Sunday, July 15, 2007

Law Society Chief Douglas Mill asks for ideas on Clementi reforms to legal services markets

More From A Diary of Injustice in Scotland

Law Society boss requires ideas for making more money while ethics & honesty fly out the window

Douglas Mill, the Chief Executive of the Law Society of Scotland for the last decade, and showing it, has come forth with a new pitch to prop up the flagging Scottish legal profession's business fortunes.

Not content with managing the property market into oblivion so that no one can afford a house these days, or fiddling complaints against corrupt crooked lawyers for more than 10 years, Douglas Mill , concerned at the implications of full implementation of the Clementi reforms, giving the public wider access to legal representation other than having to go through the usual solicitor or advocate, invariably getting ripped off with large overcharged fees for poor service, is asking the membership for ideas, to make more money when the chickens come home to roost, as it were ...

Scotland of course, had the right to implement a version of Clementi a long time ago .. as long as 1990, when the Law Reform (Misc Provisions) Act 1990 came into being, containing sections 25-29 which were designed to open up the legal services market so the public could gain wider access to justice.

What happened to those lofty goals of 1990 then ?

Well this: Former Lord Advocate Andrew Hardie revealed as major obstacle in removing lawyer-advocate monopoly on legal representation

and this: Scottish Executive thought to be blameworthy for allowing restrictive practices in legal services

and this: Scottish Executive fails to block FOI disclosure on records of restricted access to Courts

As you can see, it was the legal profession itself, along with it seems, a few members of the judiciary, which put the boot in, on those reforms in the 1990 Law Reform Act ... and not forgetting of course, the part of willing Government to play along with lobbying from the legal profession to protect their business markets from anyone else, was well played by the then Scottish Office under John Major, and several Scottish Executives since 1997.

Will the new Scottish Executive, led by the SNP still play along with this fit up of the justice system, which sees the public restricted in their access to justice & legal services ?

Well, perhaps not .. as this article shows the SNP looking at reforms : SNP Executive decides new look into limited legal services reforms as legal profession and judiciary lobby against change

However it looked like business as usual from the first words of our Justice Secretary Kenny MacAskill on the matter, which you can see here: It's time for Injustice to end, but will the SNP end Injustice in Scotland ?

So, a turn around then ? Could it be the public will actually get the right to choose their legal representatives other than have to ply their way through the 10,000 solicitors of the Law Society of Scotland, hoping to get an honest one .. when the odds are well against it ?

Perhaps ... but of course, the Law Society of Scotland would rather not have Clementi implemented in Scotland at all .. as it's always lobbied to keep the markets of legal services closed to any competition so as not to disturb the profession's business model, and perhaps more importantly, not to disturb or dispute the legal profession's control of who has access to justice, and who does not.

The ideas from Turcan Connell, for instance to join forces with accountants (another self regulatory mob who specialise in letting crooked accountants such as Norman Howitt off the hook, might have to be viewed against the background of their own conduct towards clients - which is enough to give anyone cause for concern, as I covered here : Law Society of Scotland rejects complaint over estate ruined by huge legal fees

Access to justice ... I have seen how Douglas Mill feels about that one himself, when he interdicted my legal aid application to prevent a crucial case going ahead against the Law Society, calling it's own staff as witnesses in a case to establish why complaints procedures had been heavily breached, bent, and circumvented to get Scotland's most famous crooked lawyer : Andrew Penman of Stormonth Darling Solicitors, Kelso, off the hook.

Here is the Scotsman report on that incident from 5 June 1998, together with Douglas Mill's letter to the Scottish Legal Aid Board, leaked to me in disgust apparently ...

Scotsman 5 June 1998 Law Society accused of closing ranks as claimi failsDouglas Mill letter to Scottish Legal Aid Board demanding my legal aid be refused

Douglas Mill & his colleagues feel a bit more strongly on access to justice & criticism of the legal profession, as you can see from the following article from Scotland on Sunday, where the bosses of the Law Society of Scotland held special briefings against those such as myself, who speak out against corrupt practices in the legal profession & poor regulation of complaints, trying to fit up campaigners on justice reforms, on the horrendous attack on the Law Society Chief Accountant, which the Police seem to believe has been possibly caused by other members of the very same Scottish legal profession ...

