In-house lawyers news archive

The In-house Lawyers Group Annual General Meeting 2015

27 November 2015

The In-house Lawyers Group held its Annual General Meeting on 2nd October 2015. 

Report from the In-house Lawyers Group AGM 2nd October 2015

Notice of the meeting was approved by the members attending

Attendee numbers:    22 in total: 6 ILG Committee members and 16 ILG members.

The Minute of 3rd October 2014 was approved subject to amendment of it being a meeting of the Group, and the attendees.

 The following committee members were re-elected/elected:

 Re-election:

  • Sarah Scott – RBS
  • Graeme McWilliams – Standard Life
  • Sheekha Saha – Comhairle nan Eilean Siar
  • Claudia Bennett – Office of the Advocate General

 Election after Co-option in 2015

  • M. Elena Sanz Arcas – Scottish Power
  • Andrew Todd – Springfield Properties PLC
  • Jennifer Bairner – Crown Office Procurator Fiscal Service
  • James Honan - Financial Conduct Authority

Chair’s address was presented 

The Financial Report generated comment, noting that the budget was underspent. the Chair explained that this would not be carried forward into the next year, as the Society operates a zero balance budgeting system. 

Law in Scotland 2015 - Leading legal Excellence

27 November 2015

Report from the Society's flagship conference Law in Scotland 2015, which took place on 2nd October. 

The In-house community joined with our colleagues in private practice and from other jurisdictions on 2 October 2015 for the Law in Scotland Conference. This year the theme was broadly on the Rule of Law, with specific stream sessions designed to cater to all sectors of the profession. 

After a welcome from the Chair Roy Sheppard, the President, Christine McLintock, kicked off the day speaking about the Society’s Smartcard Project, and how this is providing a technological advantage to the Scottish profession.  She noted that she was struck by how there were common ethical values across the profession and noted that the content for today’s conference had been developed by content group representing colleagues from all sectors from the legal profession. 

Lord Hodge, Justice of the Supreme Court, and one of two Scottish Justices sitting in that Court then spoke on the role of advocates in presenting cases before the Supreme Court. He advised providing clear statements of the case and the legal points in authorities which is very well received by the Justices.  He recommended care is taken in preparing court documents to avoid wasting time, and that as the Justices now use laptops as well as paper copies of the authorities cited, he recommended marking up the electronic pagination to assist those using laptops.  Engaging with the Justices appropriately, and watching carefully to see how your case is being taken on board is helpful as is being upfront with the Justices on how you wish the case to be disposed of. 

Lord Hodge explained how written submissions are a vital part of cases now, and should be supplemented by oral submissions, so that oral submissions should not be a restatement of the written submission.  Once your opponents have made their submissions, there is a short period for replying to those and if new point arises then it is possible to ask to submit additional written submissions.  He still felt that oral advocacy was still critical to the process, but this had to be balanced against the importance of the written submissions.   

The next session was from a choice of streamed sessions: Devolution in UK – Constitutional Crossroads by Professor Sir Jeffrey Jowell QC, the Director of the Bingham Centre for Rule of Law; Disruptive Technologies in Law: Artificial Intelligence or Intelligence Amplification?,  by Orlando Conetta a Legal Solutions Architect at Pinsent Masons LLP; If Everyone is a Full Service Law firm or Specialist Law Firm – how do you Differentiate yourself?, speaker Alan Mackie of Sandler Training, and NewLaw Business Models, speaker Mike Polson, Managing Partner of Ashurst. 

The session attended by the writer, was Devolution in the UK - Constitutional Crossroads.  Professor Sir Jeffrey Jowell spoke about a Report prepared by the Bingham Centre for the Rule of Law, prepared by a panel of solicitors and academics.  He noted that the central finding of the Report, was that there is a lack of coherence and lack of understanding on arrangements between the UK and the devolved Governments.  The findings suggested consideration of a written constitution preceded by a constitutional convention. 

He pointed out that there is an unwillingness to treat with federalisation but there are lots of different models as well as there being different models of unitary states.  He noted that there is one definition of federalism, which is where there are five features, first one being that there are two tiers of Government acting directly with the other, a written constitution which cannot be changed unilaterally, representation of devolved authority at the centre – that is not just in the equivalent of the House of Commons but in the Upper House.  This provides the various nations within the federal state with one voice in the centre and allows representation at that level.  The next feature federalism is that there is  a central authority to resolve dispute such as constitutional Court or the Supreme Court which exists here and a fifth feature, that there is a mechanism for cooperation, which he felt that was lacking in the UK. 

He noted that the Smith Commission has recommended that Scottish Parliament should be recognised as permanent but how can that be done?  If it is done by an Act of the UK Parliament, a later Parliament could overrule this.  The Report suggests having a convention setting out shared values such as democracy, rights, the Rule of Law, social solidarity, and sharing risks on resources.  There could be a common framework for defence, and an economic framework but individuality could be highlighted with an ability to have specific local arrangements. In addition, it suggests that  the panel in the Supreme Court should be increased to include additional Justices from Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland to sit in specific cases, noting that Scottish Justices do already sit in the Supreme Court.  Professor Sir Jeffrey Jowell suggested that the constitution of principles of openness, scrutiny and transparency should apply to the arrangements between separate parts of the UK suggesting a single Minister sitting in Cabinet for the Union/UK and three Ministers for Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland.   

After a break for tea, coffee and networking, the attendees then heard from Professor Sir Jeffrey Jowell as a plenary session.  This time he spoke on the Rule of Law abroad. 

His views that the Rule of Law historically has not been an easy thing.  There are a number of Rule of Law sceptics at the moment - their view is that it is a westernised concept for developed nations and it is imperialistic to apply it to others. 

The Bingham Centre disagrees.  Diverse countries are receptive to their work on the Rule of Law.  He pointed out the example of Myanmar, and how receptive and Aung San Suu Kyi has been.  She is looking at the possibility of setting up an impartial Judiciary. 

It appears that different countries have different concepts on what comprises Rule of Law. Professer Sir Jeffrey highlighted a few of the features Tom Bingham identified:  

  1. Legality – everyone is under and subject to the law.
  2. Legal certainty.
  3. Equality – the law applies equally to all.
  4. Access to Justice and Rights – this is where it becomes an issue for some countries whether there is no access or there is not an impartial decisions.  This is an area where work does need to be done. 

He pointed to the work of the Department for International Development, and an organisation called Rule of Law UK.  He noted that this organisation is developing a database of experts in this area linking people up and information sharing.

Why is Scotland well placed to participate in this?  He felt that Scotland has legal system with principles that are identical to those used in some other countries, so that we can use our experience in our system to help others.  He pointed to the example of Equatorial New Guinea and South Africa.  He thought that in saying that the Rule of Law is for westernised countries but not for others is patronising.   

The Bingham Centre can provide different models, think about local customs and what a particular country is like.  The Rule of Law encourages investment, it can encourage employment and shifts the balance of power and accountability. 

Following lunch, and the In-house Lawyers' Group Annual General Meeting, we moved back to the conference proper. 

Karl Chapman, Chief Executive of Riverview Law spoke on the two new professional services market, noting that resistance is futile! 

Then a further set of streamed sessions took place.  This time the choice was between Build Your Reputation… and they will come, speaker Roy Sheppard, The Gender Pay Gap Within the Legal Profession, with speakers Annemarie O’Donnell, Chief Executive of Glasgow City Council, Professor Lesley Sawers, Pro Vice Chancellor Business Innovation and Enterprise and Vice Principal Glagow Caledonian University, and Mandy Laurie, a Partner at Burness Paull LLP in employment.  Two other sessions were the Land Registration Act: What It Will Mean in Practical Terms for Businesses, speaker Frances Rooney of Harper MacLeod, and the Rule of Law in Administrative Justice: Absence of Appeal, Monetary Penalties and Other Current Issues, which the writer attended.  The speakers Rory MacPherson, Partner at Thomsons Scotland and Professor Michael Adler, Honorary Fellow, the School of Social and Political Science at Edinburgh University spoke about where they felt that changes to the benefit system may not comply with the Rule of Law, and what they felt the effects of this had been. 

Moving on to a further streamed session, the choices were Brexit and What It Would Mean in Practical Terms for Business, the speakers being Keith Ruddock General Counsel Weir Grou, Charles Livingston, Partner in Brodies Solicitors, and Professor David Bell, Professor of Economics University of Stirling; Collaborative Networks: Important for Buyers and Sellers, speaker Anne MacDonald Partner of Harper MacLeod LLP, Patrick McGuire Partner of Thomson Solicitors and Solicitor Advocates, and David Sanders. Director of Marketing Maclay Murray and Spens LLP;  How Analytics Can Improve the Practice of Law, speaker Karl Mullens Director of Assimil8 Limited; and How Independent Firms Can Thrive in the Age of the Client, speaker John Whittle, Market Development Director of LexisNexis.   

Choosing the session on Brexit, Keith Ruddick and Charles Livingston ran through what the effects could be if the UK chose to exit from the European Union (EU).  Charles Livingston pointed out that it would depend on what the UK was going leave from.  He pointed out that there are many Treaties and Unions in Europe, noting that some may effect the UK more than others.  He noted that directly effective EU Law might immediately give the flexibility for the UK, but noted that there were other areas where EU Law was directly incorporated into domestic law such as the Working Time Regulations.  Laws such as this would remain in effect in the UK, but they could be changed more easily. 

Charles recommended knowing the effects and opportunities for your clients, what are they exposed to and what are their sectors risks in relation to any exit.  There could be opportunities for a law firm, where the clients may rely on you or others for EU Law advice.  It may be that firms will be able to develop contacts outwith the UK who will want to take advice from them. 

David Bell spoke on the economic consequences of BREXIT.  He felt that there might be issues in relation to the area of research and development.  The EU currently has a fund for this, and currently the UK receives 15% of that.  What will happen to the loss of that funding?.  It was noted that there would be consequences for trade with Ireland – the UK is a major trading partner.  Further potential change is that a BREXIT might trigger a further Independence Referendum, with an independent Scotland staying in the EU then it might be effected as much as Ireland.  He did note that Europe is declining as a trading partner for the UK, noting that other markets are now more important. 

We then moved onto the final session for the day, The Gold Mine Effect presented by Rasmus Ankersen.  He explained that this covers driving talent,  encouraging excellence, and finding talent that whispers rather than shouts. 

In his view, there is an outcome bias: we assume that good results always come from good decisions.  He notes that when a company is failing you ask questions but you don’t ask questions when they are successful – should we? He thinks that yes we should because we need to know whether it is luck that is giving these results or it is something else. He cited the example of a UK football team which had a very successful season, followed by less success. Questions were not asked while they were successful, so that it was not known that their success was a result of a a very unusual set of results which were not easily replicated. 

He feels that it is important to challenge accepted ways of thinking, and decisions.  His first lesson is if it isn’t broke then consider breaking it because you should drive change before it is needed. If change becomes a necessity then it’s probably too late. 

He also spoke on how he felt there was a talent spotting problem – we look at what people are and not what they become.  He agreed that spotting talent is difficult - it is easy to overlook “the talent that whispers”.  He noted that talent that shouts cannot be overlooked. He cited the example of Steve Francis, the coach of the best track team in Jamaica. On first sight the track the team uses lacks many of the facilities you might expect at a world class track, but Steve Francis takes the view that isn’t necessary to allow people to express their talents. In conclusion, Rasmus recommended always taking the context into account, and to remember what you see is not necessarily what you get. 

At the end of a very interesting and challenging programme, the members then moved on to the presentation of a drinks reception to celebrate the 50th Anniversary of the Scottish Law Commission, and to present the winner of the ILG Rising Star Award winner with their trophy.

The Edinburgh Legal Walk 12th October 2015

27 November 2015

This year representatives from the In-house Lawyers Committee walked the Glasgow and Edinburgh Legal Walks. Graeme McWilliams writes on his experience of joining the Edinburgh walk.

On a breezy and mostly dry early October Monday evening we gathered in the Old College Quad at Edinburgh University, to have our photo taken, with the 10-foot tall maquettes of the Kelpies in the background.

We were suitably encouraged and addressed by our lead walkers, Lord Tyre and Christine McLintock, the President of The Law Society of Scotland, who then sent us on our way, with maps in our hands.

The 18 teams present included the In-House Lawyers’ Group (Sara and Rosie Scott, Graeme McWilliams, Fiona McGowan, Chris Bowie and Lauren Smith) and the Law Society of Scotland.

Legal Walk 2015 participants

Some of the participants at the Legal Walk in Edinburgh.

This 8km sponsored walk around Edinburgh was to raise money for local advice services.

The route had a Magna Carta theme to celebrate the 800th anniversary of the sealing of the Magna Carta and highlight the document's importance and relevance to access to justice today.
 
We were walking in response to the growing need for free legal advice centres over the past few years. The recession has increased poverty and reduced support services, while funding for the advice centres themselves has reduced.

The organisations we supported on the Walk prevent families being made homeless, prevent destitution, help older people gain the support to which they are entitled and help women and children who have been trafficked for domestic servitude or prostitution.

By taking part in the Edinburgh Legal Walk and seeking sponsorship from our friends, family and colleagues, we were helping to secure vital funds needed for this important cause.

We were also part of the global celebration of the 800th anniversary of the sealing of the Magna Carta which includes one of the most important clauses in legal history: “to no one will we sell, to no one deny or delay right or justice” highlighting the continuing relevance of the Great Charter in accessing justice today.

Legal walk 2015 - Meadows Edinburgh

Our view of the Meadows at sunset.

We kept up a steady pace on our route, which circled Edinburgh city centre and took us south to the Meadows (where we saw the sun setting through the trees), round by the castle, through the edge of the old and new town, round Calton Hill and the Scottish Parliament. It finished at the Macdonald Holyrood Hotel, where we all toasted our success and networked.

The Edinburgh Legal Walk managed to raise over £3,000, the ILG Team came fourth in the table of top fund raisers, and we raised an incredible £365.44. Well done and many thanks to all who took part and supported us. 

It was a truly great evening of walking and camaraderie for such an excellent cause.

The future of the In-House Lawyers’ Group

30 June 2015

Following our survey, the Law Society Council made a decision on the future of the ILG

 

In our last newsletter we asked you for your views on the future of the ILG and its committee. The survey results showed a desire for change and last week, the Law Society Council agreed to set up a new in-house lawyers’ committee.

The new committee will sit within the Society’s committee structure and continue the work of the ILG committee in providing representation, support and services tailored to in-house lawyers.

