Investment and support to help UK firms lead development of technology including robotics and artificial intelligence (AI), confirmed in today’s (8 March) Budget, will provide welcome support in the fast-changing legal sector, the Law Society of England and Wales said.

“Solicitors are embracing technology as it fundamentally reshapes the way the legal sector works, as our recent report on Capturing Technological Innovation in Legal Services showed,” said Law Society president Robert Bourns.

“Increased investment in innovation will help solicitors continue to lead the world in the way they work and the services they can offer their clients.”

On proposals to sanction professionals who enable tax avoidance schemes later overturned by HM Revenue and Customs (HMRC), the Law Society repeated warnings that a desire to tackle abuse of the tax system must not result in solicitors being penalised for advising clients in good faith on their tax liability.

“The Law Society understands the government’s desire to prevent people abusing the tax system through tax evasion and aggressive tax avoidance,” said Robert Bourns. 

“However, everyone loses if these measures stop taxpayers receiving proper legal advice on their tax obligations.

“Our experts have had a productive and ongoing dialogue with HMRC, and we will continue to advocate for a final law that ensures access to legal advice is properly protected.”

On changes to the business rates, Robert Bourns said: “We know that some of our members are likely to be adversely affected by these measures. We will be looking at the proposals and also at any plans to ameliorate their impact.

“While we must all pay our fair share to support the public services we enjoy, care must be taken to ensure the burden doesn’t land disproportionately on small and medium enterprises.”

On the delay in introducing changes to the filing and payment of Stamp Duty Land Tax (SDLT):

“The Law Society did not raise many concerns with the reduction of the filing and payment window for SDLT, but the delay in its implementation will be welcomed by many conveyancing solicitors, as it will give them more time to ensure they are familiar with the changes and are ready to meet shorter deadlines.”