Leading Lawyer Says Legal Services Bill Reforms ‘Will Benefit Consumers’

Legal Services Bill

01.10.2009

01/10/2009

A leading Glasgow-based lawyer has welcomed the introduction of the Legal Services Bill today by the Scottish Government and says the proposed reforms will change the legal landscape north of the border to the benefit of consumers.

Mark Higgins, from national law firm Irwin Mitchell, said the de-regulated system the Bill would create could see some of Britain's biggest brands entering the legal marketplace and would improve the access to justice for thousands of Scots across a range of legal services.

The Bill will allow non-lawyers to become Partners in law firms, open the way for outside investment and also offer major organisations such as banks, supermarkets and big insurance companies to offer a full range of legal services for the first time.

Scotland will have "licensed legal services providers" and outside investors will be required to demonstrate "fitness for involvement", with their financial and business record, probity and character all assessed.

And Higgins, a Partner in Irwin Mitchell’s market-leading Insurance, Lending and Recoveries division based at the firm's Glasgow offices, said all law firms would need to adjust quickly to the changes in Scotland and similar changes in England and Wales.

"The legal industry faces significant change and challenges through the Legal Services Bill which looks set to radically change the legal market landscape in Scotland. The very same changes are happening in England & Wales through similar legislation." he said.

"These legal changes will undoubtedly, for the first time, see the entry to the legal market of well known institutional brands which will offer new choice to the consumer, which has to be a good thing. It will also increase their access to justice, which again would be a very positive step for consumers. Benefits are likely to include much greater out of hours access to lawyers and the ability to purchase legal services in much more convenient locations.

"Organisations like Irwin Mitchell, who already provide legal services to virtually every major financial institution in the UK, will see this as an opportunity and make it work and that’s why we have always been highly supportive of the drive for change within the legal profession, in Scotland and south of the border too.

"The legal market post de-regulation will mean law firms having to modernise and become more forward thinking. And firms will also need to be much more consumer-focused as new entrants, including some of the biggest brands in the country, begin to offer legal services, either themselves or through existing firms like us."

Higgins, whose firm already works with major household names to help their customers access legal services, said Irwin Mitchell would look to continue those relationships and develop new ones.

"We have a strong belief that we can not only maintain our strong market position but significantly increase it," he said, adding that new competition entering the market would see the traditional image of lawyers changing fast

"For those who haven't already, law firms will have to move beyond the old image. The key will be to deliver a service that is up there with the very best in consumer services and about moving beyond the old image of lawyers.

"That's been our aim for some time now but it will vital for all firms in the new legal marketplace. They, like us, will have to strive to stay ahead and be as good as other industries in delivering a world class consumer service to the people who matter the most – our clients."