The Solicitor Sole Practitioners Group (SPG) could decide tomorrow whether to seek a special general meeting of the Law Society that would authorise a profession-wide poll on solicitors’ opposition to alternative business structures (ABSs).
Clive Sutton, the group’s honorary secretary and a prime mover behind the SGM idea, said his primary reason for exploring the option – which was first revealed by Legal Futures earlier this month – is because he has discovered that the Law Society council has not had a full and proper consideration of whether to support ABSs since 2002, when they were not being contemplated in the form coming in later this year.
The council is deciding today whether to approve the Solicitors Regulation Authority’s application to become an ABS regulator and the SPG’s council members are likely to vote against, he said. Mr Sutton said the decision on whether to call the SGM will be made “soon”, and possibly, but by no means definitely, at tomorrow’s meeting of the SPG’s executive committee.
He said: “ABS is inherently wrong and the inevitable commercialisation of the provision of legal services will not be in the long-term interests of clients or society. There is no demand for this from the public generally but only from those commercial organisations which seek to increase their profits from involvement with ABS.”
It is “ridiculous” to equate delivering legal services with “the provision of cheap spectacles”, Mr Sutton said. By damaging the law, ABSs would “gnaw away at one leg of the [British] constitution”. He also pointed to the lack of international support for ABSs.
He argued that while a vote by solicitors against ABSs would not on its own convince the government to reconsider their introduction, “it would be very persuasive of the views of individual lawyers”.
A vote would also ensure that “those members of the profession who up to now have little knowledge of ABS will be made aware of its implications”, and give the SPG greater strength in its lobbying activity, he added.
Mr Sutton said that those local law societies which had responded to a recent letter he sent out supported the SPG’s position.