Tuesday, January 21, 2014

FRESH PICKINGS: New Law Society poll shows Scottish solicitors more upbeat on economy than public

Clients wallets just got thinner thanks to fresh pickings – Law Society. SCOTTISH solicitors start 2014 with mixed views when it comes to the economy but are more optimistic than the public as a whole, according to a new poll by the Law Society of Scotland. The Society commissioned polling organisation Ipsos MORI to survey over 500 solicitors from across the profession in December.

The results showed that 46% of solicitors expect the Scottish economy to improve this year. 37% thought economic conditions were likely to stay the same with 10% saying the economy will worsen. 7% did not know.

The results for solicitors were significantly more optimistic when compared to similar figures for the public as a whole. Ipsos MORI found that 32% of the public thought the economy would improve, 37% saying it would stay the same and 27% expecting the economy to worsen.

The poll of solicitors also highlighted different views within the profession:

  • Solicitors working in big firms were most optimistic with 54% expecting the economy to improve this year compared to only 43% of solicitors in smaller high street firms and 42% of in-house lawyers.
  • Only 35% of lawyers practising legal aid were optimistic an improvement in the general economy.
  • Solicitors in Aberdeen and Perth were the most optimistic (63% in both cities expect to the economy to improve) with solicitors in Dundee the least optimistic (40%).
  • Property lawyers were the most optimistic by area of work, with 69% of commercial property lawyers and 56% of domestic property lawyers expecting an improvement. Those working in employment law and in taxation and executry work were also more positive about the economy. Lawyers working in civil and criminal litigation were the least optimistic with only 35% predicting the economy will improve.

Commenting on the figures, Lorna Jack, chief executive of the Law Society said: "It is encouraging to see almost half the solicitor profession expecting the economy to improve this year, markedly more than the Scottish public as a whole. There is also some particular confidence and optimism in some key sectors, notably for those working in property law and within our larger firms.

Jack continued as she does: "We know the effects of the recession are still being felt and that the further tightening of public budgets is likely to impact further. However there is much to suggest the solicitor profession has been robust in weathering the economic storm. We have as many practising solicitors as we ever have. The number of unemployed lawyers has remained relatively small compared to some other jurisdictions. Trainee numbers are recovering from the sharp downturn of three years ago and we are still seeing a steady stream of people being admitted to the profession.

"Whilst fee income in legal firms has taken a hit, figures last year showed some firms have seen profits bounce back. Our new cost of time survey, which will be published in the next few months, will provide another useful barometer on the economic health of the profession.

"At the Law Society, we want to provide practical assistance to our members where we can. As part of our corporate plan this year, we've looking at new support for unemployed solicitors and are updating our guidance on surviving the downturn. We are also offering specific support for high street and legal aid practices ones who appear to have the greatest reservations about economic prospects in 2014."

The polling results came from the Society's annual survey of members' views using Ipsos MORI. Further results will be published over the coming weeks (after the figures are dressed up a bit! – Ed)

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