Christine McLintock, president of the Law Society of Scotland said: “I’m delighted to announce that a decision has been made to bring the work of the In-House Lawyers’ Group closer to the heart of the organisation.

“Almost a third of our members work in-house and we want to make sure that the Society is focussed on delivering services that are important to them.”

What does this mean for ILG members?

Initially it will be business as usual. There will be a transition period and the current members of the ILG committee have been invited to transfer to the new committee. This will mean that we will be able to start planning for the next year to ensure a seamless transfer of work from the ILG Committee to the new committee.

During the transition period, the convener of the new in-house lawyers’ committee will be Lynda Towers, the current ILG Committee Chair. After the first year, the committee convener will be elected by the whole in-house membership and will continue to be a co-opted member of the Society’s Council so issues of interest and concern to in-house members will continue to be represented at Council meetings.

What does this mean for the ILG?

The ILG has its own constitution and is required to hold an AGM every year. The ILG Committee is currently considering the feedback from the survey earlier this year to decide whether to propose that the Group constitution is wound up permanently or to suspend the constitution for an interim period until the new committee is settled in.

We will keep you fully updated on the work of the committee as the transition as it progresses. 

If you have any questions you can speak to Elaine MacGlone, Secretary to the ILG Committee, at elainemacglone@lawscot.org.uk or 0131 226 8887 (Wednesday to Friday) or any of the ILG Committee members (contact details available here).

Welcome to the New ILG Committee Members

Three new committee members have joined the committee, following on from the Committee advertising for new members to join by co-option. Find out more about who they are and what they do.

 

Maria  Elena Sanz Arcas – Corporate Governance Solicitor, Scottish Power.Maria Elena Sanz Arcas

Elena is dual qualified in Spanish and Scottish law, having spent time working as a solicitor advocate for the international law firm J&A Garrigues S.L.P. On moving to Scotland in 2011 to take part of the European Lawyers Association Programme, she spent time at Burness Paull & Williamsons and also gained experience of the Scottish Court system. Elena is also Secretary to the Scottish Power Foundation.

Jennifer Bairner - Senior Procurator Fiscal Depute, Appeals Unit, Crown Office. 

Jennifer has  been a solicitor within the Crown Office and Procurator Fiscal service for over 10 years, having trained with COPFS between 2002 and 2004. Since qualifying she has worked across Scotland as a prosecutor and is now based at the Crown Office in Edinburgh. She is also a member of the council of the Procurator Fiscal Society (the PFS), serving as treasurer of the Society since 2012.

Andrew Todd - In-house Lawyer for Springfield Properties PLC.Andrew Todd

Qualified since 2002, Andrew is the sole in-house lawyer at Springfield Properties, which is one of Scotland’s largest independent house-builders.  He is a keen author, and is regularly featured in the legal publications as well as having written three books, including one on the Lands Tribunal For Scotland. In addition, Andrew is a senior tutor on the diploma of legal practice at the University of Glasgow and a member of the Law Society’s Property Law Reform sub-group and the legal group in Homes For Scotland.

 

 

SYLA and ILG Event: So you want to be an.....In-house Lawyer?

On 2nd June 2015, the SYLA and the ILG joined forces to present "So You Want to Be an...... In-house Lawyer?" at the Edinburgh offices of Standard Life.  Mark Conroy, a trainee solicitor at Standard Life tells us more.  

So you want to be an …In-House Lawyer?

By Mark Conroy, Trainee Solicitor at Standard Life

The number of Scottish lawyers working in-house is almost 30%, the role of in-house legal support in our businesses is continuing to evolve and the Scottish legal landscape is continuing to grow. As a result, the Scottish Young Lawyers’ Association and the In-House Lawyers’ Group of the Society held a joint evening event on 2 June in the Edinburgh offices of Standard Life to discuss what it means to be an In-House Lawyer. 

There were over 30 attendees at this event, which was chaired by Graeme McWilliams, SYLA Event 2 June 2015Legal Adviser, Standard Life and ILG Committee Member. Graeme welcomed a panel of three in-house lawyers:  Ewan Cameron, Solicitor, Standard Life, John Paterson, Divisional Solicitor, Scottish Government and Stephen Swan, Legal Director, Edinburgh Airport.

The speakers guided the audience through their careers to date, giving insights into their daily working lives and explaining what it is about the in-house legal role that makes it different to what can be expected in private practice.

The key themes, touched upon by each of the speakers, seemed to sum up this difference perfectly.  Firstly, the commerciality of the role.  An in-house lawyer is not limited to legal advice. The focus is not on the law, but on the practical application of the law and what it means for their organisation. Of course, legal advice is a large part of an in-house lawyer’s role, but they operate in a much broader commercial context where their advice can, and in some cases is expected to, include advice on cost, strategy, risk and ultimately what the best decision is.

Secondly, when working in-house, you are part of a team. There is little success you can achieve solely by yourself, mainly because you need support, help and sometimes guidance from others. It can be a hugely rewarding experience to succeed by working together – something in-house lawyers do every single day.

Finally, one of the most appealing aspects of working as an in-house lawyer, is being part of a bigger picture and often a corporate project. Your involvement doesn’t end once you give your legal advice – you are involved from the beginning to the end and you are expected to play a role in all areas.

A short Q&A followed with Ewan, John and Stephen expanding further on their experiences and thoughts on the future of the in-house lawyer. In particular, there seemed to be a clear understanding that the role of the private practice lawyer and the role of the in-house lawyer are different roles and not two sides of the same coin.

The SYLA and ILG were grateful to Standard Life for hosting the event and everyone who attended and asked questions at what was a very insightful, interesting and successful evening. 

 

How the Society’s Equality Standards Can Work for In-house Teams

Neil Stevenson looks back on the launch of the Society’s Equality Standards, and how they can be implemented by in-house legal teams.

Earlier in the year the Society launched its new Equality Standards and in-house teams have shown significant interest. 

The top enquiry has been around the balance of drawing on organisational polices and approaches, and elements more specific to a legal team. Many have reminded the Society that a legal team might be fluid or defined differently by different people within an organisation (due to matrix/cross-team working, internal secondment to project teams, shared central support services like administration, etc.).

As always, it’s been valuable to have these conversations with members, and is useful to share the thinking that emerged with a wider group. Indeed, a key focus of the new standards was to avoid being too prescriptive but to encourage conversation, planning, and the setting of agreed outcomes.  Dialogue and increased internal awareness about an issue is often one of the most powerful drivers of change.

On that basis it is useful to read the standards thinking of pragmatic routes to meeting them, some examples below link back to the numbered standards.

A named equality lead (1) is simple, picking someone with enthusiasm and some level of seniority, or giving them a senior manager to report into on this issue, who can make sure plans are followed. They do not necessarily have to have a strict responsibility in your business structure, but will simply be the lead for your team and ensure progress with work agreed within the team.

Having a strategy(2) and objectives(3) could sound huge, but does not need to be made complicated for your first attempt.  As a team you will have much within your direct control through normal delegated line management responsibilities, focus on areas you can control, rather than worrying about those you can’t.  I’ll give an example of this in a moment, but it’s worth first touching on another element.

Teams are encouraged to use workforce monitoring (4), to inform their plan.  In an ideal world we know our workplace composition and our local population to feed conversations about whether our teams are diverse, but in the absence of that simpler observations can inform your approach.  The Society publishes data on the composition of the profession.  If you see in your team that the last five trainees have been male, but you know over 60% of trainees are female, that can be enough to start a discussion (this is different to forming a conclusion there is definitely an issue, it’s about exploring if there could be).

Bringing these three elements together you could have an example where any objective is set to increase the diversity of traineeship applicants.  HR may have final sign-off on where paid advertising is placed, and you might not be able to influence that, but once that official advert is live you can ask people like Scottish Young Lawyers Association, the Society of Asian Lawyers, or the  In-house Lawyers’ Group, to tweet and share by LinkedIn the advert, possibly flagging your team’s equality credentials and widening your pool.

Again, it may be that formal training plans (5) and funding are held outwith the team, and your overall business does not deem equality a priory in a particular year.  Again, this can be addressed at a team level.  You might all commit to doing one of the Society’s free online seminar’s on equality, or one of the team might agree to read the Equality and Human Rights Guidance on making fair financial decisions in terms of equality and summarise it for the team. All of these would be valid in a training plan an in-house team can control and resource itself.

Publishing plans (6) and data on the composition of roles (7) might initially be only to your internal clients, although as you make progress this may become a positive story for your whole organisation.

Many public sector in-house teams will already have an equal pay statement (8 & 9), other will be smaller than the 150 staff cut-off where these are required by law. However, all teams may value looking at the issue, a simple listing of staff by gender/grade and salaries on a spreadsheet can be the starting point, and then deciding if any action is needed. If not at that stage, making a future defined commitment to such a review can also be a powerful commitment.

A statement on access to services (10) may seem odd for internal clients, but it can fit well with the 'outreach' attempts many in-house teams have been making anyway to engage more a cross their organisations. It might mix existing service which may be of use to people (email and phone based advice, email bulletins, pod casts, etc.) with specific variations around disability. For instance, we spoke to one in-house team who had not realised their point of asking for written request for advice had put off a dyslexic manager, or that one colleague with a visual impairment would have been happier with the lawyer’s dictation files than the typed up final. Flagging these options can be really valued by colleagues.

For many this will be a pragmatic first step, but for enthusiasts this could all seem to lack aspiration. I’d suggest it’s like a ‘couch to 5k’ running programme.  If you’ve never run before and you go straight out and try to sprint a 5k you’re unlikely to succeed, will find it unpleasant, and probably won’t try again.  If you can start in small bites, see success, and build on it you are far more likely to commit and to succeed.  Thinking this through, setting objectives and trying to get in a positive cycle is more likely to lead to success than a huge raft of initiatives or policy development that are not sustained or delivered. For those more experienced, with more resource, or more daring we can advise on really cutting edge and stretching initiative we’ve seen in other jurisdictions and sectors.

More information is available on the Equality Standards section of our website.

The Law Society of Scotland AGM 2015 Report by Lynda Towers

On Thursday 28th May 2015, the Society held its AGM. Lynda Towers, ILG Committee Chair provided a report on the ILG activirties in the last year

The In-house Lawyers’ Group (ILG) exists to represent, support and promote the interests of in-house Scottish solicitors. This sector of the legal profession now makes up around one-quarter of the entire profession.

The Committee is made up of members who have either been elected by our membership or have been co-opted. This year we took the decision to advertise for new members to be co-opted to the Committee to broaden the experience and background of the committee and we are pleased at the number and high calibre of the applicants. 

In 2014, we affirmed our commitments to supporting  new in-house lawyers and celebrating the successes of our members by running  our Rising Star Award for the second time, highlighting the achievements and contribution of in-house lawyers with up to 5 years PQE. The winner was Vlad Valiente a solicitor with Midlothian Council. Along with the other judges, I was a faced with a difficult choice choosing between the excellent nominees.

Also in 2014 we joined with the Society in delivering the Law in Scotland Conference: The People's Verdict: So What Now?  It was an exceptional year and the aftermath of the Independence Referendum presented an ideal opportunity for the whole profession to get together. I and the rest of the ILG committee members present enjoyed meeting in-house lawyers from across a wide variety of areas, as well as meeting our colleagues who work in private practice.

Our newsletter continues to go out 3 times a year.  In 2014 and to date we have covered a wide variety of subjects, both practice specific like the consequences of the case of Alistair Brett v the SRA, reporting on events like the Law in Scotland conference and profiling our Committee members to highlight the wide variety of in-house lawyers in practice today.

Our regular article in the Journal profiling in-house solicitors is attracting a lot of attention – perhaps even one of the most often read parts of the Journal!

We also continue to use social media to reach our members, by running our own Linkedin sub-group and twitter page. It is pleasing to see the numbers following and engaging with us on social media growing every month.

We continue to build on our free seminar programme. We now offer seminars in Edinburgh, by video conference to other locations, and to view live on an individual’s computer. In doing this we are ensuring we make high quality CPD accessible and available to all our members.

We are continuing to support the development of sector specific members groups, most recently the establishment of an ILG Financial Services group.

Externally we are building on existing relationships with other organisations in Scotland and beyond. I have attended events hosted by our Irish, English and Scottish local authority and in house representative bodies. We maintain links with the Commerce and Industry Group in England and Wales. We also attended a Four Jurisdictions Meeting arranged by our colleagues at the Law Society of Ireland to discuss matters of common interest. This was an initiative we had instigated in 2013.

We continue to maintain our links with SYLA and TANQ, and are currently developing a joint seminar with SYLA.

Looking to the future, the Group is presently independent of the Society with its own constitution, but our work is supported financially and practically by the Society. We are in governance terms moving closer to the Society. We have already aligned our budget and business planning to the Society’s processes the ILG.  Having surveyed  ILG members, and taking on board their response, the Committee recently decided to  move towards asking the members at the AGM to formally wind up the Group’s constitution This would be  followed by a  transfer of our work and responsibilities to a fully supported Society in-house solicitor committee. Practical discussions are ongoing but we would hope to achieve a seamless transfer and to be in a position with the continued help of the Society to support our members in the years to come.

In conclusion the Committee is very busy. We are guided by the Society’s priorities, consult our members on what they want, and also take cognisance of the Society’s annual survey of members. We are building on the things our members told us they valued.  We want to continue this important work into the future.

Find a Solicitor update

10 March 2015

Changes to be made to new-look Find a Solicitor tool based on feedback from in-house lawyers.

Some in-house lawyers have been in touch to say that it wasn’t very clear how to find in-house solicitors on the recently relaunched Find a Solicitor function of the website.

We thank everyone who got in touch with feedback and as result of your comments we are going to revert to the previous method of displaying all solicitors both private practice and in-house on the same list.

Although used by the profession, Find a Solicitor is equally a tool used by the public and we believed having both in-house and private practice on the same list could prove unhelpful to a member of the public looking for a solicitor (and unhelpful to in-house solicitors receiving misdirected enquiries).

In our recent revamp of Find a Solicitor we sought to address the problem. Unfortunately our solution seemed to cause a larger issue with in-house solicitors trying to check their registration.

We launched the service without much fanfare to see how it would perform in a live environment. Clearly, judging by the number of enquiries by in-house solicitors over the last couple of weeks, the separated list feature was causing problems. We are happy to acknowledge that change didn’t work and that we need to revert to the original display.

