Legal services reform
Bill to improve transparency and accountability of legal sector
Legal sector reforms, including proposals to simplify the complaints process for consumers and legal professionals, have been published in a Scottish Government Bill introduced to Parliament.
The Regulation of Legal Services (Scotland) Bill would for the first time, make it possible for complaints to be made against those who provide legal services to the public but who are not regulated. The appeal process for complaints about poor service will be simplified in line with an ombudsman approach helping to make the system more accessible and affordable.
If passed by Parliament, the Bill would also place legal duties on the profession’s current regulators - the Law Society of Scotland, the Faculty of Advocates and the Association of Commercial Attorneys - to be more transparent and accountable in their regulatory work. They will be required to protect the principle that consumers should be treated fairly at all times and have access to a range of legal services which are affordable and suited to their needs.
Government Ministers will also be able to launch a review of the regulators and require them to make improvements or impose financial sanctions if they fail to regulate in the public interest.
Subject to Parliament’s approval, the Bill would also remove restrictions preventing charities, law centres and citizen’s advice bodies from directly employing solicitors to provide certain legal services to some of the country’s most vulnerable citizens. Growth and competition within the legal services sector will also be supported by making it easier for legal firms to go into partnership with other types of professionals such as accountants to provide shared services.
Minister for Victims and Community Safety Siobhian Brown said: “As a service which is often accessed by people during times of great stress or trauma, improvements to the regulatory structure are needed to further support people’s access to justice.
“By ensuring Scotland has a forward-looking legal regulatory framework, we will promote competition and innovation while ensuring that consumer interests are safeguarded.
“Measures such as preventing unqualified people from calling themselves lawyers will instil greater consumer confidence by providing more protections and choice.
“The Scottish Government is committed to reform, and will continue to engage stakeholders representing both consumer and legal perspectives as this legislation proceeds through Parliament.”
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