General meetings

The Society usually holds an annual general meeting (AGM) in the spring.

The AGM considers the annual report and the practising certificate fee for Scottish solicitors for the forthcoming year. The Society's corporate plan and budget are also reported at the AGM.

The general meetings are open to all members of the Society. Motions can be raised at the meetings by both the Council of the Society and individual members.

AGM 2014

AGM report, 4 April 2014

Watch a video of Lord Gill's presentation and the panel session.

 

Electronic voting will be used to elect members to the Society's ruling Council, solicitors agreed today.

A motion on amending the Society's constitution to allow e-voting was passed unopposed at the annual general meeting in Edinburgh. The change will take effect tomorrow (5 April).

The Convener of the Constitution Working Party, Sheekha Saha, who put forward the resolution, said the aim of the move was to make it easier for members to participate in the decision-making process.

She said the secure system would reduce the expense of administering postal ballots, which cost around £7,000 last year.

She added: "I hope you will recognise this as a positive change and a way in which we can make the process quicker, easier, more efficient and less expensive."

The issue was considered by the Constitution Working Party following successful use of e-voting for office bearers and the Board. Independent polling by Ipsos MORI found that 88% of solicitors believed they should be able to vote electronically if unable to attend a general meeting in person.

For the first time in the Society's 65-year history, the AGM was addressed by the head of the judiciary. Lord Gill, the Lord President of the Court of Session and Lord Justice General, discussed the changes faced by the legal profession.

He commented that the legal profession must continue to reinvent and renew itself, suggesting that the Courts Reform (Scotland) Bill presented challenges but also opportunities for solicitors.

The Lord President said the £150,000 threshold for cases to be heard in the Court of Session was based on statistical evidence and had been "well thought out and carefully considered". He added that it would result in more work being available for solicitors.

Lord Gill said he expected no reduction in the quality of decision making or access to justice.

He concluded: "The opportunity is there for the taking. I urge you all to embrace it."

Bruce Beveridge thanked Lord Gill for delivering the keynote speech, adding that his perspectives on the challenges and opportunities facing the profession were particularly relevant during the current "unprecedented period of change".

The AGM also featured a lively panel discussion on the economy and the impact of the latest growth projections on Scottish solicitors.

The panel included: Lorne Crerar, Chairman of Harper Macleod; Nadhia Ahmad-Ali, group counsel at the Weir Group; Ian Moir, Convener of the Legal Aid Negotiating Team; and, Fiona McAllister, President of the Scottish Young Lawyers' Association.

Issues raised included: the regional fluctuations in the sluggish economic recovery; continuing need for cost effectiveness and added value; benefits of nurturing the lawyers of tomorrow; opportunities presented by new technology; challenges facing legal aid practitioners; provision of pro bono services; fair access to the profession; importance of maintaining a constructive dialogue with government.

In the formal business of the AGM, Alistair Morris, the Convener of a Society working party involved in discussions with the Council of Mortgage Lenders said "encouraging and constructive" talks had taken place over making changes to the Lenders' Handbook - for instance, in relation to developing a standardised certificate of title and reporting format - to ensure it better reflects Scottish practice and procedure. However, he also warned that making changes was "not going to be a quick process".

A report by Council member Austin Lafferty on next year's Commonwealth Law Conference in Glasgow highlighted the opportunities to share ideas and build relationships with lawyers from other jurisdictions.

Bruce Beveridge added: "What an opportunity - what an exciting chance, not only to meet with and to learn from our Commonwealth colleagues but to showcase our legal profession, our expertise and our system of justice, to the world.

"I hope everyone in this room and your solicitor colleagues will actively support this conference."

Members also heard statements of the accounts of the Society, the Guarantee Fund and the Scottish Solicitors' Benevolent Fund as well as reports from the Audit Committee and In-House Lawyers' Group.

The minutes of the 2013 AGM are available.