Cash laundering link to law chief stabbing

Cash Link to Law Chief Stabbing Scotland on Sunday 29 January 2006

Quoting the Scotland on Sunday article directly :

"Meanwhile, campaigners for greater openness in the legal profession have hit back at suggestions that their organisations and websites could have been linked to the attack.

Senior figures in the Law Society have made it known they feel some of the websites criticising lawyers are tantamount to incitement to violence.

But Peter Cherbi, a long-time critic of the Law Society who runs a weblog "A Diary of Injustice in Scotland", said: "I'm concerned that some people will try and use this to stifle criticism and open debate. I can't imagine anyone connected to the campaigns would be involved in anything like this. Lawyers are supposed to uphold the right to free speech and not be acting against it."

Dirty tricks from the Law Society of Scotland .. taking journalists aside, trying to pick off campaigners with taunts of .. "get them", "implicate them in the story" ... while it seems the incident was caused by fellow colleagues ...

Douglas Mill doesn't particularly like debate on the legal profession at all, and particularly detests talk of reform .. to the point where he famously threatened the Scottish Parliament & Executive last year over the passage of the Legal Profession & Legal Aid (Scotland) Act 2007 ... on the thinking that it was against a lawyers Human Rights not to be able to consider and fiddle complaints against colleagues !

I covered Douglas Mill's Court Challenge threat against the Parliament here :

Law Society of Scotland threatens Court challenge against Scottish Executive over LPLA legal reform Bill

You can also read about a skirmish between Douglas Mill & John Swinney MSP at the Justice 2 Committee hearings here : The Corrupt Link Revealed - How the Law Society of Scotland manages client complaints & settlements.

The Herald 5 June 2006 - Would granny swear by the law society

and the earlier interview with Douglas Mill, where he put forward the bizarre notion of suicide over the lack of respect lawyers now have in Scotland due to his own stewardship of the legal profession is here : Scotsman responds to Peter Cherbi and the Herald with a living eulogy of Douglas Mill .. which came after the Law Society threatening the Herald newspaper over it's original story of Mill's comments to John Swinney in front of the Justice 2 Committee ...

Douglas Mill - A Lawyer's never loved in his own home land - The Scotsman 15 August 2006

It all comes down to money of course .. which is why the likes of Douglas Mill are worried that allowing wider access to justice & legal services will severely dent the profitability of member legal firms.

Quoting Douglas Mill in the Scotsman today, he says ; "Tinkering about with a £1.2 billion turnover of the legal services market in Scotland is not very sensible if you don't know what you are doing."

Yes, you are quite right, Douglas - tinkering of the legal services market is not very sensible if you don't know what you are doing - and you certainly don't. Best leave it to people who might perhaps lead the legal profession into better times and wider respect for honest, transparency and accountability - things which have lacked under your administration as Chief Executive, along with a few other willing participants at the Law Society who have done the client and ultimately the profession no favours at all.

£1.2 billion ..Douglas .. how much of that has come from some of your members ripping off clients wholesale, taking their properties, ruining their lives, ruining their livelihoods, businesses, health, and then seeing that any resulting complaint is buried so the poor client gets nothing, while you allow your crooked colleagues to go on practicing, with a license to ruin, plunder, loot, main, threaten & deny justice to just about anyone they please ?

Well, my message to the membership of the Law Society is this - you only have yourselves to blame. Not one of you has had the courage to stand up and say to the leadership of the profession - "The way we treat clients & handle regulatory matters is wrong. Resolve the injustice caused by our lack of respect for client complaints or change the leadership & bring in a new client friendly policy".

Use your vote as the membership, if you have a vote, if you have any democracy in the legal profession at all - and clean up the mess of poor standards, lack of public respect & trust, and incompetent leadership which has been the 'run of the mill' for most of the 1990s up to now.

