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The Law Society has come in for renewed criticism amongst the profession following the surprise announcement late on Friday that its vexed proposals to revise its constitution for the second time were to be dropped.
The decision was made at Friday’s Council meeting. Vice President-elect Bruce Beveridge announced the reversal via a statement on the Society’s website. He said “there remain some reservations about proceeding with a new constitution, which we have decided not to take forward at present."
He added that the recent consultation on the constitution “confirmed a widespread endorsement of proposals for a smaller Council”, which will now be reduced at the next AGM.
However, the climbdown was viewed with continuing scepticism from many of those who had voiced concerns about the constitution during the consultation.
“The way in which the Law Society has spun this defeat after some years of effort, is a disgrace to the profession, and to the professional standards which it is their function to uphold,” former Council member Walter Semple told The Firm.
John McGovern, former Council member and former President of the Glasgow Bar Association said the Society’s overall strategy to regulate and represent both solicitors and non-solicitor legal service providers was impossible.
“The draft constitution was unworkable and had to be dropped. That is not the fault of those who have doubtless worked very hard to produce their best efforts. It is inescapable that what the Law Society is trying to do in regulating solicitors, regulating non-solicitor legal service providers and representing solicitors, is just impossible,” he said.
“The profession and the public need clarity on how it is going to discharge these three functions. It cannot point to any other jurisdiction on how it's done as no other jurisdiction has such a settlement for its solicitors and for the public who use legal services.
“It's time the Law Society decided whether it is a regulating body, or like England and Wales, a representative body. I think we need an independent statutory regulator of legal services, and like England and Wales the Law Society should become a robust representative body for solicitors only."
A poll running on The Firm website closed with 86% of respondents opposing the revised constitution.
The statement announcing the withdrawal of the constitution can be read here.