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Law Society Council member joins criticism of Chancery Lane over charging

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A Law Society Council member for local government has criticised Chancery Lane for failing to support the lifting of restrictions on local authority solicitors’ ability to charge for legal services.

Writing in Local Government Lawyer, Maria Memoli said she was “deeply disappointed” at the Law Society’s response to the SRA’s red tape initiative consultation.

Chancery Lane has questioned the regulator’s plan to amend rule 4.15 of the Practice Framework Rules and allow local government solicitors to charge charities “whose objects relate wholly or partly” to their employer council’s area.

Any such plan should be “signficantly limited”, it argued, with consideration given to the precise terms of its provisions.

In her article, which can be read here, Memoli said the Law Society’s position had remained unchanged since, in August 2011, she first raised the issue of the SRA Conduct Rules for in-house lawyers conflicting with local government statutory powers to charge for legal services.

“[The response] demonstrates a continued attitude of protectionism by the Law Society towards one section of the profession with a disregard for another,” she said.

Memoli highlighted the widening of local government powers and the changes brought in by the Localism Act 2011.

Pointing to the Legal Services Board’s comments that legal services should be free to innovate and develop new approaches, she added: “I implore the Law Society, and the SRA, to embrace this in spirit and attitude to ensure a level playing field among all those it represents, and regulates, and not to distort the legal services market. There is plenty of legal work to go round the entire profession.”

Memoli joins the Association of Council Secretaries and Solicitors and Kent County Council Director of Governance & Law Geoff Wild, amongst others, in criticising the Law Society’s response.

The Law Society has justified its stance by arguing that the reforms would put local government lawyers at an advantage over private practice. Provision of services in this way could be achieved if the organisation in which solicitors worked became an alternative business structure, it added.