We are currently scheduling the change to be made with our web developers and it should be completed within a few weeks.

Any solicitor wishing to update the areas of work on their profile can do so via the members’ login area.

How does the In-house Lawyers' Group fit into the modern Law Society of Scotland?

6 March 2015

Lynda Towers discusses the various proposals for change for the ILG and sets out the options for members to provide their views by an on-line survey which is open until 27 March 2015

The In House Lawyers Group (ILG) is a strange animal! It looks like a committee of the Law Society of Scotland (“the Society”). It very much acts as a committee of the Society in the processes it follows. It’s main source of finance and support is the Society. Its committee and members are all members of ILG because they are members of the Society. The lawyer in the street probably thinks it is a committee of the Society. However it is in fact an independent Committee which elects its own Chair and members, acts in accordance with its own Constitution and looks after the interests of in house lawyers in all sectors of the profession under the Society umbrella. Does this structure continue to make sense in the rapidly changing legal representative and regulatory context and does it provide the best service and support for in house lawyers?

History

The ILG is the successor body to the Public Service and Commerce Group which was founded many, many years ago! This was a time when in house lawyers were a relatively rare breed of lawyer consisting primarily of those acting for local authorities, central government and as prosecutors. There was a feeling that the Society, at that time, did not adequately understand, fully represent or take account of those lawyers not in private practice. It was felt that these in house interests needed to be brought together to ensure their voice was heard.  It is not for me to say whether those early perceptions were correct or not, but we have certainly moved a long way from that position today.  

The group grew under a series of dynamic in house lawyers over the years. It developed an identity separate from the Society albeit still publically part of the Society. It acquired a constitution to set out it’s aims and to regulate it’s operations. It reported back informally to the Society and received financial, staff and in kind support from the Society and operated under the wider the Society badge.

It became known for setting up and delivering in house training geared towards the particular needs of its members. It developed partnerships with private practice firms who supported the programme to enable it to be provided free at delivery. These partnerships also allowed delivery of our annual conference and dinner together with networking opportunities with the profession. All of this continues today.

The predecessor group found a problem, addressed it and the solution has grown into the ILG we know today.

The way forward…

The Society has moved forward considerably in the years since then and would be barely recognisable in governance terms to a lawyer of those days. In-house lawyers now comprise almost a third of the profession in Scotland and beyond. We also have a Society which recognises this position and is anxious to better engage with in-house members. There is at least one in house lawyer on virtually every committee of the Society. Many of the staff of the Society are in-house lawyers themselves. We are no longer invisible and the needs of the in-house community have changed. Do we need to retain our separate constitution and autonomy or could we support our members equally well as a non-regulatory committee of the Society?

Options and Outcomes

Members may remember that a review was carried out into the way forward for ILG in 2011 -2012. Following consideration of the Review Report by the Council of the  Society a Working Party was set up under the Convenorship of David Newton and it in its turn reported to Council later in 2012. The Working Group had Council and ILG representatives.

Council approached its consideration of the Working Party Report on the basis that ILG should become a committee of the Society. However that would also require ILG to wind up itself and repeal its Constitution. At that time it was thought changes to the Constitution of the Society might be necessary, although the thinking now is that may not be necessary. That thinking meant the ILG was not therefore formally asked to consider its future way of operating.

The recommendations of the Working Party were generally accepted by the ILG committee and implemented immediately so far as possible and where no additional process was required other than agreement from the ILG committee itself. These included;

  • Aligning planning and budgetary timetables to reflect those of the Society
  • Adopting the Society styles for agendas, minutes, accompanying documents etc.
  • Aligning ILG priorities and proposals against those in the Society Corporate Plan

In principle certain other recommendations were accepted, but will require some process to implement either by amendment of the Constitution or otherwise;

  • Setting a time limited term of office for Chair/Convenor and Committee members and required experience
  • Providing for Electronic elections
  • Recruitment of committee members

These changes allow ILG to continue with ensuring support to members, including;

  • Free training to members
  • Holding a dinner and conference
  • Having a co-opted place at Council for the Chair of ILG
  • Inputting to the Society policy issues with an ILG context
  • Liaising on support from the Society, both financially and in terms of resources
  • Considering and provide any additional support members might suggest 

Option 1 – Status Quo

This would mean continuing the current arrangements, as described above, and incorporating the remaining recommendations by amending the ILG Constitution.

Option 2 – Becoming a full committee of the Society

This is the Council’s preferred option and not proceeding down this route would require a new consideration by Council amending their previous decision. Many of the practical steps have already been taken. The Council paper contains an appendix setting out the aims, remit and powers of any ILG Society committee . This reflects a framework agreed by the Working Party (including its ILG members) which would be essential if this route was pursued. Most of the existing activities could be continued.

This would require the ILG constitutionally to wind itself up at the same time as a dedicated in-house lawyers committee was established within the Society governance structure. The same support from the Society would be provided as currently enjoyed by ILG, but the formal reporting mechanisms would be consistent across all the Society committees.

This might result in changes around the existing partnership arrangements with private practice firms, but the intention would be to continue the current approach which is beneficial to ILG and those firms.

Option 3 – Interim arrangement

If there are concerns around a permanent and substantial constitutional change with a potential loss of autonomy then ILG could agree to run formally as a Society committee for a period of say three years, to see whether there is any real detriment to the support and service to members. This would require a vote to suspend the Constitution and a draft amendment agreeing to the temporary arrangement. If all were considered well at the end of the relevant time then it could be wound up at that stage. In the unlikely event the arrangement did not work, there would still be an option for ILG to revert to its previous position under the Constitution.

Conclusion

I have been in discussion with Office Bearers over the past few months. As some of you are aware the President and the Constitutional Committee of the Society are anxious to settle this matter. It is only correct that the views of the ILG Membership are taken on board by your committee before we take any irrevocable steps.

I would be very grateful if you would take the time to complete this survey to let us know which of the options you think we should pursue at this stage: ILG Constitutional Future Survey

The survey will be open until Friday 27 March

Elaine MacGlone at the Society who is the Secretary to the ILG Committee would be delighted to receive any comments you may have at elainemacglone@lawscot.org.uk or telephone 0131 226 8887 (Wednesday to Friday)

If you would like to discuss the issues with me or with any members of the ILG Committee here are our contact details: ILG Committee Members

Scottish Government Include Society Equality Standards in Procurement

27 February 2015

This article explains how the Society's newly-introduced voluntary Equality Standards for solicitors are now being included in the Scottish Governments procurement process

The Law Society of Scotland has taken the first steps in introducing a new equality framework for legal practice and teams in Scotland, by publishing ten voluntary standards. 

This is especially relevant to in-house teams because one key aspect of this framework was also to help those contracting for legal services, whether they are covered by the Public Sector Duties of The Equality Act 2010, or they are in the private sector but simply want to promote equality in their procurement practice. 

We are especially pleased the Scottish Government has included this new standard in their current procurement exercise for their own legal panel for the next four years.  This is as one element of suggested continuous improvement expected of law firms they appoint to their panel. We are very keen to work with others, like yourselves, to promote the standard and hope this improves the quality and consistency of equality information you may seek from firms, makes it more efficient for both parties, and really helps to tackle issues in the sector our evidence base shows are present. 

The ten standards are supplemented by supportive handbooks for law firms and legal teams, and over the coming year will become formal regulatory guidance, with additional details added on ways to meet the standards.  Further information is available at: www.lawscot.org.uk/framework-for-success.

We also have a separate and unique opportunity for one business to become a strategic partner to all our equality work. This partnership would enable you to engage directly with Scottish businesses and individuals within the sector and showcase your organisations own corporate social responsibility practices. Over the three year partnership, your organisation will have the ability to be a key driver of strategic change by supporting the legal sector, its professionals and key client community. Details of the potential partnership can be downloaded from: www.lawscot.org.uk/diversity

For more information contact neilstevenson@lawscot.org.uk

 

Alastair Brett v The Solicitors Regulation Authority

6 March 2015

The ILG Committee considers an English case looking at a solicitor's duties as an officer of the court.

This case involves an in-house lawyer, who was found guilty of professional misconduct by the Solicitors Regulation Authority for England and Wales (the SRA) arising from the defence of legal proceeding on behalf of his employer, Times Newspapers Ltd. (TNL). Mr Brett was Legal Manager at TNL and was, in effect, their in-house solicitor.

The background

In 2009, a reporter requested legal advice “off the record” from Mr Brett about the identification of a blogger known as “Nightjack”. Nightjack was the pseudonym for a servicing police officer and the blog had attracted a high profile. The journalist (PF) considered that the officer was disclosing confidential information in his blog, and that there was a public interest in identifying him. PF had identified Nightjack from unauthorised access to the email account attached to the blog and sought advice from Mr Brett on whether the newspaper could publish the story. Mr Brett advised that it could publish provided the police officer could be identified through legitimate means. As PF was able later to identify the officer from information publicly available, the decision was made to publish, and the officer informed. During injunction proceedings raised by the officer, the journalist submitted a statement, which Mr Brett had reviewed, which set out the legitimate means used to identify the officer, but did not cover the initial non-legitimate accessing of his emails. The officer’s solicitor also queried during correspondence with Mr Brett whether there had been unauthorised access to his email account, with Mr Brett referring the solicitors to PF’s statement in response. The counsel appearing for the TNL in the case was also not advised of the initial means of identification. The hearing proceeded on the basis that the identification had been by the legitimate means described in PF’s statement. During the Leveson Inquiry, Mr Brett gave evidence and at that stage disclosed how the officer had initially been identified.

The Disciplinary Case and Appeal

The SRA alleged Mr Brett had breached its Code of Conduct, Rule 1.02 , by failing to act with integrity (Rule 1.02) and by knowingly allowing the Court to be misled (Rule 11.01). It set out the particulars of the allegations in the following terms:

“On or about 2 June 2009, while conducting litigation in the High Court… the respondent caused or allowed a witness statement to be served and relied on in support of TNL's defence, which knowingly, and/or recklessly, created a misleading impression as to the facts and matters deposed to in the statement.” 

“On or about 4 June 2009 during a hearing before Mr Justice Eady the respondent knowingly allowed the Court to proceed on the basis of an incorrect assumption as to the facts and matters set out in the witness statement referred to at 2.1 above”. 

Mr Brett accepted that, in hindsight, and after a detailed scrutiny of the circumstances by the Leveson Inquiry, the statement to the court was potentially misleading and could give the impression that the identification had purely been by the legitimate means. However, his defence was that it was inadvertent and unintentional and he had a genuine misunderstanding of the prioritisation of his competing duties and obligations, as he considered he could not breach a duty of confidentiality and/or privilege owed to his client by disclosing the information given to him by PF.  The Solicitors Disciplinary Tribunal found Mr Brett guilty. In the appeal, the court held that Mr Brett was guilty of acting recklessly (rather than knowingly) in misleading the court. 

The court perceived no conflict between Mr Brett’s competing duties as there were a number of ways he could have handled the case, without having to take a view on balancing his duty to the court and his duty of confidentiality/privilege owed to PF and his employer. These were:

  • Obtain agreement of the client to waive privilege/confidentiality
  • Correct the misleading impression of the witness statement in question
  • Disclose the true position to counsel such that the court would not be inadvertently misled by them
  • Abandon defending the claim on behalf of his client

As a result, the case did not go into a consideration of which duty takes precedence – the duty of confidentiality and legal privilege as against the duties to the court.

Lord Thomas of Cwmgiedd, CJ in obiter, however, did point out that where a solicitor is not absolutely sure of the course of action they should take to avoid a breach of their duties, they would be well-advised to seek advice from independent counsel. 

The Scottish Position

While this case looked at the Code of Conduct in England and Wales, the equivalent rule in Scotland is Rule B1.13.1 of the Practice Rules 2011: “you must never knowingly give false or misleading information to the court”.

However, in Scotland, it is also a well-established principle that in terms of a solicitor’s duty of candour of matters of fact to a court, a solicitor is not obliged to put all relevant evidence before it, and may choose not to disclose a fact adverse to their position.  This can help Scottish solicitors to avoid breaching their duty to a court.

The ILG Committee will be working with the Society’s Professional Practice team to understand the full implications of this judgement for solicitors in Scotland.

If you have a query relating to  your responsibilities as a solicitor, or are looking for guidance,  please see the Society’s Rules and guidance A to Z, use the search facility or contact the Professional Practice  team of solicitors on the professional practice helpline on 0131 226 8896.

 

How to Get the Best Out of the Society

27 February 2015

Neil Stevenson Director of Representation & Professional Support, writes about his recent seminar presentation to the ILG

I was incredibly excited to be invited to speak at an ILG seminar a couple of weeks ago on how members can get the most out of the Society. 

I should start with a confession – I’m an unashamed Law Society luvvie, who can’t wait to get into work every day, is incredibly proud of what we do for members, and in my spare time even works for another professional regulator because of my enthusiasm for the importance of professions in society and economy. Sad, I know!  

In my defence I should add that I mediate that with some realism.  We know we can get better at what we do for members, and every annual plan we publish sets out how we hope to do that.  I also started and finished the presentation, and so likewise this article, with a plea – help us be better!

If our CPD isn’t relevant tell us what you do need, if you want update on a certain area of practice let us know, consider joining a committee our Council (literally hundreds of members have).  We obviously can’t provide everything, but every single bit of member feedback can help us improve, from the one line email from your smartphone with a simple idea, to the big suggestions for step change. 

When I chat to people about the Society, I always let them know how we work.  We have a strategy which sets out our 10-year plan (now five in) and which gives us a strategic aim, and five objectives – such as ensuring Scottish in-house lawyers are the ‘trusted adviser of choice’ to UK businesses.

We then set out an annual plan with specific targets and projects for the year, which is presented to the profession each year, along with an annual report on how we performed in achieving last year’s actions.  A 10 minute skim read could see you understand so much more about our approach – it might enthuse you or enrage you, but either reaction is fantastic and gives us something to work with from someone informed about our approach.  

So who comes up with all this?  Many of our members refer to us as ‘Drumsheugh Gardens’, as if the fading grandeur of sandstone and wood makes decisions itself.  In fact we have a vibrant Council,   with many in-house members, and over 50 committees and sub-committees which look at all aspects of law, regulation and member support with a key one for the in-house sector being the ILG.  We see members coming in every day and informing our work.  The Council set the strategy, and the Board, Committees and Staff implement it. 

