Scottish law agents undone over ABSs

The Scottish Law Agents Society (SLAS) has arguably paved the way for alternative business structures (ABSs) to be introduced north of the border despite orchestrating a vote to oppose them.

Richard Masters
Richard Masters

At the request of the SLAS the Law Society of Scotland (LSS) last week held a special general meeting to get a definitive view on whether the profession should back the structures or not. The meeting was requested despite the LSS supporting ABSs for the past two years and the Legal Services (Scotland) Bill, which will govern their introduction, coming close to being enacted.

At the meeting, which was attended by around 100 lawyers, McGrigors managing partner Richard Masters proposed an amendment to the bill that said any firm accepting external ­investment would have to remain majority-owned by solicitors. The proposal was rejected.

Masters said: “Through failing to engage in discussions to try to reach a sensible compromise, [the SLAS] will find that they’ll get full-blooded ABSs ­without any input from the profession.”

While LSS president Ian Smart said the society will continue to try to engage with the Scottish government on amendments to the bill, the feeling is that, without a consensus in the profession, it will hold little sway.

That said, SLAS member Ian Ferguson said the vote will allow discussion with government to be reopened.

“We think the Scottish government is willing to discuss and learn what the profession’s views are,” he said.