CEO’s closing remarks
In common with others, we are seeing inflationary pressures mount. This has implications for our organisation and work, the sector we work in, and on a very personal level for people – those using our service, lawyers and our own staff. We expect much of what we do in the coming year will need to consider this in some way. We also see complaint numbers rising rapidly, following two years of lower complaints incoming during lockdown periods.
There are significant opportunities ahead, but this gives an overall position of uncertainty, making definite planning much harder. Issues include:
- The first new licensed providers may be licensed by the Law Society of Scotland, but we do not know what these businesses may look like (small firms or larger multinationals), nor the number of businesses which may come forward in the first year and how this may relate to complaints
- We now have a firm commitment to legislative change starting in 2023, but we don’t yet know what this will look like in detail, nor the timetable for implementation
- Changes to our legislation through statutory instrument continued to be discussed, but we are aware decisions may need to be made on progressing these changes when fuller reform will shortly be underway.
Reform has the potential to create a simpler, more streamlined and more efficient complaints system. It could see a system more aligned to international best practice in terms of the long-established Better Regulation Principles, the Consumer Principles and Venice Principles (which covers what an effective ombudsman should look like). We may also see a process where better customer journeys can be created, perhaps even without a single complaint being dealt with by multiple statutory bodies, through different processes, and applying different legal standards.
There is also the potential that each of these areas adds complexity or cost rather than removing it. Layering more legislation on top of existing legislation did not work in 2007 or 2010, and although these were billed as changes which would reduce overall regulatory burden the opposite has proven true. We need to see reform that takes detailed process prescription out of the legislation altogether.
Alongside these are other areas of change:
- Our property needs have changed, and it may be within the coming year we apply to the Minister for permission to move property
- The Minister will also appoint a new Chair of the SLCC, and a new Chair will often bring new thinking and ideas.
The SLCC will continue to advocate for the changes we believe will improve the legal complaints and regulation system for those who use legal services and those subject to it. Many of these decisions are not for us, and we must prepare for all outcomes, preparing for the best as well as ongoing uncertainty or outcomes which add to cost and complexity. That said, I believe our positive focus on improvement, innovation and agility places us well to seize opportunities from all of the above wherever possible. We will do all we can to make sure there are successes to report next year.