You may have worked hard for years, progressing through the ranks from Trainee, to Assistant, to Associate, before finally getting invited to become a Partner. On the other hand, you may be an Assistant who is frustrated at the management of your firm, or simply decided you like the idea of ‘going it alone’. Either way, you are to become a Partner in a law firm. So, what do you need to do from the point of view of your regulatory body? The answer is…very little!

In Scotland, provided you have 3 years unrestricted practice, you require to attend a 1 day mandatory practice management course within a year of becoming a Partner. That’s it! No assessment to pass and no further training, even if you are to set up alone, be responsible for accounts rules compliance, setting up anti-money laundering procedures, or dealing with client complaints etc. In England and Wales, you do not even require to attend such a course, and there is no requirement of being in practice for a certain length of time before becoming a Partner.

Should the regulators require more of a Solicitor who intends to become a Partner? If the regulator is seeking to ensure the protection of clients, should those becoming a Partner require to demonstrate that they understand the responsibilities of their role? Does it depend on whether they are going to be in practice alone? Does it depend on the type of work they are going to do? Does it depend on whether they are going to be responsible for cashroom compliance, or anti-money laundering?

The Law Society of Scotland recently instructed an independent review of the mandatory practice management course and associated practice rules. The report makes for an interesting read. I think that it reaches a sensible conclusion that if there is to be a mandatory course, there should be some sort of assessment to ensure that those who are required to attend, understand what they are being told. Otherwise, it is simply a tick box exercise to say you were there, and whether you engaged in the content or not, is irrelevant. The report also recommends an additional module for those likely to immediately become cashroom partners, or solely responsible for running the business, and refresher modules for all partners in certain areas as part of their CPD cycle (every 3/5 years).

I would welcome any comments / ideas you have, and would encourage Scottish solicitors to respond to the Consultation which is now underway. I think that more guidance on the various responsibilities required of a Partner can only be a good thing, and that some form of assessment ensures that. We do however require to be careful not to make this too onerous, so as to put practitioners off becoming a Partner or setting up their own firm. What do you think?


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