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Wider choice and better protection: A consultation paper on the regulation of legal services in Scotland

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Legal Profession consultation paper
Cabinet Secretary's foreword

I have great pleasure in consulting on the Government's proposals to allow new business structures to deliver legal services in Scotland.

At this time of great challenges to the legal profession, it has never been more important that the profession remains strong, independent, and able to compete domestically and internationally.

The Scottish Government intends to liberalise the Scottish legal services market in ways that will free up the profession to organise itself differently, to offer services to the public alongside other professionals, and to seek alternative sources of financial support to grow their businesses. We announced the Legal Profession Bill as part of this year's legislative programme. This is a once-in-a-generation opportunity to create a more flexible and modern regulatory framework for legal services.

We welcomed the proposals put forward by the Law Society of Scotland and Faculty of Advocates earlier this year which were in the main in tune with our direction of thinking - that the regulatory framework must be proportionate to the size and scope of the legal services market in Scotland. We must guard against having too many bodies and unnecessary tiers of regulation. Instead we should concentrate on developing a robust system of regulation to protect the profession's core values and enshrine the profession's commitments to service, probity and excellence.

Regulation should also avoid any disadvantage to consumers where there are new structures which may bring together different professions.

That is a complex challenge. To help inform our proposals I asked some of the country's leading legal and consumer experts to join a consultative group set up to explore these issues. That group helped us to shape the proposals in this paper for a regulatory regime that will allow alternative business structures to operate in an open, transparent and accessible way in Scotland's legal services market.

The Government knows that the current economic situation is seriously affecting many law firms, as well as many other businesses and families. It is only natural in the face of such uncertainty to take comfort in the tried and tested forms of business. However, I believe that now is the time for the profession that has served Scotland so well for over 300 years to embrace change and look to the future. In doing so, the profession will continue to be a source of pride for decades to come.

I look forward to receiving your comments on the consultation paper.

Kenny MacAskill, MSP
Cabinet Secretary for Justice

January 2009