By Kristy Dorsey

The UK’s competition watchdog has warned that lawyers in Scotland “may not currently be delivering good outcomes for people” in critical situations such as a home purchase or divorce.

That conclusion follows nine months of research into the sector by the Competition and Markets Authority (CMA), which is recommending the introduction of an independent regulator to ensure clients get better value for money. The CMA is also proposing that a review be carried out by the Law Society of Scotland into existing guidance on price and service transparency.

The CMA noted that complaints about legal services have been increasing, while there is also a lack of competition and transparency over prices. This is a barrier to consumers shopping around and a disincentive for legal firms to “compete vigorously”.

CMA chief executive Andrea Coscelli said the watchdog is urging the Scottish Government to implement the recommendations promptly, but also recognised the current challenges amid the Covid-19 pandemic.

“You might not need a lawyer very often but when you do it will often be at a crucial point in your life, so addressing regulatory and competition shortcomings will make a real difference,” Mr Coscelli said.

John Mulholland, president of the Law Society of Scotland, said the group’s current top priority is to support solicitors and their clients through the challenges of the Covid-19 pandemic.

Some of the recommendations on price transparency involve actions the society is already committed to taking forward “at the appropriate time”. Mr Mulholland added that the call for a new regulatory body came as “no surprise”.

“However, at this of all times, we must avoid creating complicated new structures which add little benefit and only serve to build in extra costs for legal firms,” he said.