Council reports 2016

Council Meeting, 26 August 2016

Annual plan and budget

Ten major projects and 32 actions are included in the Society’s draft annual plan for next year.

The 2016/17 plan is the second since publication of the ambitious five-year strategy, Leading Legal Excellence.

Council members heard that the number of actions was an increase of five on the current year. The major projects will be monitored by the Board on a monthly basis.

Key actions highlighted to the Council included:

  • improving performance as the designated anti-money laundering regulator for the Scottish legal sector
  • improving induction training for Council and committee members
  • improving CPD offered to members
  • establishing a secure, online committee portal system to allow more paperless working
  • the launch and future work of the Public Policy Committee

The Council approved the proposed plan, which will take effect from 1 November.

The Society’s draft budget for 2016/17 was considered by Council members. It shows an operating surplus of £3,000.

Marketing strategy and engagement plan

Providing better services and value for money were among the issues included in a draft marketing strategy and engagement plan considered by the Council.

Council members were given a presentation by the Society’s Executive Director of Member Services and Engagement, Aileen Caskie.

Issues highlighted included:

  • better serving members and their organisations
  • offering tailored services to provide better value for the Society’s members and their businesses
  • growing non-core revenue and the Society’s membership

A discussion among Council members raised issues such as improving CPD and e-learning, listings on the Find a Solicitor facility on the website and developing new membership categories for the Society.

Council members

The new Convener of the In-house Lawyers Committee (ILC) was welcomed to the Council.

Intellectual property and IT solicitor Graeme McWilliams was co-opted on to the Council due to winning the ILC convenership election last month.

Graeme, who previously worked in private practice, currently manages Standard Life’s intellectual property portfolio.

Former president

Sympathies were expressed to the family, friends and former colleagues of former Society President, John Smith, who was known as Jock.

Jock held the presidency in 1987/88, steering the Society through a “period of immense change”, which included the first advertising rules for the profession and the establishment of the Legal Aid Board in Scotland.

The Council heard that, following his death last month, a number of former presidents attended his funeral, which highlighted Jock’s long and close association with the Society.

Council Meeting, 24 June 2016

EU referendum

The Society will keep members informed about the implications of the referendum vote to leave the European Union, the Council heard.

In welcoming members to the Council meeting, the President, Eilidh Wiseman, said she would write to all members about the vote. She added that the Chief Executive, Lorna Jack, had contacted Society staff, including those working in the Brussels office.

Eilidh said that consideration may be given to establishing a Society working party to look into the issue in more detail.

She later described the vote as the start of “monumental change for the UK and our relationship with the rest of Europe”, adding that full effects were not yet known.

She added that the Society would continue to monitor the issue as negotiations took place with the EU, keeping members informed throughout to ensure they can properly advise their clients.

The Society has published a referendum discussion paper, which highlights a number of areas where the law would have to change following withdrawal from the EU, and also a series of Q&As.

Governance Working Party

The final report of the Society’s Governance Working Party was considered by Council members.

The working party, which was set up in autumn 2015, considered:

  • the Society’s governance arrangements, including the establishment of a new Public Policy Committee
  • the remit of the Council
  • the roles of Council members, the Board and Board members, the president and vice president
  • induction training for Council members

The arrangements were described as principally a “tidying up” exercise. A proposal that all Council members should serve on at least two committees or working parties during their three-year term was debated and will now be considered in more detail.

Subject to some minor changes, the Council approved the governance structure, the role of the Board and Board members, the role of the president and vice president and induction training for Council members.

Council members

Tribute was paid to retiring Council member Lynda Towers, whose contributions over the past four years were described as “vast”.

The meeting heard that Lynda had joined the Council in 2012 as a co-opted member in her role as Chair of the In-House Lawyers’ Group (ILG). She led the work to bring ILG into the full governance arrangements of the Council and is stepping down as convener.

