The Legal Services Board (LSB) has asked its consumer panel to provide advice on what characteristics voluntary quality schemes need to have to give consumers confidence that they are a “robust and reliable indicator of a good-quality legal services provider”.
The panel will also use these characteristics to assess a selection of existing schemes.
The request follows on from the panel’s work on quality schemes , published last November, which found that consumers do not generally use quality marks when choosing a lawyer. However, LSB chief executive Chris Kenny said the board recognised that the existing schemes may provide reassurance to bulk and institutional clients, as well as “enhance the quality of provision in some areas of the legal services market”.
Up to speed
The College of Law is to offer its accelerated legal practice course (LPC) to all students from January 2012. It will be seven months long instead of 10 and allow two specialisms: corporate law or commercial and private law. Currently it is only available to future trainees of City firms Allen & Overy, Baker & McKenzie, Clifford Chance and Linklaters. The accelerated course is identical to the content of the usual LPC but is condensed into a shorter timeframe.
Big in Korea
The Law Society has welcomed the European Parliament’s support for a free trade agreement between the European Union and South Korea, which will see the legal market open up from 1 July. The society has been lobbying for liberalisation for the past five years.
The first stage of reform will see solicitors and other EU law firms able to establish a branch office to offer advice in foreign and international law. The second stage – to begin no later than two years later – permits a foreign law firm to share fees with a Korean law firm. The third stage – to begin no later than five years later – will permit Korean and foreign lawyers to go into partnership together and allow foreign law firms to employ Korean lawyers.
A bid to reach a similar agreement between Korea and the US has stalled, giving EU lawyers an advantage over their American competitors, the society said.
The European Court of Justice has found against six member states which had restricted access to the notary profession to their own nationals.
In cases relating to Belgium, France, Luxembourg, Austria, Germany and Greece the court said the activities of notaries were not connected with the exercise of official authority under the EC Treaty, so were not exempted from the rules on freedom of establishment.
It also ruled that, apart from France, the countries plus Portugal have failed to apply the European directive on recognition of professional qualifications to notaries.
The Law Society has been granted permission to intervene in a Supreme Court appeal by Prudential  against a Court of Appeal decision that confirmed legal professional privilege (LPP) applies only to qualified lawyers and not to accountants’ tax law advice.
Law Society president Linda Lee warned that if LPP was extended it could create uncertainty. “We believe that if LPP is to be used on a wider basis, it is up to Parliament to legislate to that effect,” she said.
Criminal silk Maura McGowan QC has been elected vice-chairman of the Bar Council for 2012, alongside Michael Todd QC, who will be the chairman. Ms McGowan was called to the Bar in 1980 and appointed QC in 2001. Also called to the Irish Bar, she practises at 2 Bedford Row in London and Lincoln House Chambers in Manchester.
Deborah Evans, who was chief executive of the now defunct Legal Complaints Service, has been appointed the new CEO of the Association of Personal Injury Lawyers. She joins the association next week.
200 up for CQS
More than 200 law firms have now been accredited under the Law Society’s Conveyancing Quality Scheme (CQS), with a further 750 applications to be assessed.
The society’s chief executive, Des Hudson, admitted that he did not know for sure whether CQS will be a factor in this year’s professional indemnity insurance renewals for conveyancing firms, “firms need to ask themselves whether it is worth the risk” in not seeking it.
Propping up the Bar
A specialist consultancy aimed at helping barristers’ chambers to compete in a post-alternative business structure (ABS) world has been launched. The Bar Consultancy Network is an offshoot of the established law firm management consultants, The Law Consultancy Network. Its goals include to help chambers understand how law firms operate and to create structures — probably in partnership with solicitors — that will help them compete for work.
On the charge
Nearly half of solicitors surveyed by a probate property management company admitted they had little idea of how ABSs might affect how they charge for legal services. But a third said they expected to charge after October much as they do now. The company, Move with Us, polled 70 solicitors.
The Bar Standards Board is proposing changes to its code of conduct to remove distinctions based on where work is undertaken and where instructions emanate from, in order to simplify matters for barristers doing international work. It says the existing rules give rise to “various anomalies and uncertainties”. A consultation  on the proposals ends on 29 August 2011.
SRA on the web
The Solicitors Regulation Authority is to host seven webinars  on the changes due to take place in October: ABSs and outcomes-focused regulation. Starting on 23 June and running until 14 September, the online seminars will cover subjects including implementing the new handbook, the SRA’s approach to authorisation, relationship management, supervision, managing risk, and the role of compliance officers.