Background to Senscot Legal Services
Senscot, since its launch in 1999, has played a lead role in the development of Scotland’s social enterprise community. Our electronic bulletin, circulated to four thousand contacts, is the sector’s main connector – and we are directly engaged with regional and thematic Networks of front line social businesses. Another Senscot activity is to conceive and incubate new mechanisms to continually develop our sector: new initiatives are identified in dialogue with social enterprise practitioners.
In September 2009, Senscot conducted a survey specifically to gauge member’s perceptions of mainstream professional legal services available to Scotland’s third sector. Around 100 social enterprises responded. From this survey, and other research, we found considerable dissatisfaction – in relation to two main themes: excessive fees and the lack of general understanding about the culture and practice of our sector.
Further investigation showed these problems to be linked – in that those firms large enough to support a dedicated third sector practice, also carry partners whose large salaries absorb around one third of all fee income. Senscot believes that there is a market gap for a legal practice, itself a social enterprise, offering specialist knowledge of our sector at affordable rates. The option of creating such a business is made possible by a proposed change in the law, expected later this year, whereby directorship of legal practices will become available to non lawyers. In anticipation of this legislation, Senscot will create a subsidiary – Senscot Legal Services (SLS) – a new social enterprise.
We have raised £90k investment capital and are now seeking to recruit a lead solicitor. SLS has four key objectives:
• To offer a wide range of quality legal services tailored for third sector organisations in Scotland.
• To create a specialist centre of legal expertise to support the development of the social enterprise movement in Scotland.
• To make quality legal services available across our sector, having regard to the ability to pay.
• To contribute to the long term sustainability of Senscot.
SLS will be located in Bath St Glasgow with an initial staffing compliment of lead solicitor and paralegal secretary. Our research indicates that our constituency purchases a wide range of legal services including: contracting, governance, company structure, employment, property, litigation etc. Offering this range during the initial stage will involve a pool of ‘friendly’ solicitors with different specialisms.
It is intended that the service will evolve into a fully fledged legal practice should the
the alternative business structures (ABSs) in Scotland be introduced as proposed in the Legal Services (Scotland) Bill.
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