The Law Society of Scotland will press ahead with plans to admit non-solicitors as members during the first year of a five-year strategic plan, it announced today.
Agreeing new categories of affiliate membership, which could include paralegals and legal executives, is one of numerous priorities for the 11,000-strong body outlined in its annual plan for 2015/16.
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.
Other priorities for the Scots include progressing liberalisation of the legal sector north of the border by becoming a regulator of licensed legal services providers and commencing the first licensing of these new entities.
It is now more than five years since the Scottish Parliament first approved alternative business structures with minority external investment – before the Scottish National Party won an unprecedented majority at Holyrood.
The Society is also seeking parliamentary time at Holyrood for a new Legal Services Act that will allow the body to meet its ‘strategic objectives’ and sanction regulatory changes.
A spokesperson said: ‘While there have been reforms in 2007 and 2010, the core legislation covering the Law Society and the legal profession in Scotland is now 30 years old. In that time we have seen an ever more diverse profession and one which is increasingly working across borders.
‘As we look to take forward our new strategy, we believe there is a strong case for new, more flexible legislation which would permit us to open the Society’s membership to other legal professionals, to streamline our regulatory processes and strengthen our consumer protections (such as the option to introduce entity regulation as well as legally changing the name of our Guarantee Fund to try and avoid confusion) and to try and address the rising unregulated market of legal services in Scotland.’
On 7 December the Society will move from its Victorian townhouse HQ in Edinburgh’s West End to modern, leased accommodation at Atria Edinburgh (pictured) near the city’s international conference centre.