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SPG may demand postal vote even if Law Society backs ABSs

18 March 2011

The Sole Practitioners Group (SPG) may demand a postal vote of the whole profession even if the Law Society’s ruling council votes in favour of regulating ABSs next week, Solicitors Journal has learned.

Clive Sutton, honorary secretary of the SPG, said that regardless of the outcome at Chancery Lane, there should be a postal ballot on what he called the “commercial ownership” of the profession.

“The society’s attitude is that it is a done deal,” Sutton said. “It’s only a done deal because they made it one, without asking anyone.”

Sutton said the SRA wanted to control ABSs, otherwise they would be controlling only the “rump of solicitors” who remained in traditional law firms.

“ABSs will be so huge and have so much power that the SRA will be helpless to cope with them,” Sutton predicted.

“Professional rules will be replaced by the rules of commercial market. This is all very well when all you’re trying to achieve is a cheap pair of spectacles, but achieving quality of service cannot be related to freeing up the market for opticians.”

Sutton said that under the society’s procedures the earliest a ballot could be held would be the summer.

“A postal vote of the members will not make the government delay or halt implementation of the Legal Services Act,” Sutton said.

“But it would help in any dialogue with the government to say they do not agree with it.”

Sutton said the SPG’s executive committee would meet next week, after the council meeting, to decide whether to press ahead with a postal vote.

He said that although most committee members were against ABSs, the cost of holding a postal ballot, at £70,000, must be taken into account.

“A lot of individual solicitors are opposed to ABS, but the only way to get a true response is to ask every solicitor what they think in their privacy of their own offices.

“I believe that senior people in the Law Society are also against it but the juggernaut has reached such momentum that it can’t be stopped.”

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