Solicitors in Scotland have voted in favour of the introduction of alternative business structures (ABS), paving the way for a level playing field between the legal markets in Scotland and England and Wales.
At a special debate at the Law Society of Scotland’s AGM, held yesterday (22 May), practitioners supported proposals that will allow law firms to adopt similar strategies to those that will become permissible under the Legal Services Act 2007.
Scottish Law Society president Richard Henderson said: “This is a historic decision. The profession has been asked by the Scottish Government to decide on its future direction and I think that we have risen to that challenge by voting in favour of change.
“There has been a great deal of thought and discussion surrounding alternative business structures. The society’s council consulted the profession and it was apparent from the responses that there was an appetite for change within the legal profession.”
The society began a consultation process in November last year, asking the legal profession as well as politicians and consumer groups whether the rules governing law firms should be relaxed to allow the legal services market to be opened up to other providers.
Speaking about yesterday’s vote, Henderson added: “This is only the first step in what will be a lengthy journey. The society will continue to work closely with its members from across all sectors of the profession, the government and other stakeholders to ensure that any future reforms will benefit those who require legal services and that access to justice remains central.
“A crucial part of developing successful and workable new policies will be to ensure that those providing legal services are properly regulated and work to the professional standards expected of them.”