The President, Eilidh Wiseman, said she had carried out this work for the Society’s in-house members with her usual mix of diplomacy, tact and diligent attention to detail. She thanked Lynda for her exemplary service to the in-house community and the Council.

Council Meeting, 27 May 2016

President and Vice President

A new presidential team for 2016/17 took up office today – Eilidh Wiseman as President and Graham Matthews as Vice President.

Eilidh was formerly Partner and Head of Employment at Dundas & Wilson. She was first elected to represent Edinburgh on the Council seven years ago and is currently Convener of the Education and Training Committee.

She said it was a tremendous honour to become the Society’s 53rd president. She also thanked outgoing president Christine McLintock, paying tribute to her graceful diplomacy, effortless charm and a genuine willingness to listen to others.

She said Christine’s year in office had involved key developments such as the launch of the Society’s new five-year strategy, Leading Legal Excellence, the move to new premises and the creation of the Lawscot Foundation, a charity that will provide financial support and mentoring for talented students from disadvantaged backgrounds who want to become solicitors. Eilidh promised to take that work forward in the year ahead.

Graham is a partner at law firm Peterkins and has served as the Council member representing Aberdeenshire solicitors since 2005. He is

Convener of the Society’s Professional Practice Committee. He said he had an interest in access to justice, or rather the lack of justice for many people in communities in Scotland.

On taking up the position of Past President, Christine paid tribute to the new office bearers and thanked her colleagues and the Society staff for their support.

Council members

A number of new members were welcomed to the Council.

The newly elected members were:Gwen Haggerty in Cupar, Dunfermline and Kirkcaldy; and, Anne MacDonald, David Mair and Ross Yuill, all representing Glasgow and Strathkelvin.

Tributes were paid to outgoing Council members Nick Taylor, who was not re-elected in Glasgow and Strathkelvin, and 2014/15 president Alistair Morris.

Alistair was the longest ever serving Council member, having joined in 1992. He also sat on the Board and a number of key committees, including as convener of the Guarantee Fund Sub-Committee and Insurance Committee.

Council members heard that Alistair had provided leadership to the Society, promoted the work of Scottish solicitors wherever they were based and provided unstinting support to colleagues.

In response, he said the Society had been a major part of his life for the past 24 years and it had been an honour to become president.

Council Meeting, 29 April 2016

EU referendum

Issues around the European Union referendum were considered by Council members during a debate on a draft Society discussion document.

The Council heard that the Society had committed in this year’s annual plan to produce a report to help inform solicitors and their clients before the EU vote.

It was stressed that the Society was not taking a policy position in relation to the arguments for and against leaving the European Union.

Feedback was taken from members and it was agreed that a revised document would be considered at next month’s Board meeting.

The Society has already consulted widely with solicitors on the implications of the referendum. Council members were told that hustings events were also organised for Aberdeen, Edinburgh and Glasgow.

Society fees

Council members agreed a proposal to maintain a freeze on the practising certificate fee, which has remained unchanged since 2010/11.

The £550 fee for 2016/17 will now be put to members at next month’s annual general meeting.

A number of other fees were unchanged by the Council. Next year’s statutory retention fee was set at £100, the non-practising certificate member fee at £200 and the Client Protection Fund accounts fee at £400

The Council agreed with a recommendation from the Client Protection Fund Sub-Committee to set the Client Protection Fund contribution for 2016/17 at £180, which is also the same as last year.

The agenda for next month’s AGM, which will take place at the Society’s new premises at Atria One in Edinburgh, was also approved.

Council members

The Council paid tribute to a number of retiring Council members.

The President, Christine McLintock, said they had all been hard working members who conscientiously represented their constituents

Those retiring were Dominic Sellar and Ian Sievwright, both members for Glasgow and Strathkelvin, and Eileen Sumpter, who joined the Council in 2007 and stands down from the constituency of Cupar, Dunfermline and Kirkcaldy.

Former president

Deepest sympathies were expressed to the family of former Society President Norman Biggart CBE, who died last month.

