The Friendly Neighbourhood Lawyer North of the Border


The people of Scotland want a closer relationship with their legal system. They want their legal system to serve them in much less formal and expensive ways. Scots want the law down at street level working for them in solving their differences. These are the findings of some new in-depth research by Which? where 1012 individuals were canvassed for their views and the results extrapolated up to the whole of the population of Scotland.

83% of Scots strongly agreed with the idea that legal services ought to be simpler to understand for the common man. 79% agreed with the statement that legal proceedings ought to be more informal, more approachable and more of an everyday nature too.

The pomp and circumstance of high justice is all very well for high crime but 83% of Scots feel minor claims and interpersonal or individual disputes call for much more informal legal services. Problems such as shoddy products or inadequate services do not call for gavels, gowns of silk and wigs. There must be better ways to bring speedy justice to prosaic matters that don’t require the hiring of a lawyer to translate historic Latin texts.

79% of Scots would like to see and have access to more ordinary issue-resolving courts of law where daily matters could be sorted quickly and redress achieved without having to call upon the services of highly paid lawyer.

The Which? research is feeding into the Legal Services Agency conference on civil justice reform held this week, March 15th in Scotland. The Scottish push for accessible law is also in Lord Gill’s proposals of last year.

Which? believes that too many people are put off from seeking help of the law because the law as it stands means going to a formal court process of several hearings. This is unnecessary for more straightforward matters such as consumer and trading disputes. Scottish consumers need a one-stop supermarket style of justice to deal with their consumer affairs.

The Legal Services Bill in Scotland is in the earliest stages of becoming law but these are the later stages of Which’s campaign to make the legal system work for the consumer. The campaign began in May 2007 with a ‘super complaint’ from Which to the Office of Fair Trading over the law in Scotland badly serving the consumer. The OFT upheld this complaint and is also pushing for legal reform to benefit the Scottish consumer.


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