The legal professions in Scotland comprise:
Solicitors can give advice on any aspect of law as long as they have the necessary knowledge. This requirement is part of their Code of Conduct. Advice can cover a wide range of subjects, including family and business matters. Solicitors can represent clients in the Justice of the Peace and sheriff courts.
The Law Society of Scotland regulates solicitors under statute. The Society promotes both the interests of solicitors in Scotland and the interests of the public in relation to the profession. The Society deals with such matters as admission, professional education and training, standard setting and discipline of solicitors.
Advocates (sometimes referred to as "Counsel") are lawyers who receive special training in representing a party in proceedings before any court in Scotland. They generally receive instructions from a solicitor rather than an individual party.
Advocates are members of the Scottish Bar, regulated by the Faculty of Advocates. An elected Dean leads the Faculty, which controls its own admissions and discipline, and trains and prepares candidates for admission to the Bar.
Solicitor-advocates are experienced solicitors who have undertaken specialist training in court pleading. Since 1990, they have had rights of audience equal to advocates in the High Court of Justiciary and the Court of Session. They are members of the Law Society of Scotland and are regulated by that body.
Conveyancing and Executry Practitioners
Conveyancing and Executry Practitioners provide advice on such matters as the transfer of property and the winding up and administration of a deceased's estate. They work for solicitors and local authorities or as independent practitioners who provide a service directly to the public. The Law Society of Scotland regulates practitioners.
The Scottish Solicitors’ Discipline Tribunal – Appointment of non-lawyer members
The Scottish Solicitors’ Discipline Tribunal (SSDT) is an independent body which deals with serious disciplinary issues within the Scottish legal profession.
The Scottish Government is currently running a recruitment campaign on behalf of the Lord President of the Court of Session to appoint 6 non-lawyer members to the SSDT. Full details on the appointments and an application form are available here.
Complaints against the legal profession
If you are concerned about the quality of service you have received from a legal practitioner, or about their conduct, you should in the first instance try to resolve your complaint direct with them. However, if you are unsuccessful in resolving the problem, you can complain to the Scottish Legal Complaints Commission (which was created by the Legal Profession and Legal Aid (Scotland) Act 2007).
The SLCC is accessible, independent and impartial in the way in which it handles and investigates complaints. It receives complaints about the legal practitioners where local resolution between legal practitioner and client has been attempted but has proved unsuccessful. The Commission investigates complaints about service and delegates complaints about conduct to the relevant professional body. However, the Commission has an oversight role in relation to how the professional body investigates conduct complaints.
Reform of the legal profession
The Legal Services (Scotland) Act 2010 will make various changes to the operation of the legal profession in Scotland. It will reduce the restrictions on solicitors entering into business relationships with non-solicitors, allowing investment by non-solicitors and external ownership, within a robust regulatory framework. More information is available in the Reform of the Legal Profession section.