The Law Society of Scotland has announced that all solicitors in the jurisdiction will carry a professional identity card from next year.

The cards, each enabled with a digital signature of the holder, will replace the current practising certificate from November 2015.

They will allow solicitors to sign documents and contracts entirely electronically and allow access to courts and prisons, as well as help reassure the public they are consulting a trusted adviser.

Members will receive a letter in the coming weeks asking how soon they want the cards, which will expire after six years.

The Society said it is responding to European legislation in progress which may require members of professions to carry a valid identity card. The Council of Law Societies and Bars of Europe has produced a card, which is issued by individual bars, since 1978. 

The idea of introducing a European card for various professions to facilitate cross-border practice became an issue in the recent review of the Professional Qualifications Directive. However, lawyers already have the CCBE card to meet that objective and there will not be any compulsory requirement to join another EU-sanctioned scheme.

There are also a number of projects coming under the EU e-justice portal in which the CCBE is looking at the issue of proving the lawyers’ identity/credentials on behalf of DG Justice.

The Scottish Society said: ‘The company we are working with has already deployed this solution to over 50 sets of professionals and bar associations across Europe over the last few years and some of these organisations have a membership ten times the size of the Society’s. 

‘We know this solution works for them and we’re confident it will work for us.’

The member organisation is also working on a style of paper ‘presentation certificate’, which will be available to members on request once the card replaces the existing practising certificate, although this may be an ‘opt in’ service.

Anyone who does not carry the card will not be able to obtain a practising certificate from November 2015.