So, you now know how to find out our master plan, and how those plans are set by members, but as a busy practitioner, with hundreds of work and personal demands on your time, how do you get the best out of all of that?

You might want to start with a quick scan of our A-Z of services.  At this point you may want to imagine me channelling Julie Andrews and singing ‘these are a few of my favourite things’, but even if that’s too dark and disturbing an image, there should be something there which for you is as exciting as whiskers on kittens or brown paper packages wrapped up in string.

Did you know? 

  • We can provide support to take on a non-exec role and build a portfolio career, all supported by free online CPD. 
  • We also have legislation trackers which can give you a quick summary of EU law progressing through Brussels which will impact on your businesses in years to come;
  • We have a confidential and independently run helpline for if you are stressed or being bullied
  • We publish an equality standard for law firms which can help you meet public sector procurement duties in relation to equality?
  • We publish a report on annual hourly rates in private practice you can use to inform tenders for external counsel.
  • We provide 20 evening seminars for free for in-house members, and that you can now log in to these from your desktop computer.
  • in-house lawyers can become solicitor advocates and judges, and how to do that?
  • we now provide training to the sales team of a major UK bank in how the client account works, so they can pitch to law firms?
  •  our law reform committees are probably right now discussing areas of law that affect your employer and that you could contribute and influence that legislation, and could have early insight to brief your employer?
  •  if you have a teenage child our car insurance deal in the members benefits service can save some members most or all of their PC fee back?


I sometimes feel the challenge is not too little for members, but too much.  If I can get a one-to-one conversation with a member, or a small group, I’ve a pretty good success rate in getting them enthused about something we do.  But trying to match the right member with the right service by mass marketing is harder.  It often takes more than a story in The Journal or the e-bulletin (despite us having one of the best readerships of any professional body for those publications!).

Like so many things in life it comes back to one of my mother’s clichés (my life is dominated by these much uttered phrases, which annoyingly so often prove true).  ‘You get out what you put in’.  So, why not do a little thing.  Sign up to our twitter feeds @Lawscot or @In_houseLawyers, or promise yourself you will read this quarterly bulletin in full and try to spot things that can help you.  We hope that helps you get the best out of your Law Society, or inspires you to tell us what is missing, what would help, and how we can be better for you.

ILG Committee Vacancies February 2015

27 February 2015

The ILG Committee is recruiting new members - why should you consider applying.

The Committee is looking to recruit 4 additional members to reflect the diversity of the in-house solicitor community. 

Why should you consider applying?

The Committee leads on a wide variety of projects, allowing any ILG member the opportunity to get stuck into work which is both interesting and of benefit to the ILG members. Currently the Committee is organised into several sub groups covering the following areas of work:

CPD and events – this sub-group leads on the highly regarded ILG seminar programme, the ILG Annual conference and the annual 21st Century Bar conference in conjunction with the Faculty of Advocates.

New Lawyers and Career Development – this group looks particularly at opportunities to work with the Society on support projects such as the current solicitor mentoring scheme, and other groups such as the SYLA and TANQ

Communications – this group leads on the newsletter, the regular articles in the Society’s Journal, as well as helping to maintain the ILG social media streams.

Governance and Member Services – this group looks at how the ILG runs and its relationship with the Society.

While this does give you a great opportunity to develop the support and service for your fellow in-house solicitors, the experience of joining the committee can help you develop skills and experience to help with your own career development. The Committee is committed to regular business planning and monitoring the work carried out in its annual plan, the communications work gives you the opportunity to develop your writing skills with the support of the Society’s communications team, and you could be a published author in the Journal. The events which the ILG are involved in provide excellent net-working opportunities for you.

Graeme McWilliams, Committee member since 2012, explains why he joined the Committee “I joined as I wanted to ensure that Standard Life (as a major in-house lawyer employer) was represented on the committee after Colin Anderson stepped down. I was also keen to see the 21st Century Bar conference event continue, which I always enjoyed attending and Colin had originally set it up with Lord Malcolm 15 years ago. I enjoy the committee work and my fellow committee members are very friendly and sociable!”

Sharon Wares, who joined the Committee in 2014, says “I am currently the newest member of the Committee and I am a Highland Council solicitor based in Inverness. When I heard that the Committee was looking for new members I wanted to support them as they have supported me.  The ILG held seminars have been particularly important to me as an in-house lawyer working in Inverness as they are often specifically tailored to in-house work or have an in-house perspective and the Committee have always been wonderful at using video conferencing technology to enable in-house lawyers spread around Scotland to attend seminars without travelling long distances. I always felt that there was a wonderful community feel to the seminars with in-house solicitors from venues all-round Scotland having the opportunity to not only view the seminars but to ask individual questions at the end from the various locations Portree, Fort William, Inverness, Lerwick, Peebles... It made me think of the Eurovision Song Contest with the opportunity for each jury to watch the same programme and fully participate afterwards and be part of a much larger community… and here are the results of the (Inverness) jury. When I joined the  Committee I had the same community feeling  from my first meeting with the Committee as each member of the Committee around the table personally welcomed me and told me about themselves and the kindness and support I have received has been wonderful.  I am still learning about the breadth of activity and diversity of the ILG Committee’s work.  I have joined the communications sub-group of the committee and looking forward to interviewing one of our in-house members for the Journal for the first time and also chairing one of the ILG seminars. I think it is a great group to be a part of and hope that other in-house lawyers will consider joining the Committee.”

One vacancy is reserved for an employee of the Crown Office Procurator Fiscals Service. For the other vacancies the Committee welcomes applications for any interested in-house solicitor, and would particularly welcome applications from:

  • Recently qualified solicitors
  • Solicitors working in oil and gas preferably in the Aberdeen area
  • Solicitors working in a private sector business environment other than in financial services

 If you are interested in these vacancies please see ILG Vacancies and download the application form. This should be returned to the ILG Secretary Elaine MacGlone by 6 Ma rch 2015. If you have any questions please  contact Elaine either by email or by telephone 0131 226 8887

 

ILG at the Law in Scotland Conference 2014

30 October 2014

Report from the Law in Scotland Conference 2014 for in-house lawyers.

This year the ILG Committee joined with the Law Society of Scotland in the production of the Law in Scotland conference “The people’s verdict, so what now?” to mark what has been a momentous year in Scotland, and not just in the legal sector.   

The Conference took place on 3 and 4 October 2014 with the outcome of the independence referendum as its theme. The format was a variety of plenary sessions as well as streamed political, in-house and business sessions, where delegates choose which one to attend. The intention was to offer an inclusive, “one profession” event, allowing in-house lawyers to get the benefits of the wider legal profession Conference as well as content specific to their in-house needs.  

ILG organised the three in-house sessions:

  1.  “Global General Council Insights: navigating the global legal landscape”, provided by sponsor firm DLA Piper;
  2. “The role of In-House Lawyers in Reducing and Managing Disputes – More Bangs for Less Bucks” by John Sturrock QC, Chief Executive of Core Solutions, and
  3. “Giving Scotland a Digital Edge: Opportunities and Challenges of the Digital; and Connectivity Revolution” provided by sponsor firm, Pinsent Masons.

The ILG AGM was also held during the Conference and the ILG Rising Star Award was presented at the conference dinner.  

Alistair Morris, the Law Society President kicked off the Conference by highlighting the contributions of solicitors to the Independence Referendum debate, including politicians such as Annabelle Goldie, Nicola Sturgeon and Alistair Darling, and others involved like Carol Fox and Brandon Malone.  He also paid tribute to the work of the ILG and our committee, noting that he was looking forward to working with the committee in the next year.

The keynote speaker was Kenny MacAskill who spoke about the future for Scotland. He acknowledged that the outcome of the referendum was not the one he had hoped for, and considered that the devolution proposals needed to make Scotland more prosperous, to make the country fairer and to give Scotland a clearer voice on the world stage.  

He received a number of questions including one on what the Scottish Government can do to support Scottish solicitors who work outside of Scotland, and the Conservative party announcement on their plans to repeal the Human Rights Act and the implications for Scotland. 

Global General Council Insights: navigating the global legal landscape

The delegates then moved into the first of the streamed sessions.  The first ILG streamed session was “Global General Council Insights: navigating the global legal landscape” by DLA Piper.  This was a lively and popular session which did indeed provide some real in-house insights. Callum Sinclair of DLA Piper acted as chair with speakers from RBS Legal: Kenny Robertson Head of Services, Sky Scanner: Carolyn Jameson, Exova: Neil Maclennan, Group General Counsel and Company Secretary, and Alistair Drummond, a partner at DLA Piper. 

The Panel gave views on their experiences of engaging solicitors overseas.  Kenny Robertson referred to difficulties in trying to get solicitors in the US to sign up to a local company agreement.  He found that what worked best was to have a firm such as DLA Piper acting as a local gatekeeper for other firms instructed. 

Carolyn Jameson also had a similar experience, she found managing external legal services provided by local firms overseas to be mixed and challenging, and often came down to the relationships she was able to build up with the local agents,  face to face meetings were helpful. 

The panel were asked for their three top challenges for in-house.  They all considered that keeping up with regulation  and ethics across the global areas, challenges on their time, as it seemed that everyone in an organisation needed them,  and there was an ongoing challenge in keeping outside legal costs as low as possible.  They all thought managing expectations of their internal clients was a difficult balancing act.   When asked about advice for in-house colleagues they all suggested being realistic with expectations, the value of getting a good team in place, and to remember that it is a busy but interesting job.  
 

The Panel were also asked for their views on whether there should be more regulations or guidance for in-house on ethics.  No-one felt that anything additional was required, and saw considering ethical obligations as a positive, by making it clear you were there to protect the business, rather than to be an enforcer.

In looking at the value placed on in-house counsel in their organisations, most had board access in their organisations, and thought that the UK was moving to a US type model where there are more in-house counsel working at a strategic level. Legal might be seen as a cost centre rather than a profit centre, but it brings value to a business by avoid costly risks and mistakes by setting up the guidelines for client departments to follow. In-house also should be front and centre of a business when there is a crisis to deal with. 

Alistair Carmichael, MP Secretary of State for Scotland  

At the next plenary session the speaker was Alistair Carmichael, MP Secretary of State for Scotland.  He emphasised a desire to work together to deliver the additional devolved powers to Scotland and in particular, encouraged a cross-party agreement for delivery.  He attracted many stimulating questions, including questions on why the BBC received criticism for their independence referendum coverage.  The In-House solicitor for STV, Helen Arnott confirmed that the STV had received a good number of complaints about their coverage too. Mr Carmichael emphasised that a plurality of communications was important in any debate. 

The Role of In-House Lawyers in Reducing and Managing Disputes

After a lunch where everyone got together and discussed the challenging and interesting comments made in the morning sessions, we were then back into the streamed sessions.  The next ILG session was by John Sturrock QC, founder and CEO of the Core Solutions Group. “The Role of In-House Lawyers in Reducing and Managing Disputes – more Bang for Less Bucks”. John is a pioneering and highly engaging speaker who championed the benefits of mediation. 

He questioned whether people really understand what mediation is.  He pointed out that in any dispute or debate it is possible for both sides to be right and wrong at the same time, referring to the independent referendum, both sides had validity depending on your own perspective.  John pointed out that in the legal disputes, court resolution of those is the yes/no answer - but real life is more complex. 

He recommended mediation as it is potentially less costly than going to court and as a resolution is reached by agreement it is less likely to be defaulted upon.  John suggested that in-house have a good reason to select mediation, as their goal is to resolve disputes in the most cost effective way, rather than trying to earn fees. He understood that some clients see going to court as the strong option, but suggested that mediation is the stronger one. 

It is always necessary to challenge assumptions about the bargaining strength of both parties - the large organisations case may be weak, or it may fear publicity and reputational damage.  For many lawyers, the court process is familiar and that a change of habit and culture may be required.  John also suggested that there are benefits in using mediation internally, and at an early stage, even at the stage of entering in to a contract.

He suggested building a collaborative culture, designing systems to encourage early problem solving in-house, stepped approaches to conflict management, enhancing competency of staff and their confidence in using mediation, improving and embedding skills are making sure that this was cascaded outwards. In any organisation buy-in from the management or the staff representatives/Union will always be of assistance.  He finished by advising that the process is the key and understanding of that process is important. 

One referendum down, one to go?

The next keynote session, “One referendum Down One to Go?” brought together speakers from the Scottish National Party, Tasmina Ahmad Sheikh, the Scottish Conservative Party, Ian Duncan MEP, and UKIP, David Coburn MEP.  We also heard from John Edward, currently Director of the Scottish Independent Schools, but prior to that head of the Scotland Office of the European Parliament in Edinburgh. 

This session focussed on proposals to have an in/out referendum on the UK’s membership of the European Union.  The Panel represented a variety of views, from those who were passionate about the need for the UK and Scotland to remain in the EU, and those who are campaigning against it. 


Giving Scotland the Digital Edge

The final ILG streamed session, “Giving Scotland the Digital Edge: Opportunities in and the Challenges of the Digital and Connectivity Revolution”, was provided by Pinsent Masons, speakers Chris Martin and Matthew Godfery-Faussett.  This was a fascinating peek into the future of where our organisations may need to go.

There has been a digital revolution, and the use of digital technology has changed substantially in the last 10 years.  Smart phones and other devices are in daily use, but there is still a substantial number of people who are not engaged in these. The digital revolution presents opportunities, includeing cost savings for businesses who can provide and manage services remotely. 

The Scottish Government is engaging with this industry,  and developments include Smart Energy and Smart Cities.  This is a big issue in the United States at the moment, and Glasgow has now obtained funding to develop itself as a Smart City.  The aim is to provide better cities and better places for people to live. 

Other opportunities are present in life sciences and medical research, a big industry for Scotland, where research can be conducted and collected remotely from subjects. Other services are provided around a digital platform such as Skyscanner.  In the area of energy production, for renewable energy,  a smart grid could replace the current grid and balance demand and supply more efficiently.  For oil and gas, the concern is that there are now dwindling supplies which are much more difficult to find – using automated services on rigs can allow exploration in less accessible areas, but also save costs. 

The Scottish Government has a digital strategy which is at the heart of the Government and there is funding available.  Matthew and Chris thought good communication pathways, good internet speeds, and storage facilities are necessary to help develop this area.  The Scottish Government has a project to provide a Scotland Wide Area Network (SWAN), which is to deliver a single secure public services communications network available for the use of any and potentially all public service organisations within Scotland. 

