The Law Society of Scotland plans to offer membership to non-solicitors for the first time.

The organisation will extend admission beyond the 11,000 solicitors who are currently members, to include other legal professionals such as paralegals, legal technicians and legal executives.

The move is part of a five-year strategy announced today and designed to expand the range of services offered and reflect wider changes across the legal market, including further devolution, reduced public spending, court reforms and consolidation among firms.

The body has also acknowledged that the profile of the legal profession is changing, with more young and female members in its make-up.

Christine McLintock (pictured), president of the Law Society of Scotland, said the rising influence of paralegals, legal executives and legal technicians meant reform was necessary – even though Scotland has yet to enact legislative provisions sanctioning the creation of alternative business structures.

‘We needed to change our approach to ensure that we meet the needs of both our membership and the public they serve,’ she said. ‘Our membership is currently restricted to solicitors but we want other legal professionals, people who make a significant contribution to the success of the legal sector, to be able to benefit too.’

Key decisions have yet to be made on how much non-solicitors will pay to join and what powers they will have – including whether or not they will be able to elect members to the Edinburgh body’s council.

The issue of admitting non-solicitors has previously been considered in England and Wales. In 2008, a Law Society Council proposal that non-solicitors be granted ‘affiliate’ status at Chancery Lane was rejected by the profession in a postal vote.

Scotland already runs a registered paralegals scheme to set high standards in the sector and offer individuals the chance to develop their skills and knowledge through CPD.

The Scottish society said its strategy will also help members to gain internationally recognised qualifications which all them to practise across jurisdictional boundaries, elsewhere in UK or overseas.

McLintock said the majority of members continue to work in Scotland, but increasing numbers are choosing to work elsewhere while retaining their membership.

‘We want to offer the right kind of support to all of our members, wherever their careers take them in the world, and ensure that their Law Society of Scotland membership is valuable to them.’