The Law Society is to launch a new ‘quality and standards in education’ committee, after a year in which its training arrangements have come under sustained pressure.
It is also investigating whether to reintroduce student membership and has issued guidance on when law firms should tell trainees whether they have a job post admission.
On Monday we reported that the society has been forced to withdraw from an exclusive deal to endorse a training partner for the qualified lawyers transfer scheme after facing a judicial review from another provider.
It follows last May’s decision of the Competition Appeal Tribunal that the society was guilty of an abuse of a dominant position over training arrangements for the Conveyancing Quality Scheme (CQS) and November’s ruling by the Advertising Standards Authority that its marketing of the CQS was misleading.
However, a Law Society spokesman insisted that the decision to form the new committee was not as a result of this.
According to papers before last month’s meeting of the Law Society’s council, the new committee’s purpose would be “to oversee all aspects of quality and standards associated with the society’s education, training and accreditations”.
It will be made up of legal and non-legally qualified professionals, including a council member, a Junior Lawyers Division or student member representative and an independent chair.
The possibility of reintroducing a Law Society student membership is also under scrutiny, with the next stage of work looking at any constitutional issues, the detail of the member offer for students, consider the potential income and costs and who would be eligible to join as a student member.
The plan is to put a proposal to the council before the summer.
The papers also showed that the society is working on a redesign of its logo and brand. “This was needed to make it fit for purpose in the digital age. There was no intention to make any changes to the official Law Society crest.”
Separately, the Law Society has issued guidance that recommends to employers that trainee solicitors should be told about whether they have a job no later than eight weeks prior to their expected admission date. They should also be told when that decision would be made no later than 12 weeks before admission.
“In the event that an employer is unable to provide [this information] within the recommended timeframe, the employer should inform the trainee that they are unable to do so and, where possible, provide reasonable information as to why it is not possible at that time.”
In other Law Society news, the society has established a working group to consider what guidance it should give conveyancers in the wake of September’s First-tier Tax Tribunal decision in Brabners v HMRC which held that the fees of electronic local authority property searches the firm procured from an agency should not have been treated as disbursements and were subject to VAT.
In a statement issued this week, the society said: “While the decision of the First-tier Tribunal is not binding on any other tribunal or court, the decision has resulted in uncertainty for members and search providers who are seeking clarity on the correct VAT treatment of electronic property searches.
“In order to address this in a meaningful way which takes into account the views of our members, the society is establishing a working group to assist in providing updated guidance to the profession in respect of the VAT treatment of disbursements.
“In the meantime, in the absence of any binding adjudicated decision on the subject, we suggest that firms follow HMRC’s published guidance on the treatment of searches.”