SCOTLAND’S lawyers have been urged to report violent attacks by clients in an anonymous survey commissioned by the Law Society of Scotland following a brutal and targeted attack on a solicitor outside Glasgow Sheriff Court.

Joseph Shields was slashed across the face and body and his injuries were so severe he will be scarred for life. The 63-year-old criminal defence lawyer, who is a partner at Glasgow firm Gallen and Co, has yet to return to work.

This week the Law Society of Scotland launched a survey of legal professionals which will ask them to detail “incidents of violent or threatening behaviour” amid growing concerns about an increase in attacks.

Chief executive Lorna Jack said: “It is essential that people are safe while doing their jobs. Solicitors help people, often at extremely difficult times in their lives, and it’s important they can do this without fear or favour.

“This survey is completely anonymous and will help us to build a more comprehensive understanding of the risks faced by the Scottish legal community. I would encourage members of the profession to take part and share their experiences.”

A spokeswoman for the society added: "There was a recent, very shocking attack on one of our members and the survey will help us find out if violent or threatening behaviour or communication is an issue affecting the profession more widely."

Shields, who is married to Sheriff Mary McCrory, was approached from behind as he walked along Carlton Place in Glasgow around 6.30pm on July 19.

He was stabbed repeatedly in the head and body before the assailant, who was wearing a grey hoodie, made off in a white getaway car. Shields underwent emergency surgery, but police said he will be “left scarred for life”.

Det Insp John Morrison said Shields was the “intended target” of the “frankly terrifying” attack.

Morrison added: “It is important that we trace the person responsible as soon as possible. He is dangerous and must be caught.”

Shields has defended underworld figures and police have been trawling his files to identify suspects, however Police Scotland confirmed last night no one has been arrested.

The Law Society survey was launched on August 13, a month after the attack on Shields.

“I’d be surprised if it wasn’t connected,” said Matthew Berlow, a Glasgow-based criminal defence lawyer. “There is a sense of increased danger. There seems to be a lot more people with mental health difficulties getting involved in the criminal justice system, and there are hairy moments.

“Couple that with the fact there is much less respect for lawyers from the neddy types and the gangster types – it’s a perfect storm.

“The stakes higher. They are shooting and killing each other. They’ve no respect for human life, so there’s no reason why they would care about lawyers. That’s not to say I’m afraid. I’m not afraid. But there have been far more hairy moments in recent years.”

Another Glasgow-based criminal defence lawyer, who asked not to be named, said they know of “several” lawyers who have been threatened and assaulted.

“Nothing is ever really done about it,” said the lawyer. “I don’t know of one lawyer who has made a report when assaulted or abused by a client."

He added: “It does seem to me that in general criminal defence lawyers are not treated well by society and the valuable role we perform in the criminal justice system is not recognised or appreciated, as it is with prosecutors, police and the judiciary.”

Human rights lawyer Aamer Anwar welcomed the Law Society survey. He and his staff regularly deal with threats and abuse.

“Violence and abuse of lawyers is a problem that many who work in the field of criminal law and family law face on a daily basis,” he said. “On several occasions over the years I have been threatened by a client or their families. I should have called the police but it’s not in our nature to do that for our clients who likely to be vulnerable or have mental health or addiction issues.”

Anwar said taking on high profile cases – he has acted for the family of Lockerbie bomber Abdelbaset Al-Megrahi and Jihadi bride Aqsa Mahmood – has led to “death threats and verbal abuse”.

He said: “It can be a terrifying experience especially when the police come to tell you that your life is at risk because of some unknown individual. Such an experience debilitates you, you worry each time you pick up the phone or walk down the street. Often the threat of the unknown can be worse than the actual assault.”

Anwar said women who work in the legal profession are even more vulnerable, with sexual threats commonplace.

The survey will also gather data on pay, work life balance and take views on the future of the profession.

Berlow is pessimistic, pointing to real terms cuts in legal aid, a fund which provides legal support to those that can’t afford to pay fees and has remained at £126.1m over the last three years.

Berlow said: “We’re expected to do a lot more work now for a lot less money, and that coupled with the increase in danger and threat to security make us feel increasingly vulnerable."

A spokeswoman for Police Scotland said there have been no arrests in connection with the attack on Shields and “enquiries are continuing”.

Shields’ firm, Gallen and Co, declined to comment.