Scottish courts and the law
Scottish courts and the law

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Scottish courts and the law

1 Solicitors

The Law Society of Scotland is the professional body for solicitors. All solicitors must belong to the Law Society and hold a practising certificate, which they must renew annually.

Box 1 The Law Society of Scotland

The Law Society of Scotland is the professional body for over 11,000 Scottish solicitors and was established in 1949. We have an overarching objective of leading legal excellence, and strive to excel and to be a world-class professional body, understanding and serving the needs of our members and the public. We set and uphold standards to ensure the provision of excellent legal services and ensure the public can have confidence in Scotland’s legal profession.

The Law Society also has a statutory duty to work in the public interest, a duty which we are strongly committed to achieving through our work to promote a strong, varied and effective legal profession working in the interests of the public and protecting and promoting the rule of law. We seek to influence the creation of a fairer and more just society through active engagement with the Scottish and United Kingdom governments, parliaments, wider stakeholders and our membership.

(The Law Society of Scotland, n.d.)

Solicitors work either on their own (sole practitioners) or in partnerships. Solicitors can be found in most towns and cities, and anyone can approach a solicitor for advice. Some of the smaller solicitors’ firms advise on a wide range of legal issues and law; others specialise in a specific area of law, for example employment law (these are often referred to as ‘niche firms’). In larger solicitors' firms the solicitors tend to specialise in particular areas of the law.

A solicitor has regular contact with their clients (the person who has approached them for advice) through face-to-face meetings, letters, emails and phone calls. If needed, a solicitor will instruct a solicitor advocate or advocate to give further specialist advice to their client or appear in court on their client’s behalf. Solicitors can represent their clients in the Sheriff Courts, Justice of the Peace Courts, tribunals and inquiries. If the case they are dealing with is in a higher court, solicitors will instruct a solicitor-advocate or an advocate to appear in court to represent their client. The solicitor will prepare the case.

The Law Society of Scotland
Figure 1 The Law Society of Scotland

Watch this video in which Craig McKerracher explores the role and work of solicitors and considers legal change and the role of the legal system.

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Transcript: Solicitors and their work

Craig McKerracher
Solicitors in Scotland perform a variety of roles. Most people will think initially around the role in criminal law, but there is a variety of other roles So people will typically use solicitors when it comes to buying and selling property, if there's a matrimonial dispute-- whether it's a divorce or if there is adoption issues or anything like that-- right through the way to business matters involving corporate and commercial mergers and acquisitions, and setting up of businesses and commercial contracts.
The work of solicitors in Scotland and wider UK and around the world is changing all the time, and a lot of it is changing due to technology. So there's a lot more scope for creation of legal software, which will do a lot of the work which we would call commoditised. So it's volume. It's things that involves a repetitive nature.
Also, the legal landscape is changing. There's a lot more firms who were previously based in England and Wales who are now merging with firms in Scotland. So the requirement for a lot of UK businesses and UK clients is the need for a national presence.
The general concept for law and legal system in Scotland is there needs to be a separation of powers. So on one hand, you have Parliament is there to create the law and enact that into force. And then the secondary role is for law enforcement agencies, such as the police but then also the courts, to play that rule in enforcing the law.
So judges play quite an important role because the requirement for separation of powers ensures that the judiciary is independent. So they shouldn't be swayed by the legislature and what Parliament does. They should take that role in ensuring that they interpret the law and apply it appropriately. Parliament may not at times like what the courts say, but that's what their role is, is to play that policing role alongside law enforcement agencies. And that will apply to private citizens as well, if there is a dispute between private citizens. The courts are there as an independent, if you like, mediator of sorts, to hear both sides' arguments and ultimately make a ruling to decide the outcome.
End transcript: Solicitors and their work
Solicitors and their work
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The training requirements to become a solicitor are set by the Law Society as are the standards they need to attain for professional practice. You can find out more about these on the Law Society of Scotland website [Tip: hold Ctrl and click a link to open it in a new tab. (Hide tip)] .


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