The Legal Services (Scotland) Bill was passed by the Scottish Parliament on 6 October 2010 and Royal Assent was received on 9 November 2010.
The primary aim of the Legal Services (Act) 2010 ("the Act") is to remove the current restrictions in the Solicitors (Scotland) Act 1980 on how solicitors can organise their businesses. It will allow solicitors to form partnerships with non-solicitors and to seek investment from outside the profession (although a majority share in any such business must remain with solicitors or other regulated professionals). The Act is enabling rather than prescriptive, so solicitor firms that do not want to operate under the new business arrangements will be under no obligation to do so.
The Act will create a tiered regulatory framework in which the Scottish Government will be responsible for approving and licensing regulators ("approved regulators"), who in turn will regulate licensed legal services providers ("licensed providers"), as shown below.
- Firstly, the Scottish Ministers will license and regulate approved regulators.
- Secondly, the approved regulators will license and regulate licensed providers.
- Thirdly, a licensed provider, as a regulated body, will have obligations to manage and oversee people in the entity - including lawyers, other professionals and non professionals - in a way which is compatible with the regulatory regime imposed by the approved regulator.
The Act also includes:
Although certain sections in the Act have been commenced (see the Legal Services (Scotland) Act 2010 (Commencement No. 1 and Saving Provision) Order 2011), the bulk of the provisions establishing the regulatory frameworks for licensed providers, confirmation agents and will writers are not yet in force. The timetable for full implementation of the Act is currently under consideration, and key stakeholders will be consulted in due course.
The Scottish Government conducted a consultation on "Ownership and control of firms providing legal services under the Legal Services (Scotland) Act 2010" between February and May 2011. More details can be found here