Chris and Matthew saw Scotland receiving additional devolved powers as an opportunity it is possible to use these as policy levers to meet the digital needs of businesses.  However they did identify that there is a skills shortage in Scotland at the moment and this will be a real area of challenge. 

Another area of challenge will be in relation to cloud services and data protection.  One area Scotland could become a world leader in is in relation to our strong environmental policy and strong data protection legislation. These are selling points to entice organisations and people to take up services provided from Scotland. 

In-house lawyers should be thinking of and seeking to understand these services are, so that they can advise their businesses and employers appropriately.  Their top tip was for the solicitors to ask the stupid questions  to get the information that their employers require.
 

Final Keynote session

The final keynote session of the day allowed delegates to question politicians from across the political spectrum in Scotland on preparing business for further devolution.  The panel was Johann Lamont MSP, the then Leader of the Scottish Labour Party, Willie Rennie MSP, Leader Scottish Liberal Democrats, Annabel Goldie, MSP, Scottish Conservative Party, and Jim Eadie MSP, Scottish National Party. 

Questions came forward in relation to the effect of the Independent Referendum on the business sector, there was a disagreement over whether this had caused uncertainty, or whether the uncertainty in business had come from other areas such as the previous failures in relation to the economy and banking. 

There was a general consensus that now there is a result to the vote, it must be accepted and there is a desire to co-operate to move forward.  Generally, the view was that while the no vote was in the majority, this had been influenced by the vow from the UK wide parties to devolve more power to Scotland.  The Smith Commission will be reporting on this. 

Annabel Goldie sits on the Commission and in her view she is clear that more powers will come.  Moving forward, the important question is what sort of Scotland do we want to live in. This is a big opportunity to agree a lasting settlement, but also to use the energy of the independence referendum campaign to take Scotland forward. 

Closing remarks came from the Law Society Chief Executive, Lorna Jack. 

The ILG AGM took place at the end of the day on 3 October, as part of the Conference. \

Read the full ILG AGM report

All in all it was a highly topical and insightful day with a very high quality of speakers. We think it worked well to have in-house sessions as part of a “one profession” conference so perhaps this is something to continue. If you have a view about this please get in touch via our Committee Secretary, Elaine MacGlone

Report from ECLA event: The role of in-house counsel in today’s legal practice

30 October 2014

Graeme McWilliams, ILG Committee member, reports on an event organised by the European Company Lawyers Association (ECLA), on 11 September 2014 in Brussels looking at the role of in-house counsel.

In September, I attended this very useful afternoon event and found it a great opportunity to find out more about the European take on the role of in-house lawyers.  

The programme was split into two panels: the first panel focused on the meaning of “independence”. The second panel examined regulation of the profession and the evolving nature of compliance challenges for in-house counsel in a global context.

The point was made that the role of employed lawyers in today's legal practice, and the regulation of their profession, continues to be controversial. 

On 29 May 29, 2014, ECLA published a White Paper on the independence of company lawyers. This White Paper gives an international perspective on a number of topics relating to in-house counsel and argues that professional independence is a necessary prerequisite to the provision of legal advice of any value.  Legal professional privilege is still a hot topic in Europe, after the ECJ decision in the Akzo Nobel case was issued in 2010, which many thought would be decided in favour of in-house legal privilege. A possible challenge to the ruling with some new arguments may still be on the cards. Certain EU member states such as the UK, Belgium, Netherlands and Germany etc. still have some sort of legal privilege but it is not recognised in EU courts or for EU competition matters etc. 

On the ECLA website there are links to ECLA’s first European company Lawyers’ Code of Ethics and to Legal Privilege : An overview of EU and National Case Law , which is a document from the Institute of Competition Law, which summarises the current status of legal profesional privilege by highlighting national cases and contrasting them with competition law jurisprudence in the EU.

There are two sets of speaker slides available from the second panel of this event at from 
Boris Kasten, Head of Competition Law, Schindler AG and Steve Preece, Assistant Director, CMA (UK).

The ILG Committee will consider whether membership of ECLA would provide additional benefits for its members.

Legal Process Outsourcing: How the right processes and technology can bring efficiencies, add value and help your legal team create “more for less”.

30 October 2014

By Robert Glennie of NewGalexy

At a time when many legal teams are trying to reduce the amount of work they send to external law firms and to do “more for less” within growing businesses and organisations which have ever-increasing need for the support and assistance which in-house legal teams provide, two key questions which in-house lawyers should consider are:

  • Are the right resources being used to undertake different elements of work within your in-house team? and
  • Could your team be better utilised (and even better motivated) by de-constructing the work which they do into (i) elements of work which would better be outsourced in some way, and (ii) elements of work which should continue to be done by members of your team?

De-constructing legal transactions 

A CPD event which NewGalexy recently ran for The Law Society of Scotland generated considerable interest – and this article offers a “taster” of some of the topics which were discussed at that event.

Consider “breaking down” legal tasks and transactions, and “mapping out who does what” within your business or organisation.  By using this de-construction process, you can analyse (i) which elements of the particular legal transaction need genuine “high level” legal expertise and (ii) which tasks have an element of process to them, do not need such high-level expertise and can therefore be completed more effectively, and more cheaply, by an organisation such as a Legal Process Outsourcer (“LPO”), like NewGalexy.

Take, for example, a large litigation or a series of smaller, but similar, litigations.  You should consider whether certain elements of any electronic discovery process could (or should) be outsourced to an LPO.  It is now very common (especially in North America and increasingly in the UK) for LPOs to carry out bulk work in relation to electronic discovery and document review by using technology and sophisticated processes to deliver these services.  These techniques can be applied equally effectively in Investigations, Arbitrations and Disputes.  Why divert your internal resources or incur the expense of using an external law firm for preliminary “document sifting and analysis” – when that can be done more cheaply and effectively by an LPO?

Most legal transactions have an element of process to them.  Most legal transactions and projects can readily be de-constructed.  An M&A transaction, for example, might be broken down into the following constituent parts:

Graphic For Robert Glennie Article

 

 

“Right-sourcing”

The process of collecting and indexing electronic and physical documents does not need a high level of legal expertise.  In America, lawyers describe allocating that type of task to an LPO as “right-sourcing”.  By pre-agreeing exactly what the LPO should check for and report on, a searchable database of information can be created, and that database can be used after the acquisition has been completed: that should help with post acquisition harmonisation and, if necessary, amendment of some of the target company’s contracts.  Consider what key obligations you would like to be reported on within the due diligence review.  If, later, you need to know – for example – which contracts include change of control provisions, a simple search will produce that information for you. That adds value to the due diligence exercise – by recording information which can be used after the acquisition has been completed.

As long ago as 2011, a report for the Association of Corporate Counsel found that the majority of in-house counsel it had surveyed felt that routine legal work, low value and low risk contracts, and document review consumed far too much of their time – relative to the value of these matters to the organisations in which they worked.  They commented that they would prefer to concentrate on more valuable work, engage more with their colleagues in their organisations and provide input to strategic planning decisions.

Developments in Technology

Recently, technology available to in-house legal counsel has improved and dropped in price.  For too long, other professions (for example, accountants) have been able to licence a wide range of fixed price technology – while lawyers have not. 

My experience working with KPMG stimulated my interest in how the use of processes and technology could help lawyers adapt to change.  Technology will play an increasingly significant part in the working lives of lawyers – but to be successful, technology must be affordable and intuitive. It needs to be an easy-to-use enabler, making change easy to accept and implement.  

Building on the work which it has done in developing processes to assist in-house counsel to drive efficiency and contain costs, NewGalexy has developed technology which is easy to use, intuitive and available at an affordable fixed price - to enable in-house counsel, procurement professionals and potentially others within businesses and organisations to:

  • Automate contract assembly and creation,
  • Ensure that pre-set levels of approval are granted before contracts are generated,
  • Set work-flows, automate reminders and assess contract risk, and also
  • Manage the lifecycle of contracts. 

No need, any longer, to pay for expensive consultancy and implementation “extras”.  No need, any longer, for expensive IT professionals to help you get started.  No need, and longer, for months of delay and haggling over fluid pricing.  Anyone who can operate WORD, can operate NewGalexy’s ContractPod™ technology.  What ContractPod™ can do is explained in greater detail at www.contractpod.com

And, if you have legacy contracts that you would like to load into ContractPod™, NewGalexy’s LPO lawyers can do that for you (or you can have your own people do that for you, if you prefer).  Getting fully “up and running” is neither lengthy nor complicated. 

Some businesses – including many large banks – have created their own teams of IT professionals to design their own automation technology.  But not all businesses will want to commit to that substantial investment – especially as “off-the-shelf” technology becomes available to them.

Could any of this help your organisation? 

Whether your organisation is in the private or the public sector, you will have contracts that you could automate (from an NDA to a Master Services Agreement), transactions which you could streamline and make more efficient through process mapping, or elements of tasks or transactions which could be more appropriately resourced.  

The need to do “more for less” will be a continuing driver of change in the ways in which legal services will, in future, be delivered.  If this short article stimulates your thinking about how some of the changes discussed here might benefit your organisation, it will have met its purpose. 

Robert Glennie is a Director of NewGalexy Services Limited.  He’s been with NewGalexy since 2005, having previously been a partner in McGrigors and CEO of KLegal International (KPMG’s former international grouping of law firms).  Robert holds an LL.B. from the University of Strathclyde and is a Fellow of the Institute of Chartered Secretaries & Administrators.  To hear more about NewGalexy’s legal support solutions or its ContractPod™ technology please contact: +44 141 280 1600 or robert.glennie@newgalexy.com

 

In-house and the Society’s regulation consultations

30 October 2014

 

ILG Committee members Allan Steele, Sara Scott, Graeme McWilliams and Ros McInnes participated in a survey to glean views on possible changes to regulation of the legal profession, specifically the Society’s consultations on (1) entity regulation and (2) principles and outcomes focused regulation.

This article discusses their views and the in-house impacts, such as significantly reduced practising certificate fees. 

 

1. Entity Regulation and Charging  

The present system of regulation of the solicitors’ profession by the Society is largely individual. The idea mooted is a more hybrid system where entities also become regulated, as well as individuals, in line with a global trend in this direction. “Entities” means private practice law firms so this won’t make any changes in the way in which in-house teams are regulated but the new charge for entities would result in significantly reduced practising certificate fees for in-house solicitors. The consultation paper provides an example that an in-house solicitor working in a local authority would be £410 annually if entity regulation was implemented, compared to £630 at the moment.   

ILG Committee member, Ros McInnes (BBC Scotland), said “I thought it a good idea in principle. We’re already in a patchwork situation and more coherent consideration of that is needed.  The disadvantages outlined don’t strike me as insuperable or without precedent in the current system and some of the advantages- especially the possible reduction in a blame culture and better protection for the consumer- looked cogent. The regulation proposed is in addition to the regulation of individuals, so wouldn’t be at the expense of our personal responsibility as officers of the court.  

It’s maybe worth saying that this was winning my vote before I turned to the projected in-house example, which is clearly to the benefit of our membership as a whole.” 

Committee members, Graeme McWilliams (Standard Life) and Sara Scott (The Royal Bank of Scotland) commented that the advantage, quoted in the consultation paper, of a reduction in blame culture would not apply to in-house as entity regulation would not apply in-house. So if blame culture is an issue in-house then it would continue to be one. Sara also wondered if it had the potential to make in-house solicitors second-class citizens.    

Graeme and Sara both thought that better regulation of firms could benefit in-house solicitors in their capacity as clients, as it could benefit the public at large. With this in mind, both also felt that entity regulation would provide a fairer basis for regulation so long as it was implemented in a risk-based, proportionate way and they called for a register of regulated firms for clients/ the public to use. Clearly there are also plenty of lessons to be learnt from other areas, including the implementation of this in England and Wales.  

2. Principles and outcomes focused regulation  

The present system of regulation requires solicitors to adhere to rules promulgated in accordance with the Solicitors (Scotland) Act 1980.  The idea mooted is that the profession considers a move away from a rules based system of regulation in favour of adopting a principles and outcomes focussed regulation (POFR) system.  

POFR has been described by Professor Julia Black of the London School of Economics as: “moving away from reliance on detailed prescriptive rules and relying more on high level, broadly stated rules of principles to set the standards by which regulated firms must conduct themselves.” 

Committee Member, Allan Steele (RAF Wing Commander), saw some merit in a move away from a system based on detailed rules.  He said: “The system of regulation is ultimately there to protect the public interest and our system of justice in general.  It is imperative that all Scottish solicitors are required to uphold the highest standards of integrity in their professional lives.  That integrity test may be best described as doing the right thing when no one is watching.  If we are agreed on who the rules are there to protect i.e. the public, there may be some merit in ensuring that the rules are well understood by the public and solicitors alike.  General principles may better achieve that aim.   

However, I would urge caution before any change is made.  Solicitors, being creatures used to implementing rules, deserve certainty in their dealings.  If a general rule is ambiguous, the honest and conscientious solicitor rightly deserves guidance on a proposed course of action.  Any system of general principles should therefore be backed up by a dedicated customer service unit on hand to address solicitors’ concerns inadvance.  It would be simply unacceptable to allow solicitors to guess as to whether a proposed course of action adheres to rules and then have a regulatory body criticise them later when interpretative help was either not available or of an adequate standard.”  

Similarly, Graeme McWilliams and Sara Scott were broadly in favour of POFR but believed that the issues of lack of certainty and retrospective regulation were real ones. A clear advantage would be increased flexibility and future-proofing of requirements. Sara questioned if POFR would be a more expensive form of regulation to administer and whether this would therefore impact on practising certificate fees – a question there was not yet an answer to. Both called out the need for training from the Society and ILG on POFR to help with implementation and a clear need to learn lessons from other areas such as England and Wales and financial services.  

Ros McInnes had different views, saying “On the whole, I’m not sold on the concept. Some of the claimed advantages seem self-contradictory: it would be a rare situation where increased flexibility creates increased consistency, to my mind. I’m not convinced that to regulate by principle would enable greater client focus.  It does, however, seem likely that it would lead to an increased burden in terms of regularity guidance.  Scots law is traditionally rooted, at least in part, in a principled civilian tradition, and to that extent it’s consonant with our system to have principles and out come focused regulation, but philosophical historical consistency is hardly a prime consideration.    

