Monday, February 04, 2008

Solicitors celebrate passing WS Society exam as MacAskill blocks all non solicitor entry to the legal services market

It's alright for some, as solicitors celebrate passing the new accreditation tests from the WS Society but the Justice Secretary and the Lord President continue to ban any non solicitors from entering the legal services markets - on various pretexts arising from old monopolistic habits of the past, very hard to break ...

The Scotsman reports :

Six solicitors celebrate after passing the new test set by the WS Society


YOUNG solicitors from some of Scotland's leading law firms are celebrating their success in the first phase of the WS Society's new accreditation scheme.

The Signet Accreditation was introduced last year, aimed at up-and-coming solicitors with around six years' experience, initially in the fields of commercial property and litigation.

Designed to complement rather than compete with the Law Society of Scotland's existing peer-review system of accrediting specialists, the scheme requires lawyers to complete a rigorous assessment, including a mock client interview and a written examination. Lord Cullen of Whitekirk, the former Lord President, who chairs the Signet Accreditation board, says the scheme encourages young solicitors to improve their performance and their service to clients.

"In recent years there has been increasing interest in the standards for the legal profession," he says. "The launch of the Signet Accreditation coincides with a wider recognition of the need for more focus on ongoing professional development and assessment of lawyers' skills, particularly in practical application.The scheme provides for external assessment designed to replicate the pressures of modern legal practice.

"It is about promoting improvements in the delivery of service to clients.

"It gives solicitors the incentive to raise their performance, and consumers the ability to recognise those who have established their proficiency."

Candidates who have passed the assessment can now style themselves as "Signet Accredited" and use a distinctive logo. Further practice areas for accreditation will be introduced later this year, including in-house law and corporate business law.

The successful candidates in commercial property were Cassie Ingle and Jake Loudon of Dundas & Wilson, Jennifer Laurie from Biggart Baillie, and Anderson Strathern's Jill Turnbull.

Two candidates – Laura Crilly, a senior solicitor with McGrigors, and Alisdair Matheson, an associate with Brodies – were accredited in the commercial litigation field. Matheson says the assessment had been robust but worth it, as it simulated the challenges that solicitors face in their work.

"It was pretty challenging from start to end," he says. "There were client interviews as well as a pretty tough exam that you couldn't cram for."

While not all candidates who put themselves forward passed, Lionel Most, a partner with Burness and a member of the committee overseeing the commercial property assessment, says he has been very impressed by the overall standard.

"I thought the calibre was excellent," he says. What I found interesting about the whole test was that it was not a test of the law– it was very client-focused.

"You needed the legal base, but it was about how you deal with a problem and how you presented solutions. The candidates came up with different solutions in some cases, but they were all perfectly valid."

Iain Doran, head of commercial property at Dundas & Wilson, says the firm was delighted that two of its solicitors had passed.

"This accreditation is testament to the talent of both Cassie and Jake and it's a great accolade for them to have been recognised in this way," he says. "There are a lot of first-class young lawyers in Scotland doing some very good work, and this new accreditation is a superb way of highlighting those who have not only sound legal knowledge, but also the business nous and commitment to client service to become the legal stars of the future."

Commercial property committee members who are now accredited ex-officio are: Susan Lindgren (Tods Murray); Colin MacLaren (Paull & Williamsons); Iain Macniven (Maclay Murray & Spens); Lionel Most (Burness); Professor Roderick Paisley (Aberdeen University); Vivienne Stuart (Biggart Baillie); and Amber Thomson (Dundas & Wilson).

The commercial litigation committee members are: Jim Cormack of McGrigors; Joyce Cullen of Brodies; Alison Gow of Semple Fraser; Robert McDonald of Stronachs; Philip Rodney of Burness; and Sheila Webster of Bell & Scott.

For more information about the WS Society's scheme, visit and, for more details about the Writers to the Signet, visit

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