LEGAL PROFESSION AND LEGAL AID ( briefings and fact... · LEGAL PROFESSION AND LEGAL AID (SCOTLAND)

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  • LEGAL PROFESSION AND LEGAL AID (SCOTLAND) BILL:

    COMPLAINTS ABOUT THE LEGAL PROFESSION

    SARAH HARVIE-CLARK

    The Legal Profession and Legal Aid (Scotland) Bill, introduced in the Scottish Parliament on 1 March 2006, stems from two distinct strands of Scottish Executive policy development. This briefing considers the parts of the Bill concerned with reform of the handling of complaints against legal practitioners in Scotland. A separate SPICe briefing considers the proposals in the Bill relating to legal aid.

    SPICe briefing 20 April 2006 06/33

    Scottish Parliament Information Centre (SPICe) Briefings are compiled for the benefit of the Members of the Parliament and their personal staff. Authors are available to discuss the contents of these papers with MSPs and their staff who should contact Sarah Harvie-Clark on extension 85392 or email sarah.harvie-clark@scottish.parliament.uk. Members of the public or external organisations may comment on this briefing by emailing us at spice@scottish.parliament.uk. However, researchers are unable to enter into personal discussion in relation to SPICe Briefing Papers. Every effort is made to ensure that the information contained in SPICe briefings is correct at the time of publication. Readers should be aware however that briefings are not necessarily updated or otherwise amended to reflect subsequent hanges.c

    www.scottish.parliament.uk

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    http://www.scottish.parliament.uk/business/bills/56-legalProfession/b56s2-introd.pdfmailto:sarah.harvie-clark@scottish.parliament.ukmailto:sarah.harvie-clark@scottish.parliament.ukmailto:spice.research@scottish.parliament.ukhttp://www.scottish.parliament.uk/http://www.scottish.parliament.uk/

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    CONTENTS KEY POINTS OF THIS BRIEFING...............................................................................................................................3

    INTRODUCTION ..........................................................................................................................................................4

    THE LEGAL PROFESSION IN SCOTLAND ...............................................................................................................4 HISTORICAL BACKGROUND TO REGULATION OF THE LEGAL PROFESSION.........................................................................4 CATEGORIES OF LEGAL PRACTITIONER IN SCOTLAND .....................................................................................................4

    THE CURRENT STRUCTURE OF THE COMPLAINTS HANDLING SYSTEM..........................................................5 SOLICITORS, SOLICITOR-ADVOCATES AND CONVEYANCING AND EXECUTRY PRACTIONERS...............................................6

    Law Society of Scotland.......................................................................................................................................6 Scottish Solicitors Discipline Tribunal .................................................................................................................7 Scottish Legal Services Ombudsman ..................................................................................................................8

    ADVOCATES ...............................................................................................................................................................8 THE CURRENT SYSTEM: STANDARDS APPLIED WHEN CONSIDERING COMPLAINTS...................................9

    PROFESSIONAL MISCONDUCT ......................................................................................................................................9 The Sharp test: the basic definition......................................................................................................................9 The Sharp test: other sources of guidance........................................................................................................10 Advocates conduct ............................................................................................................................................10 Examples of professional misconduct................................................................................................................11

    UNSATISFACTORY CONDUCT (SOMETIMES KNOWN AS UNPROFESSIONAL CONDUCT) ....................................................11 INADEQUATE PROFESSIONAL SERVICES .....................................................................................................................11 PROFESSIONAL NEGLIGENCE.....................................................................................................................................12

    PROPOSALS IN BILL RELATING TO REGULATION OF THE LEGAL PROFESSION.........................................12 REFORM OF THE COMPLAINTS HANDLING SYSTEM........................................................................................................12

    Single gateway...................................................................................................................................................12 Classification of the complaint ...........................................................................................................................13 Services complaints ...........................................................................................................................................13 Conduct complaints............................................................................................................................................14 Funding of the new complaints handling system ...............................................................................................16

    THE MASTER POLICY AND THE GUARANTEE FUND......................................................................................................16 KEY ISSUES ..............................................................................................................................................................16

    THE BALANCE BETWEEN INDEPENDENCE AND SELF-REGULATION..................................................................................16 THE DISTINCTION BETWEEN SERVICES COMPLAINTS AND CONDUCT COMPLAINTS...........................................................17

    Academic commentary.......................................................................................................................................17 Initial comments by regulators ...........................................................................................................................18 Other recent comments......................................................................................................................................18 The consultation.................................................................................................................................................18

    MAXIMUM COMPENSATION LEVELS AND SMALL NEGLIGENCE CLAIMS .............................................................................20 The consultation process ...................................................................................................................................20 Recent comments ..............................................................................................................................................21

    RIGHTS OF APPEAL AND THE OVERSIGHT FUNCTION.....................................................................................................22 Right of appeal in relation to a services complaint ............................................................................................22 Oversight function in relation to conduct complaints .........................................................................................23

    FUNDING OF THE COMPLAINTS HANDLING SYSTEM .......................................................................................................24 The consultation paper.......................................................................................................................................24 Views expressed during the consultation...........................................................................................................25 Views expressed on the Bills proposals............................................................................................................25

    OVERSIGHT OF THE MASTER POLICY AND THE GUARANTEE FUND..................................................................................25 The consultation.................................................................................................................................................26 Recent views expressed ....................................................................................................................................26

    SOURCES ..................................................................................................................................................................28

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    KEY POINTS OF THIS BRIEFING the Legal Profession and Legal Aid (Scotland) Bill (the Bill), introduced in the Scottish

    Parliament on 1 March 2006, contains proposals intended to improve the system for the handling of complaints against legal practitioners in Scotland

    originally the regulation of the legal profession in Scotland lay in the hands of courts which

    controlled the right of lawyers to practice. They have long since delegated this and other aspects of regulation to the legal profession itself (referred to as self-regulation)

    criticism of se