We would like to hear from you.
The news release below was issued by the Govan Law Centre and is reproduced here in full in the interests of promoting debate.
Solicitors from a wide range of legal firms across Scotland will today require the Law Society of Scotland to poll its 10,500 members on whether it can continue to represent and promote the interests of solicitors, in addition to its statutory regulatory function.
Over 50 solicitors from firms in Glasgow and Edinburgh have signed a formal 'requisition' which compels the holding of a referendum under the Law Society of Scotland's constitution. The Glasgow Bar Association, MacRoberts, and Govan Law Centre are concerned that the Law Society cannot continue in its 'dual function' as both regulator and representative of solicitors in light of the Legal Services (Scotland) Bill.
Section 92 of the Bill gives the Scottish Government unfettered power to set the number of non-solicitors on the Law Society's ruling 'Council', as well as setting the criteria for such appointments. Solicitors believe this ends the independence of the Law Society, and requires a split in representative and regulatory functions, as has already taken place in England and Wales.
In an attempt to address a Special General Meeting later this month over the proposed 'Tesco Law' provisions of the Bill, the Law Society agreed last week to hold a referendum on Alternative Business Structures ('Tesco Law'). However, this referendum would be restricted to 'Tesco Law', and today's move will ensure that the profession are also polled on the more fundamental question of whether the Law Society of Scotland can continue to represent solicitors. The President of the Law Society has been asked to convene an urgent meeting in order to include this question on their own referendum ballot, due to take place later this month.
The President of the Glasgow Bar Association, John McGovern, Solicitor-Advocate said:
"Law Society reform is a major feature of the Legal Services Bill. It is vital there is a referendum to allow the profession to decide whether, given the threat to our independence from government that the Bill poses, it still thinks the Law Society should continue to represent, as well as regulate the profession".
David Flint, Partner, MacRoberts LLP said:
"We believe that the views of individual solicitors must be ascertained on this critical issue as recent debates and polls suggest that the Law Society Council and Executive may be out of touch with members and an early referendum will allow members to have their say in a democratic fashion."
Mike Dailly, Principal Solicitor, Govan Law Centre said:
"The Law Society's role as both regulator and representative of the legal profession is rendered untenable by the Legal Services (Scotland) Bill. Solicitors should be free to choose their own independent body to represent them in the same way that workers are entitled to choose a trade union to promote their interests. A referendum will enable that choice".
A copy of the requisition is reproduced below. Article 24 of the Constitution of the Law Society of Scotland makes the holding of a referendum mandatory upon a requisition by at least 50 solicitors. Article 24 provides that Council "shall on a requisition signed by not fewer than 50 members of the Society and deposited with the Secretary ascertain the views of the members of the Society at any time on any question affecting the Society or the members thereof by holding a referendum of its members and the Council shall make such arrangements as it considers proper for that purpose, including issuing to every member of the Society a voting paper and arranging for the scrutiny of voting papers".
I hereby requisition a referendum of members of the Law Society of Scotland on the following question:
Should the Law Society of Scotland as statutory regulator continue to be responsible for promotion of the interests of, and the representation of, solicitors in Scotland?
All in terms of Article 24 of the Constitution of the Law Society of Scotland; and I request that the President of the Law Society of Scotland convene a Special General Meeting of Council to deal with this requisition in terms of paragraph 7 of the Standing Orders of the Law Society of Scotland.
Date: 9th March 2010