Scottish lawyers rail against Law Soc practice name rules

LEADING Scottish firms have hit out at English red tape which prevents them from practising under their own names south of the border.

While English firms can set up branch offices under their own names in Scotland, they claim the Law Society of England and Wales refuses to allow them to do the same.

Partner Kenneth Chrystie at McClure Naismith Anderson & Gardiner wants an end to the “bizarre situation” where his firm operates in London under the separate name Andrew Page & Co.

“While McClures and Andrew Page & Co operate effectively as one firm, legally they have to appear and present themselves as separate firms accountable to the separate English and Scottish law societies.

“Andrew Page and his co-partner Paul Gilks are treated in every way as partners in McClures, but we cannot list them as partners and the legal niceties of separate accounts and separate accountability to the two societies have to be observed.

He says the main purpose behind the London office was to offer all the services both in England and Scotland generally required of a UK law firm.

“Under existing rules it is impossible for us to project McClures in this way.”

The senior partner of Glasgow and Edinburgh-based McGrigor Donald, Fred Sheddon, says his firm applied to the Law Society of England and Wales to practise under the name “McGrigor Donald (England)” but was refused. The firm invoked the English society’s appeal procedure but the decision was upheld.

“They told us they thought the name McGrigor Donald (England) was confusing, but we think it more confusing to call the firm a completely different name.”

Michael Walker of Maclay Murray & Spens, whose English office operates under the name Anthony Murray & Laing, says the present system is a “nonsense, but only a marginal irritation”.

Bruce Ritchie, deputy secretary (professional practice) at the Scottish society, says talks with the English society, which started as early as 1991, have stalled.

He says the Scottish society is happy for English firm Robin Thompson & Partners to practise in Scotland under its own name and the difficulties appear to be on the English side.

Christopher Bramall, head of professional ethics at the English society says there is no unfairness in how the society treats Scottish firms.

“Scottish firms can practise Scottish and English law in England, apart from certain reserved activities, such as registered conveyancing and litigation,” he says.