Regulating the legal profession

Independent review to protect consumers.

Consumer protection will be at the heart of an independent review into how legal services are regulated, Legal Affairs Minister Annabelle Ewing has announced.

The review, led by NHS 24 chair Esther Roberton, will make recommendations to modernise laws underpinning the legal profession’s current regulatory system including how complaints are handled.

It follows concerns that the current legislative framework is not fit for purpose and has not kept up with developments in the legal services market. There are also worries that the current processes for people wishing to make complaints about their solicitor are too slow and too complex.

The Minister said:

“Members of the public must be able to have confidence in the service they get from their solicitor. While this happens most of the time, I have been listening carefully to concerns that the current regulatory system in Scotland may leave consumers exposed and does not adequately address complaints.

“This independent review will consider what changes may be needed to the statutory framework for the regulation of legal services to protect consumer interests and promote a flourishing legal sector. This includes ensuring that consumers properly understand the options open to them when something goes wrong and that the regulatory framework is proportionate for legal firms. I look forward to receiving its recommendations in due course.”

Esther Roberton said:

“I am delighted to have been asked to undertake this review. Our legal profession and legal services in Scotland are the envy of many around the world. We should be just as ambitious for our system of regulation of legal services. I would hope we can simplify the current complaints process to maximise consumers’ confidence in the system. I look forward to working with the panel members who bring a broad range of experience across a range of sectors.”


The independent review of the regulation of legal services in Scotland is expected to consult widely with stakeholders and report to Scottish ministers by the end of 2018.

The independent chair of the review is Esther Roberton, current chair of NHS 24. Ms Roberton has extensive senior leadership experience in the NHS and other areas of public life.  She is also currently a board member of the Scottish Ambulance Service (2014-18).  She was chair of SACRO (2010-2014) and until recently also sat on the Crown Office and Procurator Fiscal Service Audit and Risk Committee (COPFS ARC).

The review panel have confirmed their participation as follows:

  • Christine McLintock - immediate past president Law Society of Scotland
  • Alistair Morris - chief executive of the management board, Pagan Osborne (Law Society of Scotland)
  • Laura Dunlop QC - Hastie Stables (Faculty of Advocates)
  • Derek Ogg QC - MacKinnon Advocates (Faculty of Advocates)
  • Neil Stevenson – chief executive of the Scottish Legal Complaints Commission
  • Nicholas Whyte – chair of Scottish Solicitors’ Discipline Tribunal
  • Ray Macfarlane –  chair of the Scottish Legal Aid Board
  • Jim Martin – outgoing Scottish Public Services Ombudsman
  • Dr Dame Denise Coia – chair of Healthcare Improvement Scotland
  • Prof Lorne Crerar - chairman, Harper Macleod LLP
  • Prof Russel Griggs - chair of the Scottish Government’s Independent Regulatory Review Group
  • Trisha McAuley OBE - independent consumer expert
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