Current President Christine McLintock said Norman, who held the presidency in 1982/83, had been greatly involved with the work of the Society, in particular with the introduction of the Diploma in Legal Practice in 1980. 

He was one of the pioneers behind producing a new encyclopaedia of Scots law – the Stair Memorial Encyclopaedia – and was awarded a CBE for his services to the legal profession.

Council Meeting, 26 February 2016

Survey of members

Solicitors believe the Society’s regulatory role is its most important function, according to a survey of members.

A presentation on the results was given to Council members by researchers Ipsos MORI. The annual survey was carried out among more than 500 solicitors from different sectors of the profession and gathered views on a range of issues.

It found that the Society’s highest priorities were thought to include intervening in firms where a critical failure has been identified (81%) and setting standards for solicitors and updating practice rules (72%).

Over two-thirds (69%) thought investigating conduct complaints against solicitors and prosecuting cases to the discipline tribunal was a high priority and 60% said inspecting firms to ensure compliance with accounting rules was an important function.

Among other findings, the survey recorded a slight increase in optimism in the solicitors’ profession during the past year, up to 62% from 60%, with the latter figure a jump from 53% in 2013.

Other key findings included:

  • 95% of respondents agreed that the Society should continue to be responsible for representation, support and regulation of solicitors
  • 85% agreed that the Society was an effective regulator of the profession
  • 80% considered the Society helpful and approachable
  • 74% thought the Society was effective at leading and supporting the profession
  • 69% agreed that the Society’s education and training standards were flexible and promoted equal access
  • 66% said the Society focused on the issues that affect individual solicitors
  • 60% disagreed with the UK Government’s plan to repeal the Human Rights Act and replace it with a British Bill of Rights
  • 78% believed the Scottish Government’s policy on legal aid risks undermining access to justice for the poorest in society, while 77% backed increasing legal aid rates


The Council heard that the survey was generally regarded as positive, with members broadly satisfied with the Society’s work and services.

During a discussion among Council members, it was acknowledged that the work carried out in the annual survey needed to be linked in to the various strands of the Society’s new strategy. 

Trainee remuneration

Both the recommended and the mandatory minimum pay rates for trainees should increase, the Council agreed.

Council members decided that, from April this year, only training contracts above the living wage, as set by the Living Wage Foundation, would be accepted.

It was also agreed that the recommended pay rates should be £17,545 for first-year trainees and £21,012 for second-year trainees. The new rates will apply from June. The recommended rate is not compulsory but it is often used as a benchmark by employers.

The decisions follow over a year of research into trainee remuneration, including a survey of 650 solicitors, student and trainees. More than 70% of respondents supported adopting the living wage as the lowest salary accepted by the Society.

Annual accounts

Council members heard details of the finances of the Society and the Client Protection Fund.

The Executive Director of Finance and Operations, Ken Tudhope, outlined the Society’s financial report and accounts for 2014/15.

The Convener of the Client Protection Sub-Committee, Alison Atack, presented last year’s annual report and accounts for the Client Protection Fund, which was previously called the Guarantee Fund.

The accounts were approved and will now be put to the Society’s annual general meeting in May.

Council Meeting, 29 January 2016

Lord President

Lord Carloway became the first Lord President to address a session of the Council at today’s meeting.

The Lord President set out his vision for courtrooms “fit for the 21st century”.

He said: “Over the next five years, plans will be developed which will see the courtroom, and its ancillary offices, redesigned in light of modern ideas and technology. It will be changed from its current Victorian form into something fit for the 21st century.”

In the speech, which was part of the Council’s annual away day event, the Lord President concluded: “Ultimately, it is much better that we have a legal profession that enjoys working in a civil or criminal justice system which works fairly and efficiently; not one which may be seen by some as failing in certain areas.”

Society constitution

A consultation with members will be carried out on a number of proposed amendments to the Society’s constitution.

The amendments were put to the Council by the Constitution Working Party.

The matter may be further considered at the Society’s annual general meeting in May.