The Scottish Government will introduce a Legal Services Regulation Reform Bill in the 2022 to 2023 parliamentary year.
The Programme for Government 2022 to 2023 was announced by the First Minister, Nicola Sturgeon, on 6 September 2022. This includes 18 new bills.
The Summary of Bills contained in The Programme [PDF] states that the Legal Services Regulation Reform Bill:-
will provide for a modern regulatory framework designed to promote competition and innovation while also improving the transparency and accountability of legal services regulation and the legal complaints system in Scotland.
It may come as a surprise that this Bill is to appear quite so soon.
The Independent Review of Legal Services Regulation in Scotland
The Independent Review of Legal Services Regulation in Scotland launched in April 2017.
Fit for the Future – The Report of the Independent Review of Legal Services Regulation in Scotland [PDF] by Esther A Roberton was published in October 2018.
A public consultation took place in 2021. This sought to build consensus on the way forward with regard to the future of the legal services regulatory framework.
Subsequently the Scottish Government published, in July 2022, its Consultation Analysis [PDF] on Legal Services Regulation Reform in Scotland.
On this blog I have looked at the Roberton Review and the subsequent Consultation Analysis.
So far there have been seven posts by me:-
- Debate on Legal Services Regulation in Scotland heats up on Twitter in advance of the live event in Glasgow
- The Debate on the Review of Legal Services Regulation in Scotland (aka ‘The Roberton Rammy’)
- Legal Services Regulation Reform in Scotland: Consultation Analysis Reviewed – Part 1: Overview
- Part 2: The Potential Regulatory Models
- Part 3: Legal Tech
- Part 4: Business Structures
- Part 5: Complaints and Redress
Legal Services Regulation Reform Bill
I wasn’t expecting news of a Bill less than three weeks after that last post.
Indeed, when I blogged about the Roberton Rammy in 2019, I said:-
As the ‘Roberton Rammy’ continues we will keep an eye on it here at The Time Blawg and keep you updated. It is unlikely anything major will happen overnight. We have been waiting almost 10 years for ABS to become a reality in Scotland since the passing of the Legal Services (Scotland) Act 2010. There is a glimmer of hope that this might actually happen before the current year is out [N.B. It didn’t and may or may not before 2022 is out]. If so will it be another 10 years before we see anything concrete emerge from the Roberton Review of Legal Services Regulation in Scotland?
That we are seeing something now concrete emerge from the Roberton Review well within those 10 years is very good news as a lot of benefits could flow from sensible and much needed reforms.
After all, as Esther Roberton said in her Review:-
Over the course of eighteen months I found that there was significant consensus around the key concerns but perhaps unsurprisingly, less consensus on the potential solutions. The key issues were around the constraints that the current complex model of regulation imposes on the potential for growth in the sector and the unanimous view that the system for handling complaints is not fit for purpose.
Accordingly, I hope that the Bill includes the solutions which Esther Roberton considered will:-
place the regulation of legal services in Scotland at the forefront of international regulatory good practice, and improve the way in which consumer interests are visibly as well as practically protected.
All things considered Esther Roberton is confident that the framework she is recommending to Scottish Ministers will:-
uphold the rule of law; provide access to justice; protect the public and consumers; engender a high degree of public confidence and trust; and maximise the opportunity for the sector to increase its contribution to the Scottish economy.
I will publish my views on the first draft of the Legal Services Regulation Reform Bill when we see it.
Update – December 2022: Scottish Government’s Response to the Consultation Analysis
The Scottish Government published, on 22 December 2022, their response to the findings of the legal services regulation reform in Scotland consultation analysis report. There are a series of five Blog Posts on that response:-
- Legal Services Regulation Reform Elephant left in the Room
- Legal Tech Sandboxes
- ABS in Scotland to get Equality with England & Wales
- Legal Complaints Reform in Scotland
- Protection of ‘Lawyer’ and other Regulatory Reform Bits and Bobs
For all blog posts on this topic see: Legal Services Regulation Reform in Scotland
Reactions on Social Media
On LinkedIn the following comments have been made:-
Graeme Johnston (Software for mapping work and getting things done):
That *is* interesting, and quite an ambitious-sounding abstract, i.e. not just reforming the complaints system.
Indeed. Looks like they will be tackling the Roberton Review head on. Which is, I believe, what is required despite the dissent on the part of the Society and the Faculty.
Janet Hood Janet Hood Training & Consulting Limited – Working Positively with the Licensed Trade):
Prefer to wait to see what is proposed before commenting.
I assume the proposals will follow the Roberton recommendations. But we will, of course, have to wait and see.
I try never to second guess our esteemed leaders – look what happened to the Nicolson Recommendations re licensing.
Indeed. We may be in for a surprise.
Stephen Larcombe (Owner at Beaminster Legal Locum Services):
Learn from the ‘reforms’ in England and Wales so as not to replicate the many mistakes which have been made here.
Don’t go down the road of calling clients ‘consumers’. Consumers buy cans of beans in a supermarket.
In the final analysis, reforms should make professionalism more accessible, so as not to involve an emasculation of the ethical framework within which law should be practised.
Most of all don’t lose your independence and therefore your ability to uphold the Rule of Law.
Yes, learning from those who have gone before us is, of course, very important.
There is an emphasis on just one regulator in Scotland in the recommendations of the Roberton Review. Of course in England & Wales you have several and Stephen Mayson in his latest report has recommended there should just be one.
Do you think that was a mistake in England & Wales and having just one regulator would have made a difference?
Stephen Ward (MD, Clerksroom Barristers & Clerksroom Direct. Barristers’ Clerk, Co-Owner, Legal Innovator, Speaker, Author, and Motorsports fan. Making access to Barristers in England & Wales easier with award-winning tech.):
We are interested in extending our services to Barristers in Scotland if the faculty were to allow competition to thier monopoly.
“Advocates” please Stephen! 😉 But do the faculty really have a monopoly? There have at times been the occasional outliers who have operated as Advocates outside of Faculty Services and the Stable (Chambers in your language) system.