New Legal Services regulations
Minister for Community Safety and Legal Affairs Roseanna Cunningham has introduced new regulations to Parliament aimed at modernising Scotland’s legal profession.
The regulations, which come into force in July, follow the passage of the Legal Services (Scotland) Act 2010, and pave the way for legal services to the public and business to be organised and delivered in new ways.
The five sets of regulations and one order introduced to Parliament by Ms Cunningham include regulations to permit the creation of a new type of alternative business structure for legal services, a ‘licensed legal services provider’. Licensed providers, which will be licensed and regulated by regulators approved by the Scottish Government, are a new, flexible, business model which will allow legal services to be provided along with other services, such as accountancy services, and allow the new businesses wider access to investment.
Ms Cunningham said:
“The Legal Services (Scotland) Act 2010 is intended to lead to greater flexibility, more competition and improved access to justice in the Scottish legal services market.
“We have already commenced certain sections of the Act and I am pleased we are making further progress with the commencement of these regulations, which will deliver clear benefits for Scottish businesses and consumers.
“The next stage in the process will be to appoint regulators to supervise the new regime, and we are looking forward to receiving applications from potential regulators.”
The legal profession is a significant contributor to the Scottish economy, with an annual turnover estimated at over £1 billion.
The Legal Services (Scotland) Act 2010 addresses the restrictions on business structures which inhibit the options for Scottish solicitors to grow and innovate. Current structures are based on a partnership model which has historically had many strengths, but which is increasingly under strain from developments in the market. The Scottish Government wishes to see a range of accessible legal services for the public. It believes that the high street law firm will remain a valuable and important part of Scottish life, but that the profession should be allowed the freedom to operate in new ways in order to address these challenges.
Subject to Parliamentary agreement, the regulations will come into force on July 2, 2012 and the Scottish Government will be in a position to receive applications from bodies seeking to become approved regulators.