We have all have plenty of experience these days in dealing with the interpretation of broad brush principles, between the ECHR and the CJEU, and can we honestly say that it’s simplified matters? You can inscribe Art 6 or Art 8 on a grain of rice, but that simply pushes the detail into the jurisprudence. It’s necessary in any situation where differing traditions and languages are engaged to have, bluntly, wiggle room, but for the Scottish legal profession? I’ve also got experience of this indirectly through Ofcom and the PCC and to be honest, I prefer dealing with the BBC Editorial Guidelines. They are contained in a doorstop of a document and there is further guidance on the rims in a manner which is unwieldy, but there’s a better chance of getting a clear steer and they’re the product of much learning. 

We’ve also got to remember that, in effect, some code violations can be penal matters for solicitors and, in that context, specification and narrow construction are generally considered fairer.” 

The ILG as a whole, in common with the Council of the Law Society or the Regulatory Committee has no fixed view for or against POFR, but it welcomes the work being undertaken to ensure that the system of regulation is kept under regular review in order to protect the public interest.  

Both consultations closed on 10 October 2014.

Read more about the regulation consultation.

So what do you think? The consultations were just the start of the process though and we’d love to hear your views on these proposals at any time so we can fully represent our members. Please do get in touch via our Committee Secretary, Elaine MacGlone.

 

New year, new you - in-house career tips

26 February 2014

Career tips from ILG Committee for February 2014 newsletter

Improving yourself is very much the ethos of the Year of the Horse so to help you with your own career and personal development this year we asked the ILG Committee members a couple of questions:

Question 1:  What's the best career advice you've ever had?

"Consider how what you do in private would look on the front page of the Sunday Mail!" Allan Steele, Royal Air Force

"The best career tip I learned - especially for commercial deals - was to put myself in the other person's shoes. Why are they asking for what they are? Can they give me what I want? What do they want to get out of the deal? etc. The bottom line is that there's no point endlessly arguing over issues that it is impossible for the other side to agree with or concede."  Gregor Buick, Church of Scotland

"I had a role where I was dealing with people over the telephone regularly, and where they could be upset, or angry with decisions I was communicating to them. The tips I got were to stand up when speaking as this helps you to control the call in a positive way, and secondly to smile when speaking to someone on the phone as that would come through in your voice. Communication and creating the right impression is the key to so many jobs these days." Elaine MacGlone, Law Society of Scotland

"Don't be shy to ask your colleagues questions and listen to what they have to say. You can learn a lot from other peoples' experience and from constructive criticism. Also, most people love to help!" Claudia Bennett, Equality and Human Rights Commission

"'Don't go native', were the wise words of Glenn Del Medico when I joined the BBC. He had been giving programme legal advice to the corporation since the year I was born; it seemed sensible to pay attention. Glenn meant simply that journalists have their job and lawyers have another. Lawyers must not lose their detachment; sometimes, the worst allegations and the best jokes have to go.

"Glenn's words have an extra resonance in the midst of the phone hacking scandal, which is a reminder of the perils which can beset the in-houser. A less crude form of going native is the unconscious adoption of the organisation's world view. In-house lawyers who think the natives are making unethical demands can always approach ILG for a listening ear or for help finding a devil's advocate to help you know the other side of the case/argument (in order to better know your own)." Ros McInnes, BBC Scotland

"Grab opportunities and volunteer, volunteer, volunteer. Recently I went to an ILG seminar and one of our members who I hadn't met before came forward and proactively volunteered to help out with ILG. He had a lot of enthusiasm, energy and great ideas and the project he's now doing will ultimately help ILG, its members and his own CV as well." Sara Scott, The Royal Bank of Scotland

Question 2:  What's on your personal development plan this year?

"To (finally) get round to applying for a specialist accreditation from the Law Society (specifically in freedom of information and data protection law)." Margaret Keyse, Office of the Scottish Information Commissioner

"Mentoring. I'm lucky enough to have a mentor and be a mentor myself for the first time so I'll be making the most of that. I'm delighted to be mentoring two fantastic lawyers as part of the Law Society's mentoring scheme pilot. In fact a high proportion of the solicitors who applied to be mentors were from in-house so I'm clearly not the only in-houser who's passionate about the difference that mentoring can make to someone's career!" Sara Scott, Royal Bank of Scotland

"Having completed a 360-degree feedback exercise I am reflecting upon the results and how to use them to make positive improvements to my work." Elaine MacGlone, Law Society of Scotland

If ILG can help you meet you meet your career goals this year, please contact Elaine MacGlone.

Insights from the Bar

26 February 2014

Report from 21st Century Bar Conference 2013

On a crisp Friday in December, the 21st Century Bar Conference 2013 took place at the Faculty of Advocates' MacKenzie Building in Edinburgh. This joint event between the Faculty of Advocates and ILG, described by then Vice Dean of the Faculty (now Dean), James Wolffe QC, as a "fruitful collaboration", was in its 13th successful year. Around half of the delegates were in-house lawyers and half from the Bar. The event has very much been focused on black letter law updates from the Bar on a mixture of private and public law topics and this year was no exception.

It was my first time attending the conference and I found it both highly informative and entertaining and a great opportunity to meet advocates and other in-house lawyers. I would thoroughly recommend it for its CPD and networking. This year's event was free of charge for the first time, making it even more accessible and inclusive than ever.

Here are the highlights of what happened on the day:

Opening the conference with an introduction and welcome to the Faculty, James Wolffe QC said the event was about taking stock, getting legal updates and looking forward while gathering those important CPD points.

He went on to talk about litigation trends and changes, noting that there'd been a marked decline in civil litigation so the popular conception that there is a compensation culture is not borne out by the numbers.

He spoke of structures, procedures, cost and the profession. The publication of Sheriff Taylor's review in September will have significant implications if implemented, for example the qualified one-way cost shifting regime in personal injury cases.

On the profession, the Dean's controversial rule change means that the solicitor no longer needs to be present in court. In fact the rule's purpose is to allow the solicitor flexibility not to appear in court. It does not alter who instructs counsel.

If structural reforms take place which put more cases into the sheriff court rather than the Court of Session then some litigants will be deprived of the right to instruct counsel, as they may not be able to recover counsel's fees in the sheriff court. He feels that the starting point should be that any litigant who needs and wants an advocate should be able to instruct one. This would be a 21st century Bar.

Advocate Susan Duff took to the podium to tell us about the legal (and physical) dangers of driving at work - an analysis from a health and safety perspective. Employers are liable for employees reading emails or making phone calls while driving if the employer demands immediate checking of emails. One third of all traffic accidents are work related. More people are killed driving at work than in any other job including construction and oil and gas. The police may investigate the employer too or refer to the Health and Safety Executive (HSE). Employer liability does not apply to commuting to the employee's normal workplace and can apply to road rage if it can be linked back to employee's work, eg they are very stressed and have a heavy workload. 

What is expected of the employer? A relevant question is did the employee have to drive? Guidance is available from the HSE. The most vulnerable people are those who drive for work less frequently, rather than those who do it every day. The Crown Office has a dedicated health and safety prosecution department and she thinks we will see rising litigation on this.

She said she finds it very frightening for employees and employers and I have to say that I agreed! Could your organisation do more to manage its risks in this area? 

The next speaker was a well known name to anyone who has done a Scots law degree - the Honourable Lord Stephen Woolman. Lord Woolman gave us a highly engaging, entertaining and knowledgeable talk on Interpretation of Contract. He said that this was a very happy conference and a useful place to exchange ideas. He reminded us of the quote: "Good lawyers don't need actual knowledge, they need potential knowledge and the skills to apply it". He said, "You may not remember anything that I'm about to say but that doesn't matter!". He took us on a journey through case law, with the help of some colourful slides containing pictures from chess to polar bears and another visual aid - the portrait of Sir David Edward which was hanging on the wall. He provided three tips for construing contracts: (1) At the outset take a broad overall view of what the agreement had in mind; (2) Then unravel the parts which are more difficult to understand; and (3) Don't read it literally - put yourself in the place of the parties. He concluded by likening the approach of contract construction to that of polar bear (the one on the slides) who puts his paws carefully on the ice to see if it will bear his weight - so we should proceed carefully! 

Two more talks completed the morning. 

Firstly advocate Alice Stobbart gave an Employment Law Update, focussing on case law, including an interesting section on the question of what constitutes disability in disability discrimination rules. It is not about the cause but the effect so obesity and perhaps even alcoholism could cause disability. 

Secondly advocate Jonathan Brown gave us a Regulatory Update, focussed on complaints against solicitors and advocates. He expressed concern about the fairness of the Scottish Legal Complaints Commission's processes - though it transpired that there was a commissioner in the audience! The commission's cases have focussed mainly until now on high street solicitors but this could hit advocates too.  It's coming to all of us and we need to change what we do, he warned, so we are all going to have to become a little more defensive.

He ran through significant cases from the last year and spoke about a hot topic: third party service complaints. This is about liability to a person who is not a client eg an opponent in litigation or counterparty in a transaction. He felt there was a need for the Inner House to give guidance in some detail on this so we know where we stand eg on threshold of interest. This may come in 2014. Third party service complaints could potentially be made against in-house lawyers but whether or not any complaints have actually been made in practice or not is unclear from the information which the commission discloses. 

A question and answer session with the morning's speakers completed the morning. James Wolffe was asked: what was the main thing that the Faculty Rules Council was working on? He said it was deciding ultimately what to do with the rules of court eg should there be complete re-write or more targeted reform given structural changes. The judicial rate of interest was also being looked at. The council is very much in early days of its work. 

It was then time for a lunch break, involving a pop-up charity tuck shop and a wonderful array of cakes. 

Graeme McWilliams, ILG Committee member and in-house lawyer in Standard Life, opened the afternoon session, emphasising that the conference was all about in-house lawyers and advocates getting to know each other. 

Advocate Roisin Higgins provided an intellectual property update, focussed on image rights. She reminded us that UK law does not recognise such a thing as an image right. She then injected some celebrity glamour into the day by focusing on the case which Rihanna took against Topshop in the summer about the use of her image on t-shirt manufactured and sold by the high street retailer. She joked that this was the first time she'd seen the words "cool" and "edgy" in a judgment! Rihanna won the case but it is being appealed and the case was caveated as a decision on particular facts. 

Interestingly Guernsey has now become the first place in the world to have image rights legislation. You can register as a "personnage", ie personality. Images can also be registered in respect of a personage, including gestures such as the "Mobot" and Usain Bolt's lightening bolt. Registration is for ten years, images for three years, both with scope for renewal. There is an exception for news reporting. It is a sort of merger of copyright and trade mark law. It may impact on websites if famous individuals take advantage of the opportunity to register image rights in a tax haven. Are there policy reasons in favour of image rights? She doesn't have the answer but the Rihanna case has thrown spotlight on the Guernsey legislation. So far there have been 20 registrations in Guernsey but the test will come in infringement actions.

Next up was Anna Poole QC who gave us a Public Law Update. Anna said she thought  Roisin's technique of using celebrities to keep us engaged in the graveyard slot was inspired. Her two engagement tactics are: (1) chocolates; and (2) the top ten public law trends for 2013. We had to guess the top ten to win the chocolates so we duly wrote down our guesses and then Anna revealed them. For full details see Anna's Journal article. Sadly the audience success rate for guessing the top ten was not high - the winner of the chocolates had only got two out of the ten (although that was still two more than me!). 

David Sellar QC then gave us a Company Law Update, delivered with his very amusingly dry sense of humour. "That intro does make me appear rather dull, which is correct!" he began. He marched us through case law on how company law is evolving, talking about burgundy, unfortunate accidents and Monty Python's dead parrot along the way, saying that the cases have left him wondering what practical content the corporate veil now has.

ADR in Scotland was the next topic of the afternoon, with advocate Stephen O'Rourke giving us a fresh perspective on mediation. Will mediation be a major factor in 21st century law he asked? As lawyers we make assumptions - that court is the best solution, that litigation is financially viable, that the court wants to hear your case, that clients are patient and prepared to take the risk, and that there's no better alternative. He challenged these assumptions, for example, changing court attitudes means that we can't assume that the court wants to hear our case. We're seeing the potential privatisation of dispute resolution. 

Mediation is encouraged in the UK. Other countries like Italy and Germany go down a more mandatory route. On a recent trip to see mediation in action in the USA he found it interesting to see that the culture there is very pro-mediation. In the USA, unlike here, the parties are all put into the same room. This is explosive initially but ultimately results in a better solution. 

Stephen spoke of lawyers' transferable skills and challenged the assumptions we make about our own skill sets. Mediation is going to become part of our skill set whether we like it or not. He also challenged the assumption that commercial cases aren't as suitable for mediation as, say, family law or neighbour cases. Why are people not taking it up? Victims are scared and fundamentally misunderstand mediation and what can be achieved. 

Michael Howlin QC then provided the last talk of the day, a Public Procurement Update.  He talked about all the EU and Scottish legislative change that is coming, saying that it is going to be a glorious mess!

Graeme McWilliams closed the conference, praising Colin Anderson and Lord Malcolm for starting this annual event in 2001. He thanked all of the speakers and the Faculty of Advocates for a highly successful event. The ILG attendees felt it appropriate to toast the event's success afterwards in the Devil's Advocate bar in Advocate's Close. Until next year! 

Sara Scott, Vice Chair, ILG

The Financial Services (Banking Reform) Act 2013

26 February 2014

Spotlight on the work of the law reform team. For ILG newsletter February 2014

The Society's law reform team recently acted to prevent new financial services legislation having an unforeseen impact on in-house lawyers. Here's what happened.

The Financial Services (Banking Reform) Act 2013 received royal assent on 18 December 2013. This Act will bring into law structural and cultural changes to the banking system, by: 

  • introducing a 'ring-fence' around the deposits of people and small businesses, to separate the high street from the trading floor and protect taxpayers when things go wrong
  • making sure the new Prudential Regulation Authority  (PRA) can  require banks to account for the way they separate their retail and investment activities, giving it powers to enforce the full separation of individual banks
  • imposing higher standards of conduct on the banking industry by introducing a criminal sanction for reckless misconduct that leads to bank failure
  • giving depositors, protected under the Financial Services Compensation Scheme, preference if a bank enters insolvency
  • giving the government power to ensure that banks are more able to absorb losses
  • introducing a cap on payday loans  

During its progress through the UK Parliament, concerns were raised about the potential effect on in-house lawyers, specifically relating to part 4 - Conduct of Persons in the Financial Services Industry - as a result of government amendments. Amongst these amendments, were proposals to allow the Financial Conduct Authority (FCA) and the PRA to be able to make rules about the conduct of:

  1. persons who either regulator has approved including senior managers,
  2. employees of banks, in respect of their qualifying functions, which are a function relating to the carrying on of activities, whether or not regulated by a bank or the employer. Employee includes the provider of services under contract who is subject to the supervision, direction or control concerning how those services are provided.  

