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THE LAW Society of Scotland will unveil radical proposals this week on the training of young lawyers and protecting the public from inexperienced sole practitioners.
The proposals include revising the diploma on legal practice, delivering it through a new Law Society college rather than five main universities, increased monitoring of training, and banning newly-qualified solicitors from running their own firms.
Drawn up by a working party, the proposals stem from concerns over both the swelling numbers of law students seeking legal careers and the growing number of negligence and dishonesty claims over recent years.
Kenneth Ross, Law Society president, says a new diploma course should act more as a "bridge" to trainee positions in practice.
By giving the Law Society more control over the diploma, it will be easier to match the numbers of diploma students with the 300-350 yearly training positions in the profession, says Ross.
Scottish universities will have mixed reactions to key proposals for the future of the diploma, first introduced in 1980.
Some universities may even lose out. The favoured idea is to take the diploma 'in-house' to be run by a Law Society college but, as that may be too expensive, another of several options is to team up with one particular university.
Monitoring of training in firms would be introduced for the first time, as would a final test of professional competence and conduct.
Newly-qualified lawyers would be prevented from joining partnerships or practising on their own.
"The law is more complicated than before, with lawyers under more pressure. And with increased compensation claims, the feeling is that lawyers should be more mature and experienced before embarking on their own," says Ross.
The Law Society aims to consult widely, including the judiciary, Scottish Bar, Government, universities and consumer groups.