Law Society debates future of SCB

PLANS to abolish the Solicitors Complaints Bureau (SCB) have been thrown out by the Law Society's adjudication and appeals committee.

Instead, a four-part package of reforms has been put forward to make the SCB more independent and effective.

The proposals form part of the fundamental Quo Vadis review – a thorough look at solicitors' complaints-handling.

A one-day conference was staged last week by the adjudication and appeals committee to debate issues first raised by SCB director Veronica Lowe.

“The purpose of the review is to encourage discussion rather than to impose a blueprint for change,” she says.

Several options were proposed, including abolition, but the society's committee recommended a less radical approach.

Chair Chris Heaps, partner at Eversheds Jaques & Lewis, says: “The option to abolish the SCB was considered and rejected as we recognise that the profession has a duty to use self-regulation to further the public interest and protect the reputation of the solicitors' profession.”

“We also explored the model described by the National Consumer Council for a wholly independent body funded by the profession, but felt that there was no evidence to suggest that such a change would be beneficial.”

The committee's ideas will be discussed at the Law Society council meeting in April.

It proposes that an independent supervisory board could be set up to make policy recommendations and to improve perceptions of independence. It is envisaged that the new body, with a mix of solicitors and public interest representatives, could run along the lines of a company board.

More preventative work undertaken at firm level, and possibly an SCB-led client care programme, are also recommended.

And some kind of regional presence for the SCB should also be debated, the committee suggests.