THE LAW Society is planning to embark on an in-depth study of the way complaints are handled by different professions.
The initiative has been prompted by more general research which reveals that solicitors and barristers are facing the same problems as accountants, dentists, architects and engineers.
Secretary-General of the Law Society John Hayes says: “One of my most important roles is to look sideways as well as ahead.”
A society report reveals that many of the professions are in the same boat, grappling with the conflict between representation and regulation and facing an increasing number of complaints from consumers.
But it also shows that most professions fail to provide ways of learning lessons from individual complaints. Hayes wants to address the issue and is proposing a more detailed look at how the different professions respond to accusations of poor service.
“But any proposed study will have to take its place among other bids in the society's research programme,” he says.
The latest research, Organising UK Professions, reveals that increasing specialisation, post-qualification training and tougher regulation are the hallmarks of widespread change.
“The report reveals that the Law Society is ahead of the game on specialist panels. It is a bold step to say there are some members who are more qualified to do certain work than others but it is not as terrifying as it looks.” says Hayes.
“More than 50 per cent of the profession spend more than 50 per cent of their time on one area of work.”
But when it comes to multi-disciplinary partnerships, lawyers are shown to be lagging behind.
“This is because the solicitors' profession provides a multiplicity of client protection measures which makes it difficult for them to get involved,” he says.
Hayes rejects the idea that there is any conflict between the role of professional bodies as trade unions and disciplinarians.
“Reputation and regulation are inextricably linked,” he says.
Hayes adds that failing to address regulatory issues would in turn damage the reputation of the profession.