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Fewer than half of lawyers expect upturn this year

FEWER than half of Scottish lawyers expect the economy to improve this year, according to research from the Law Society of Scotland.

A poll of more than 500 solicitors, conducted by Ipsos Mori, found only 46% felt there was likely to be an economic upturn in 2014.

There were 37% who believed conditions were likely to stay the same, 10% expected things to get worse while 7% said they did not know what would happen.

The Law Society said the profession's views were more optimistic than the general public where 32% thought things would get better, 37% felt it would plateau and 27% expect it to get worse.

Those working in larger firms were the most optimistic with 54% hopeful of an improvement across the year. That was in comparison to 43% in small high street firms and 42% of lawyers operating in-house for companies. Meanwhile just 35% of those practising legal aid were optimistic about the economy.

Commercial property lawyers were the most optimistic with 69% pencilling in an uptick in activity while domestic property lawyers, at 56%, were also confident.

Others highlighted as positive on prospects were those in employment, taxation and executry work.

Lawyers working in civil and criminal litigation were the least optimistic with 35% of those polled expecting the economy to grow.

On a geographic basis lawyers in Aberdeen and Perth were the most optimistic with 63% expecting better times ahead. In Glasgow 57% were optimistic, it was 49% in Edinburgh and 47% in Inverness. Solicitors in Dundee were the least confident with 40% predicting a rise in economic activity.

Lorna Jack, chief executive of the Law Society, said: "It is encouraging to see almost half the solicitor profession expecting the economy to improve this year, markedly more than the Scottish public as a whole. There is also some particular confidence and optimism in some key sectors, notably for those working in property law and within our larger firms.

"We know the effects of the recession are still being felt and that the further tightening of public budgets is likely to impact further. However there is much to suggest the solicitor profession has been robust in weathering the economic storm."

Ms Jack said the Society has as many practising solicitors as it has ever had and that trainee numbers are recovering from the sharp downturn seen three years ago. Membership is just short of 11,000.

She said the organisation is looking at new ways to support unemployed solicitors and updating its guidance for members on surviving the downturn.

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