Neil Stevenson: Beneath the tweets

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OUR monthly column from Law Society of Scotland director Neil Stevenson explains the stories behind some of his tweets

#fail for clients with #legalexpenseinsurance

Firms have been contacting the society complaining that legal costs insurance providers insist they use a solicitor nominated from their own panel rather than using the client’s solicitor of choice once a dispute reaches the litigation stage. This breaches EU directives and is an area where the former Financial Services Authority (FSA) took action. It is clients who suffer the detriment of not being able to pick who takes their case, especially where they have formed a relationship with their lawyer in earlier stages of a dispute – something that can be especially important for more vulnerable clients. We’re keen to hear from solicitors who may have come across this, so we can continue to press the relevant bodies for this issue to be addressed.

Discussing Ubuntu with @cla_lawyers

Today is the start of the 18th Commonwealth Law Association Conference in Cape Town. Its theme is Common Challenges – Common Solutions: Commonwealth, Commerce and Ubuntu. Ubuntu is a dominant philosophy in many African nations. A leading South African judge noted: “Ubuntu is recognised as an important source of law in the context of strained/broken relationships among individuals or communities and as an aid … to more mutually acceptable remedies”. It emphasises solutions such as mediation. Scotland hosts the next event, in Glasgow in 2015. Ubuntu may be relevant to the challenges of increasingly fragmented communities and their links to crime and blame cultures here.

More #protestforjustice as court closures loom

Last week proposed court closures were announced, as part of significant Scottish Court Service cost-cutting measures, along with the slashing of capital budgets to £4million per annum. A figure so small to manage essential repairs, IT investment and access improvements to the court estate is pitiful, dwarfed by the £20m (over three years) it was estimated it took not so long ago to renovate the home of civil servants running the Justice Department in St Andrews House. Apparently that office is worth more to Scottish society than the whole courts infrastructure. Our network of often Victorian buildings is suffering after years of underinvestment and has been criticised for the level of access to disabled people. I can well understand why new schools, hospitals, and extensions to their parliament building are being prioritised by politicians, but the lack of funds for courts will bite us all when buildings and service deteriorate to such an extent they are no longer sustainable.

#e-sign here

WORK by @lawscot and @RoStweets may soon enable e-conveyancing. The Land Registration etc (Scotland) Act 2012 will introduce arrangements allowing the full conveyancing process to be carried out electronically, through use of an electronic signature. Ministers expect to approve the details required under the act later in the year. The society is considering proposals that could eventually lead to all solicitors being issued with a “smart card practising certificate”, replacing the paper version issued annually since the society’s creation. The card would also provide photo ID, replacing current “prison visit” cards. Solicitors should look out for the consultation from government on the standards and security behind the digital signature. Once introduced, this will have other uses in speeding transactions and improving security around client data.

• Neil Stevenson regularly tweets (@StevensonLaw) with his personal views on issues in the legal sector. Follow all The Scotsman’s legal news on Twitter @scotsmanlaw

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