My message to the Justice Secretary :

Only a few months ago, we had the Law Society and it's members arguing there were vast 'legal advice deserts' in Scotland due to lack of legal aid .. fine - open up the legal services markets to wider choice, and make sure there is effective independent regulation of legal services via the new Scottish Legal Complaints Commission .. rather than allowing the Law Society to carve out another role for itself in the future, where it's past sins & injustice against the public, are still awaiting an answer from the Scottish Executive.

To use the election motto of the SNP once more - It's time - time to end injustice in Scotland and time to end the habit of using legality and the law as a lethal weapon to hound & destroy individuals who dispute the course of justice or those who are caught up in injustice at the hands of the legal system.

Serve the public, Mr Justice Secretary & serve Scotland, not the professions, judiciary, or special interests of those who have thrived & profited on the injustice against ordinary people for so long.

Article from the Scotsman follows :

Law Society wants lawyers to tell it about ideas for alternative models

THE chief executive of the Law Society of Scotland has called for leading firms to spell out how they see alternative business structures helping them to compete with their English rivals.

Douglas Mill, its chief executive, urged those firms pressing for "a level playing field" in the post-Clementi era to explain what changes they believe are necessary in the Scottish legal services market.

He told The Scotsman that, while many big firms said they believed change was needed, few were able to tell him exactly what they believed the society should be doing in practical terms to support them.

"The main difficulty we have is that we say to the big firms, yes, of course we will do what we can to ensure you get a level playing field, but what is it that you want?," he says. "But at the moment the big firms are not any more focused than saying we just don't want to be at a competitive disadvantage. So we need to find out what that is."

Mill's comments came in the wake of criticism of the bodies regulating the Scottish legal services market by a senior partner with one of Scotland's big four firms. Alan Campbell, Dundas & Wilson's managing partner of projects, told The Lawyer magazine that the failure to adopt Clementi-style reforms in Scotland could be perceived as "anti-competitive".

But Mill insisted the only reservation the society has towards embracing alternative business structures is in ensuring they could be properly regulated in the public interest. "Our position always has been, 'what's the public interest?'," he says. "The public interest is in being able to properly regulate any new business model.

"We've never had a philosophical difficulty with, for instance, multidisciplinary partnerships except they need to be regulated properly and nobody has shown us the regulatory model."

Renewed debate about the impact of the Clementi reforms on the Scottish marketplace has come as the OFT considers a "super-complaint" from Which? that called for deregulation, arguing the traditional structure of the Scots law firm "hinders innovation, restricts consumer choice and may lead to higher prices".

Yet opinion within the profession about adopting similar reforms to those in England is sharply divided. John MacKinnon, the Law Society of Scotland's president, has already voiced concern about the potential impact of deregulation could have on high street firms if larger competitors cherry-picked the most lucrative work.

One potential solution to protect the interests of smaller firms was recently put forward by Edinburgh-based Turcan Connell. The firm called for non-lawyer advisers to be allowed to become partners in law firms, and joint senior partner Douglas Connell suggested small firms might benefit from economies of scale in joining forces with other professionals, such as accountants.

The issue of alternative business structures was debated at a special event hosted by society at the College of Law in London last week. The event was organised to recognise the fact that a growing number of the society's members practise south of the Border, with English firms, Scots-firms based in England or as inhouse lawyers .

"England and Wales is now our third biggest constituency with 604 members, which is a pretty chunky number for us," explains Mill.

Mill reveals the society plans to hold a major conference on 28 September to debate the issues surrounding alternative business structures. "We are going to be running a big conference, which is still very much at the drawing board, but will be on this very topic."

By then the OFT should have come to a conclusion on what, if any, action to take following the Which? super-complaint.

If reforms are deemed necessary, then Mill says they must be evidence-based to avoid destabilising the market.

"Tinkering about with a £1.2 billion turnover of the legal services market in Scotland is not very sensible if you don't know what you are doing."

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Douglas Mill has had his time.No one listens to him anymore unless he uses a threat.