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Domain owner seeks to revolutionise Scottish legal system

‘Monopolistic’ Law Society of Scotland under pressure

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An aggrieved domain name owner has embarked on a campaign to revolutionise the Scottish legal system by ending the Law Society of Scotland’s “monopoly” on legal services.

Tommy Butler - owner of Scottishlawyer.com as well as numerous other high-profile Scottish domains, including Glasgow.com - is hoping to force a change in the law so lawyers will be able to work in the country independently of the Society.

Under current law, any solicitor wishing to practice in Scotland must be a member of the Law Society - a situation in place since the Society was established in 1949. This is unfair, says Mr Butler, and breaks free trade rules.

It seems that the Scottish Executive, Office of Fair Trading and Scottish Consumer Council agree with him. The OFT recently revealed that while it was not able to change Scottish law, it had advocated changes in the law put forward by the Scottish Executive that would allow lawyers not part of the Law Society to provide legal services. In a letter, the OFT continued: “We understand that this, and a range of other regulatory and competition issues in the area of the provision of legal services, are now actively under consideration at the Executive and we will be monitoring progress, and contributing to this where appropriate.”

Meanwhile, the Scottish Consumer Council has formally requested the Law Society review its insurance policy that all Scottish solicitors are required to sign up to. It in turn is backed up by the Scottish Legal Services Ombudsman, Linda Costelloe Baker, who has called the system anti-competitive.

Mr Butler’s approach is to set up a law firm, using ScottishLawyer.com (just a holding page at the moment) to recruit, educate, communicate and campaign against the current position. He is also in a unique legal position to question the Law Society’s legitimacy.

In July last year, the Law Society sued him for ownership of the generic domain Lawscot.co.uk. Determined to defend his corner, Mr Butler was amazed when no Scottish lawyer would take on his case.

In the end, he hired an English lawyer who hired a Scottish lawyer to speak for them in court. This situation fell apart on the first day of the trial however when the England lawyer failed to turn up, the Scottish lawyer withdrew and Mr Butler - a businessman with limited legal knowledge - was pressured to represent himself against the foremost legal minds in the country. He declined.

Despite the Society eventually paying Mr Butler £10,000 for the domain, the case still rumbles on. He refused to pay his English lawyer’s fees and has been back in court twice. The case has reached a stalemate however with Mr Butler arguing he is not legally qualified to enter into aspects of the case but no lawyer willing to represent him in a case against its own Society.

The presiding Sherriff in the case noted that a change in law would be required for Mr Butler to get a lawyer without an alleged conflict of interests. And that is what Mr Butler intends to achieve. ®

Related link
Scottish Lawyer.com (just a holding page at the moment)

Related stories
Law Society of Scotland buys 'cybersquatter' domain (redux)
Law Society of Scotland pays £10K to 'cybersquatter' for domain
Lawscot domain dispute gets to court
Lawscot.co.uk domain dispute continues
Court freezes lawscot.co.uk, owner claims unfair trial

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