The Society's Banking, Company and Insolvency Law Sub-Committee, which is one of the Society's law reform sub-committees, considered that this could potentially make in-house solicitors subject to the rules of the PRA and the FCA, and could affect specifically a solicitor's duty of confidentiality towards their client (or their employer in this case), and legal professional privilege.

In addition to soliciting the support of the Advocate General for Scotland, Lord Wallace of Tankerness, the law reform team prepared amendments to the Bill to clarify that these provisions would not affect confidentiality and legal professional privilege. The team was delighted to have these tabled by Lord Mackay of Drumadoon in the House of Lords on 26 November 2013.  The debate of these amendments resulted in the UK Government lord, Lord Newby, providing assurances that these provisions within the Bill would not affect confidentiality or legal professional privilege. This is now therefore a matter of Hansard record. 

The team was pleased to have received these assurances, which provide a level of security and certainty for members working in this field of law. 

For more information on the Act itself, please see https://www.gov.uk/government/policies/creating-stronger-and-safer-banks).

Launch of ILG North East Scotland Network

26 February 2014

Report of launch ILG North East Scotland Network

On 4 November 2013, the first ILG regional network was launched, specifically the ILG North East Scotland Network. The launch event took place in Burness Paull LLP's offices in Aberdeen. It was the brainchild of Robin Baxter, ILG Committee member in the north east. Before the launch, emails were sent out to our members in the north east to test the water and there was real interest in the network and in getting involved. North east members said they wanted three things from the network:

  1. Networking.
  2. Sharing knowledge and experience.
  3. CPD, particularly oil and gas-specific CPD.

At the event, Robin outlined these objectives and additional thoughts about the network and led some discussion about how the network could work, including the need for a diverse local committee to run it.

Jane MacEachran, in-house lawyer, Law Society Council member for Aberdeen and Law Society Board member, was also there and was keen to engage with in-house lawyers in the area. She hoped the ILG North East Scotland Network would help her do just that. This was preceded by a panel of three in-house lawyers and one ex-in-house lawyer giving an insight into their careers.

Peter McLuckie, of Baxters Food Group, talked about the proximity to decision-making that he has in his role - as a company secretary he's on the board of directors. This means he's dragged into everything - which is both a bonus and a burden. Governance, managing legal risk and protecting the brand are all key. What makes a good in-house lawyer? He said that one thing is to know your limits.

Bruce McLeod, of Burness Paull LLP, provided a private practice perspective, but one very much informed by previously working in-house at BP and then also in a purely commercial role there. As an in-house lawyer hand-holding was a big part of the job. His commercial role was great fun and gave him perspective as a commercial client but he found it hard to move away from a legal role. He shared four observations on an in-house role (in oil and gas but similar elsewhere):

  1. Technical excellence - this is a pre-requisite but is not enough.
  2. Understanding the commercial and technical context in which operating and sector knowledge.
  3. Being part of decision-making - "the guardians of the corporate balance sheet". The legal team are better placed to take some decisions.
  4. Judgment - people look to you for this, more so than in private practice.

Lynda Towers, Chair of the In-House Lawyers' Group, talked about the need for political neutrality in her role as Solicitor to the Scottish Parliament, no matter what is happening. Reputational issues are one of the biggest things she has to deal with and remaining flexible is key. She was quizzed about how she manages to get the time to do two such big roles!

Sara Scott, Vice Chair of the In-House Lawyers' Group, who talked about life as an in-house lawyer in financial services being tough but rewarding and full of opportunities for in-house lawyers. She mentioned the scope for in-house lawyers to move into rewarding quasi-legal roles such as in compliance, risk or company secretarial departments of financial services companies. She also spoke of how she's found it personally rewarding to take opportunities outside of work to learn new skills, by volunteering at the Society in her ILG and other roles.

The event concluded with a lively Q&A session and networking. Watch this space for more information about the ILG North East Scotland Network and its next event.

The committee to develop the network is now being put together, and will be chaired by Peter McLuckie, of Baxters Food Group. If you are interested in helping the committee, please contact Elaine MacGlone.

Joint meeting of the Edinburgh and Glasgow Sole Practitioner Groups

26 February 2014

Joint meeting of the Edinburgh and Glasgow Sole Practitioner Groups. Report for ILG Newsletter

The Society was pleased to welcome over 30 sole practitioners and in-house lawyers who work in a 'team of one' or are the sole Scottish solicitor in their organisation to this event in Edinburgh on 20 February. We were particularly pleased to see that a number of in-house lawyers attended, with this being the first event run after opening the programme up to in-house lawyers. 

Rosalind McInnes spoke about her role at the BBC Scotland sharing her experiences of being Principal Solicitor carrying out a unique role in the BBC, and how she developed her support networks. She spoke on the benefits of making external contacts and how valuable engaging with private practice solicitors, and advocates working in similar areas to her have been. Rosalind's comments sparked many questions including "How do you stay motivated?", and how does she handle the challenge of taking time off work - the answer to the second question being "with some difficulty!". 

Bruce Beveridge, the Society's President, was also available to take questions. This included the floor discussing the potential impact of the independence referendum, with different views being expressed on whether and how this will impact on the Scottish economy. 

The formal part of the event finished with a detailed discussion of lenders panels in conveyancing, and we were grateful that Mark Shepherd of the professional practice team at the Society was on hand to advise on the Society's work in this area. Mark covered concerns about practitioners being removed form conveyancing panels and what action could be taken if that occurs to an individual firm or practitioner. Mark advised that this has been considered by the Property Law Committee. The committee suggests making a complaint to the complaints team at the bank, or building society, and if that is not resolved, a complaint could then be made to the Financial Conduct Authority or the Financial Ombudsman Service. 

A number of attendees advised that they have received an email from Santander, asking them to provide details to enable Santander's move to the Lender Exchange panel management system. There were concerns expressed that this was an attempt by Santander to have people sign up for the Lenders Exchange. Mark advised the group that the information which he had received was to the effect that this need not be viewed as a demand to sign up to Lender Exchange if someone is already on the Santander panel. The view was that it just facilitates transfer of data already provided to Santander, and probably had little difference from being on the panel already in practical terms. However, a member of the Property Law Committee had relayed concerns to a contact at Santander. 

Time was set aside for informal networking, over a glass of wine and canapés, allowing the in-house attendees to swap ideas and experiences with their private practice colleagues.    

If you are an in-house solicitor working in a team of one, or are the sole solicitor in your organisation, and are interested in attending future sole practitioner meetings, please contact professionalsupport@lawscot.org.uk. These take place in Glasgow and Edinburgh on a regular basis.

Report from the ILG annual conference and annual general meeting

23 October 2013

Report from the ILG conference and AGM 4 October 2013

A total of 158 delegates came to Murrayfield Stadium on 4 October for a day focused on "In-house in 2013: innovative, in the know and in demand".

Lynda Towers, ILG Committee Chair,  kicked off the annual ILG conference by welcoming everyone and reminding all present of the theme of the day: "Innovation is about rising creatively to the challenges of our ever expanding in-house roles in these challenging times. In the know is about arming us with the up-to-date knowledge we need to achieve career success. In demand is about building a really strong reputation for in-house lawyers and about us and our teams being the best we can be."

With that in mind, the conference then moved on to its first session: "Lawyers as Leaders". This session followed an interactive panel format, with Kate Hodgkiss, of DLA Piper, chairing a panel made up of Philippa Montgomerie, in-house legal counsel and member of the board of Aircraft Medical, Lynda Towers, who in her day job is the Solicitor to the Scottish Parliament and Sara Scott, ILG Vice Chair and a solicitor in the Royal Bank of Scotland secretariat.

This session explored the skills needed to secure a seat at the top table, whether by joining the board or taking up another senior appointment.

The panel also reflected upon whether there was a tension between the lawyer as a risk manager, and the board wishing to move business projects and strategy forward. They saw there were many benefits to the legal team getting involved with business projects at an early stage, to influence the strategy and work so that the risks could be avoided - that way the legal team were seen as facilitators for the business, and not the people who say "no".

Lynda summed up the session by advising people to take opportunities as they present themselves and to take advantage of all chances to gain the knowledge and experience needed.

ACH Shoosmiths presented the next session, "Delivering and Demonstrating Value as an In-House Lawyer".  Stuart Little and Graham Reid looked at why delivering value is important, and why in-house solicitors need to be fully integrated into their employers' business and objectives. The value that individual departments deliver is always on the agenda for business leaders, and if in-house lawyers wish to be more influential they will have to show they are providing value to their organisations. They saw understanding the business of the employer as critical to this - lawyers need to know what their employers want from them. Another part of this includes measuring performance - they suggest aligning performance indicators to the business strategy and also eliciting input from senior stakeholders in setting these.

Stuart also saw managing legal spend as a real opportunity to show value. He suggested setting the budget and telling external suppliers what you want. He also thinks the perception of outsourcing as being an all or nothing scenario should be challenged - think about collaborative working where external expertise is only taken in when needed at certain parts of a project or transaction. This greater partnership would also be of benefit to any external providers who can then really understand what you need as an in-house lawyer.

Shepherd and Wedderburn provided the next session - "The Evolving Dispute Resolution Landscape". John Mackenzie and Neil Maclean did an innovative double-act (with Neil saying he felt like they were Ant and Dec!) to cover several major changes to the dispute resolution landscape.

They looked ahead at the proposed changes as a result of the Gill Report, proposed changes to costs and the consequences of changes in funding for court action, and the new employment tribunal rules.

They considered that the changes in the court processes may make it easier for pursuers to come to court. If there is a move to summary assessment of costs, this will mean that pursuers will be more aware of potential cost upfront, and will have to think twice about proceeding. However, one way cost shifting could mean that in certain cases, pursuers would be aware at the start of a case that they won't be responsible for costs.

At the employment tribunal, applicants must now pay substantial tribunal fees. It is anticipated that this will reduce the number of cases lodged.   Upcoming changes are a codification of "without prejudice". This would put such discussions on a formal footing, but it would mean a breach of the code itself would be actionable, and such discussions could still be taken into account in a discrimination claim.

There will be a focus on mediation. The government is trialling a small pilot project at the moment - if successful this will be rolled out. Further changes place more importance on pre-court and tribunal action attempts to resolve disputes. April 2014 brings the introduction of compulsory conciliation through the Advisory, Conciliation and Arbitration Service for one month before a claim can be submitted.

John showed us a video clip from IBM about a sophisticated question-answering computer system which could replace legal advice in the future, the message being that we must innovate to stay ahead of the game.

Alistair Morris, the Law Society of Scotland Vice President, then addressed the meeting on being "In-house in changing times". After paying tribute to the ILG Committee and the work of Lynda Towers and Sara Scott in their first year as Chair and Vice Chair, he focused on the themes of the conference. He saw many changes coming into effect - in private practice mergers are continuing, and there is much more cross-border working. For in-house practitioners, there are changes in processes, proposed changes to the court system, and court closures. There is a real need to "deliver more for less".

Alistair sees innovation by firms, organisations and legal teams as important. He also sees that the Society itself is innovating - it is open to change and embraces it. The Society helps its members keep up with innovations through its CPD events and conferences.

The independence referendum is an issue for all - the Society does not take a political position, but challenges all sides to encourage respectful debate. Alistair sees that there are close links between in-house and private practice which should not be lost. He sees the professionalism that being a Scottish solicitor brings and encourages us all to never stop being proud of this badge. For more on Alistair's speech, see the Journal news article " Innovation is the key to the future, Morris tells in-house lawyers".

The meeting then moved onto the ILG AGM, and you can find a copy of the AGM Agenda here. Three committee members were elected. John Forsyth, of Lloyds Banking Group, and Alistair Young, of West Dunbartonshire Council, were long-standing committee members who were elected for a further three years. Gregor Buick, recently co-opted to the committee, was also elected for a three-year term.

As part of the ILG AGM, the delegates heard a report from Lynda Towers on the progress of the group over the last year, which had seen many changes. She referred to the ILG Key Facts 2012/13 report which was included with the delegates papers.

She noted that the Committee is not a committee of the Council of the Society but works closely with the Society to deliver services for its members. She spoke about four priorities for the committee this year;

  1. Connecting with and representing members
  2. Enhancing the reputation of in-house solicitors
  3. Providing effective support
  4. Collaborating with other organisations
She also paid tribute to two ILG Committee members who have decided to stand down: Jon Alexander and Anne Steele. As Jon was the London-based representative, she encouraged another London-based ILG member to step forward.

Lynda noted that the ILG is in a good financial position, benefiting from sponsorship income, income from delegate fees and support from the Society. Staff support also came from the Society, with the ILG Committee secretary, and the events co-ordinator being Society staff, and other Society teams also providing support, for instance, with communications.

She finished by noting that the ILG continues to build and strengthen its networks, and stressing how important it is to persuade organisations how valuable their in-house teams were.

After lunch, the delegates had a choice of two streamed sessions, both from  Dundas & Wilson. The first was "Living with Frankenstein's Monster: The new EU public procurement rules". The panel consisted of Mark Richards, of the Scottish Government Legal Directorate, Kevin McGee, of the City of Edinburgh Council, and Kirsty Currie, from SSE. They summarised a number of key changes as a result of the EU rules. The panel helpfully advised the delegates that the new Procurement Bill had been introduced that morning.

The panel considered that the changes in the EU regulations would provide clarity, but with concerns about the cost of additional administrations costs. There were also mixed views on the possibility of a dedicated tribunal to hear procurement disputes.

The other streamed session was also provided by Dundas & Wilson, and looked at "Commercial Contracts: Innovative Ways to Maximise your Position". Colin Hutton, Alan Wardhaugh and David Lytton looked at the various ways to resolve a dispute over a contract and considered how to avoid the pitfalls. They also looked at managing information during a dispute and a case where this had not gone so well. They also covered preparing for disputes, the importance of early disclosure of disputes by staff so that information can be gathered in good time and ensuring nothing relevant is lost.

