now ruin our legal services.

Non-profitable areas will be abandoned - supermarkets and other so called entities are geared solely by profit. No amount of regulation will stop legal services being used as a portal for money laundering and other similar activities - our legal services will be open to criminal control.

There should be no role for the Law Society of Scotland in regulating such people. No Guarantee Fund or Master Policy could cope with this. A NO; NO vote will stop all of this in its tracks.

We need to refocus our legal services on Scotland’s communities and citizens. They deserve better. We need to send a message to the Scottish Government to think again. We must reform our Law Society as it has shown itself incapable of representing all of those trying to render a legal service in Scotland now and in the future.

We must seek to re-affirm, through any such reform, the principles crucial to the administration of justice. We must also ensure that the legal service is preserved and improved across the whole range of needs of the Scottish people and their communities. Join us to begin to make this happen and ensure you vote NO; NO by noon, 7 April 2010.

FRANK MAGUIRE, Senior Partner and Solicitor Advocate, Thompsons Solicitors
JOHN McGOVERN, Solicitor Advocate, President of the Glasgow Bar Association
WALTER SEMPLE, Solicitor, Member of the Council of the Law Society of Scotland
MIKE DAILLY, Principal Solicitor, Govan Law Centre
PATRICK McGUIRE, Solicitor Advocate and Partner, Thompsons Solicitors

Tuesday, 6 April 2010

The Lawyer newspaper reports that Scotland's 'big four law firms' will defect to England if they don't get their way over 'Tesco Law': the story is reproduced below.

"The Scottish legal market is facing crisis, with an industry-wide argument over the introduction of alternative business ­structures (ABSs) having the potential to drive the big four firms south of the ­border for good.

Dundas & Wilson, Mclay Murray & Spens, McGrigors and Shepherd & Wedderburn (S&W) are considering having their lawyers register with the Solicitors Regulation Authority (SRA) rather than the Scottish Law Society in reaction to the Scottish Law Agents Society’s (SLAS) attempt to ban the introduction of ABSs.

While the firms would not physically leave their ­Scottish headquarters, they would shift to a model whereby the bulk of their lawyers would be regulated by the SRA, with those in Scotland practising as registered foreign lawyers. This would mean the Law ­Society of Scotland (LSS) would have a vastly reduced revenue, with practising certificate fees going to the English Law Society, while the master insurance policy used by the entire profession in Scotland may be rendered unviable.

Dundas managing partner Alan Campbell said: “If we feel that we’re trading at a disadvantage to our competitors and they’re pan-UK, then we’d need to look at every option to make sure we’re on a level playing field. If that involves being regulated by the SRA, that’s something we’d do.

His counterparts at the other big four firms agree. McGrigors managing ­partner Richard Masters said: “It’s unpalatable and not a position we’d want to find ourselves in, but if [ABSs] take off and we’re in a non-competitive position we’d have to consider it.

The LSS has been successful in lobbying the Scottish government to alter some parts of the draft Legal ­Services Bill, but there are concerns that it would lose its negotiating position if it was forced to oppose ABSs, which is what the SLAS wants. As it is a government bill that has been some years in the making, it is likely that the Scottish government would press ahead with enacting it without the support of the sector.

The big commercial firms are a big part of the Scottish economy and the government doesn’t want to hamper them,” said LSS president Ian Smart.

S&W chief executive Patrick Andrews added: “The profession is in a perilous position because it’s difficult to see how it can maintain credibility in its dialogue with the politicians. The risk is that [the politicians] will steam on and do what they want and the profession is left watching.”



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