SOLICITORS' complaints over the Attorney-General's plans for reform of the legal profession have drowned out the sighs of relief from the Bar. He has decided to abolish solicitors' conveyancing scale fees, but has put off a decision on their rights of audience in the High Court. That is a pity. Barristers have been spared the most minor curtailment of their monopoly, while Jeremy Mathews seeks comparisons overseas and conducts a public opinion poll. His move shows all the hallmarks of a delaying tactic. The results of a public opinion poll will depend on the questions asked. Ask the man in the street if he supports a strong and independent Bar and he will answer in the affirmative. Ask if he believes experienced and qualified solicitors should appear in higher courts - thus saving the client the cost of hiring a separate barrister - he will give a similarly positive answer. Comparisons overseas can also be used to prove whatever the Government sets out to prove. Jurisdictions which make no distinction between solicitors and barristers still thriving. Systems where barristers still have exclusive rights of audience will happily argue for the maintenance of the status quo. There are strong arguments in favour of an independent Bar, not least that it is said to be less susceptible to political pressure than solicitors' firms. But that does not justify a monopoly on advocacy. Solicitors with years of litigation experience in the lower courts may want to appear in the High Court. But that should not spell the end of the independent Bar. Many solicitors' firms would prefer to use an independent barrister rather than maintain costly specialist advocacy expertise. The Law Society, meanwhile, continues to plead for the wholly indefensible system of scale fees, instead of counting its lucky stars the Government did not decide to do away with the solicitors' monopoly on conveyancing. Scale fees would soon disappear in the face of cheaper competition. It is not, as the lawyers claim, the high fees which ensure low rates of indemnity claims for shoddy conveyancing work, but the integrity and professionalism of those involved. Strict codes of practice are a better device for protecting the consumer than strictly fixed prices. Both branches of the profession could do with greater exposure to the disciplines of the market.