The next full session was by Kathryn Wynn, of Pinsent Masons, looking at "Big Data: Identifying the Opportunities and Overcoming the Legal Obstacles". She identified "big data" as data sets that are too large and complex to interrogate with standard methods or tools.  Kathryn explained that this type of data can be very valuable, but that its use is subject to restrictions on its ownership and where it includes personal data, whether appropriate consent has been given for its use. She recommended organisations review their data consent policies to ensure that the consent given does actually cover the use it was being put to. She also recommended considering whether consent given previously needs to be reviewed on a regular basis. Implied consent is permitted, but does require positive action indicating consent, understanding what is consented to and a genuine choice.

Moving on, the penultimate session was "Innovation and in demand teams: The next generation - secondments, placements, traineeships". This panel session was chaired by Rob Marrs of the Society's education and training team. The panel comprised Sara Scott, Paul Cackette, of the Scottish Government Legal Directorate (SGLD), Gill Rust, Legal Manager at Standard Life, and Katie Wood, Manager of the Society's Registrar's Department.

Sara explained that 25% of the profession works in-house but only 9% of traineeships are in-house and asked in-house legal teams: is it time to start growing your own?

Gill outlined the different opportunities available for in-house trainees and seconded private practice trainees with Standard Life. Their in-house traineeship programme is varied, and can include a placement to an external legal firm. They are also part of the Standard Life graduate recruitment programme, giving additional opportunities for career development. Standard Life sees the benefits by developing solicitors with the best skills and knowledge for Standard Life business. The senior staff who supervise and mentor the trainees also gain valuable development opportunities. Laura Ellis, an in-house trainee with the company, appeared in a film confirming the immense benefits she enjoyed during her in-house traineeship.

Paul Cackette outlined how the SGLD is committed to developing good, well-trained government lawyers, who provide the best quality legal advice. They operate a policy of retaining as many of their trainees as they can, and if this is not possible, assist them to find opportunities in other government departments. This has led to some previous trainees securing positions with the UK Government.

Katie explained how innovations like flexible traineeships can help make taking on a trainee easier. More information is available in the Society's Taking on a trainee booklet.

The final session was delivered by Charles Livingstone, of Brodies: "What could the Scottish independence referendum mean for your organisation and are you prepared for it?" This was an update to the very popular session Mr Livingstone presented at the ILG conference in 2012. Since then, the date of the referendum has been announced - 18 September 2014. The Scottish Government has indicated it intended to complete independence by March 2016, with the first election for the independent parliament taking place in May 2016. The Scottish Government proposes delivering EU membership, a currency union with the UK, a new Supreme Court for Scotland and a written constitution. In the UK, the UK Government has indicated it will not pre-negotiate the terms of any agreements with Scotland post-independence. However, both the Scottish Government and the UK Government will be producing papers with more detailed information. A Scottish white paper is expected in November 2013. Mr Livingston highlighted the possibilities for EU membership, and how an application by Scotland may be treated.

There are various options for a currency in an independent Scotland - it may be able to retain the pound, adopt the euro or have its own currency. Whatever option is adopted may have consequences and require redenomination of contracts. There has been precedent for this in the past, but if there is no legislation in place determining the issue, it may require litigation to determine how individual contracts are to be determined. If Scotland does not retain the pound, but the pound remains in the rest of the UK then there is no precedent for a country leaving a currency which continues to exist.

In his opinion, as the unionist parties are all committed to some further devolution of powers, in the event of a "no" vote, there will be changes no matter what the outcome of the vote.

The conference ended on a high note with the draw for the Wesleyan raffle prizes, won by Alison Burns and Karen Logan. Jane MacEachran was the winner of the ILG charity raffle for Alzheimer Scotland, winning a bottle of Laphroaig whisky.

Lynda concluded another highly successful ILG conference by thanking everyone for coming, thanking all of the sponsors and exhibitors and looking forward to the dinner at the Balmoral Hotel that evening.

Lessons from the US in-house teams

22 October 2013

Rob Gitell shares lessons from the US

Rob Gitell is a man who knows in-house legal teams and the challenges they face, having visited over 100 so far this year across the US, Europe and the UK.  I was keen to meet up and to learn how his knowledge might assist our members.

This is the first of two articles sharing lessons from the US markets and looking at panel management, matter management, collaboration, and billing models - issues all in-house teams have been increasingly considering since the downturn.

Rob heads up global sales for the most widely used and highly rated legal department management system globally - with 18,000 in-house, and 35,000 private practice users. The system provides one shared online platform, allowing in-house counsel and external law firms to coordinate on legal projects and deadlines, exchange bills and budgets, collaborate on documents, and run performance reports.  However, he's keen to point out that every conversation he has starts with asking what is keeping lawyers up at night, and understanding issues and needs.

Impressed at the overview this must give him, my first questions were big picture - how do we compare with the US market, what can we learn, and what's been happening in the States in the last five or so years that will hit here next?

Like in so many discussions recently, it became clear that the start of the downturn triggered step change, in Rob's words: "Prior to the credit-crunch there was often a reverence for trusted panel firms with little real oversight of work - indeed, to many it seemed problems were handed over with little more substantive instruction than 'fix it as you see fit'."

In a transition that seemed almost overnight, as I listened to Rob enthuse, this attitude changes, and he indicated he started to see much more clear delineation and a much more proactive approach: "There was a change to focused project management, often to a granular level of detail.  Scope of work is now being discussed in detail, with associated billing, budget and retention guidelines. The message changed, with the briefing now being 'If you want to work with us, this is the way it is!'"

Other trends also started to emerge. We both joked that although for two decades or more the end of hourly billing has been foretold, it had not yet seemed to materialise.  However, we are finally starting to see more alternative fee arrangements being used, and these are clearly being led by in-house demand, more than private practice initiative.

I was interested in the change management behind all this and how it might affect our individual members.  Rapid change is demanding, and in areas where people and knowledge are the key inputs, I wanted to know if change had been driven by replacing staff, training staff, or simply empowering teams to use the skills they already had.

The answer appeared to be "all three". Project and process managers were starting to be more visible in in-house teams, alongside roles further up the hierarchy such as head of legal process or head of legal finance. In-house teams were now engaging with central business improvement teams or those elsewhere in the business in a way they would have perhaps resisted in the past, and were also developing those skills in their lawyers. New ways for working were also allowing those who had always been keen to see more structured management of engagement with external consul come to a fore. Neither of us could decide how or when this might impact the future route to qualification of lawyers, but seeing a curriculum in Scotland still leaning to the academic it does cause pause for thought about our talent pipeline and whether legal process management needs to feature somewhere.

In contrast, continuing professional development for lawyers had already changed. Rob summed up this really visible difference by noting that "typical seminar programmes for in-house lawyers had moved from little process and business management content to that being around a quarter of the programme".

So far, these issues seemed similar to the UK. Like in many areas, we may be slightly earlier on the change curve than US teams, but I was reassured that none of these issues would be wholly unfamiliar to our members.  Indeed, at points in the conversation we were left wondering if the gap was reducing. But what about differences?

Tendering processes in the UK seem to remain slightly different, with more emphasis on things like RFPs (request for proposals) and a more structured tendering process for external counsel. I was interested in continental Europe, where in-house lawyers are still often viewed as a different species, and in many countries cannot register with the local bars, but it was clear this was not stopping similar changes there around the internal management of these teams.

The discussion then moved to metrics.  In researching Rob's CV in advance, I noted he had started life as a certified public accountant.  Of course, part of the Law Society's own change in recent years was seeing a CA arrive as chief executive and start the conversation about KPIs and quantifying value. I wasn't quite brave enough to ask for the 'bean counters' take on the state of the legal profession, but instead asked if law could learn from accountancy, which in the past has often been cited as being ahead of the legal sector in quantification, process management and billing of work. There was positive news here, as Rob felt that law was now catching up, but a clear message also emerged that in-house teams must not sit back and wait for others to ask questions, such as the finance director starting to focus in on value and lead change; it was always better when this came from within the legal team. As a man who believes in shaping your own future and the value of leading if you can, this was a thought provoking note to end on.

So, let's ask ourselves, have we done all we can to ensure efficient and effective management of legal work in our teams? And do others believe that? Or should we be looking again at process and technology and what they can deliver for us? Our conversation moved to solutions, which we'll cover in the next article, and how on average legal teams can save 5% to 15% of cost by using technology.

Neil Stevenson is Director of Representation and Professional Support at the Law Society of Scotland.

Rob Gitell is Director of Sales for Serengeti and their market leading products. He's been with Thomson Reuters since 1998, having previously been a consulting certified public accountant working with leading law firms on business automation.  Rob holds a BA in business from the University of Connecticut and earned his MBA. from the Thunderbird School of Global Management. To hear more about Serengeti's e-billing and matter management solutions, or to arrange a demonstration of the service, please contact: Tel: +44 020 7393 7447 serengeti.uk@thomsonreuters.com.

The Law Awards of Scotland 2013

22 October 2013

In-house winners of law awards

The ILG Committee was delighted to see that Colin Anderson, former ILG Vice Chair, was the recipient of a Special Recognition Award for "doing" at the Law Awards of Scotland 2013, which was presented on 12 September. This is a very well deserved recognition for Colin's many years of work for the in-house community as well as his day job at Standard Life, and other organisations and firms.

Standard Life's Group Legal Team scooped the In-house Team of the Year Award from a list of nominees that included Virgin Money, the Wheatley Group/the Glasgow Housing Association, and Glasgow City Council. This topped off an award-winning year for the Standard Life team, which also received the Private Sector In-house Legal Team of the Year Award at the Scott + Co Legal Awards in March, and has been nominated for the In-house Innovation Award at the British Legal Awards 2013.

The committee was pleased to see that in-house solicitors had been nominated in other categories at the Law Awards of Scotland, notably two solicitors from the Wheatley Group/the Glasgow Housing Association - Anne Mackenzie for Solicitor of the Year and Gillian Moore for Trainee of the Year. Their colleague, Jaclyn Wilson, received the Paralegal of the Year Award.

Congratulations to all the winners and nominees.

ILG annual dinner

22 October 2013

ILG annual dinner report by ILG Committee member, Alistair Young.

"Celebrating in-house success" was the theme of the ILG annual dinner 2013, which took place on Friday 4 October in the elegant settings of the Balmoral Hotel, Edinburgh. A total of 117 in-house lawyers, private practice lawyers and other guests donned their finest clothes for a night of wining, dining, awards, raffle prizes and above all networking. The dinner is very much designed to encourage networking between in-house and private practice lawyers for our mutual benefit.

A drinks reception, sponsored by Wesleyan for Lawyers, got the evening off to a sparkling start. ILG Chair Lynda Towers welcomed everyone, saying: "In-house lawyers may be a quarter of the profession but we do work in very different sectors and don't always get the chance to relax with our private sector colleagues…We may do different things and call ourselves private practice or in-house lawyers…but put together to draw on our different qualities, we are always stronger." A guest from south of the border, Mark Harvey, who is the Chairman of the Commerce & Industry Group, gave the Selkirk Grace.

After a delicious dinner, it was time to announce our ILG Rising Star 2013. Then a series of great prizes, many donated by ILG Committee members and Law Society staff, were handed out in a charity raffle which raised an impressive £1,800 for the Law Society's chosen charity for 2013, Alzheimer Scotland. Lynda said some closing words of thanks. With the formalities over, it was time to continue the networking through in the bar area until the early hours, accompanied by the sound of live jazz music.

As ever, the dinner went by in a flash and a good time was had by all! Pictures of the evening, taken by our in-house photographer extraordinaire and ILG Committee member, Alistair Young.

SYLA and ILG joint event: So you wanna be an in-house lawyer?

22 April 2013

Report from ILG/SYLA event

The ILG held a joint event with the Scottish Young Lawyers' Association (SYLA) on 27 March in Edinburgh. This was part of the SYLA's successful "So you wanna be a..." series, an event designed to introduce young lawyers to the variety and possibility of different in-house legal careers.

Five in-house lawyers spoke from various different sectors of work and at various different stages in their career. All five were inspiringly passionate about their in-house jobs. They took us on a journey of opportunity which included parliaments, bridges, exotic locations, entrepreneurial spirit, trams, festivals, share prices and an unusual traineeship application strategy! Key themes about the benefits of working in-house were:

  • interesting and varied work
  • work-life balance
  • doing more than just being a lawyer
  • good career prospects

After a quick welcome and introduction from SYLA President Fiona McAllister, Lynda Towers took the floor to walk us through her career in pictures. Lynda, who is Solicitor to the Scottish Parliament has litigated, legislated and advised people of all political views and tempers (keeping her own political neutrality where the job required it) and has managed others. Her jobs have not just been about being a lawyer. Her career has spanned several parliaments, involved various bridges and taken her to the European Court of Justice three times. It's all her fault that the Scott Monument is dirty (she managed to put a stop to a proposal to clean it with chemicals which would have actually damaged it)! She has happily had the time to do other things as well, such as her work on ILG and her sailing and she encouraged us to make time to do the same.

Next Robin Baxter, ILG Committee member in Aberdeen, whizzed us through some slides to explain his incredibly international career. Born in Drumsheugh Gardens (now known to us as the home of the Law Society) he has gone on to set up his own oil and gas company, with lots of work as a commercial in-house lawyer in between. His career has taken him to Libya, Vienna, New York (he was actually there when 9/11 happened) and London and has included working for American and Danish companies. He once worked on a deal involving buying a Spanish ship the size of two football fields. His job has been more about managing other lawyers around the world than advising himself - all you need is the phone number of the right person! When you work in industry a common benefit is share options but it's only for you if you can be a capitalist who adds value for shareholders. After setting up his own company he hopes to inspire us to realise that lawyers can be entrepreneurs, after all being an entrepreneur has a lot to do with managing risk. He also hopes his career demonstrates that you can take a Scottish legal qualification around the world and live a good life.

Kevin McKee from the Commercial Legal Team in Edinburgh City Council spoke next. He trained in Shepherd & Wedderburn before moving in-house. The council employs 36 solicitors, including two trainees and is now taking on two more trainees. He said that time-recording does happen in-house, in the form of an internal charging system. On the plus side they are helped by an external panel of firms. Typical work covers large projects (like the infamous trams), contracts for events like the Edinburgh Festival and Hogmanay and high profile matters like the Property Care Corruption investigation. He has a varied and interesting workload and it's not just a purely legal role. Days are busy but there is flexi time and late nights are rare. Other benefits are good career options (many lawyers hold senior positions in the council) and the element of public service, of helping people. A challenge however is the lack of a client/lawyer filter!

Laura Smith told us about training in Group Legal in Standard Life, a team of around 70 staff. It is like a mini firm and like Kevin she has to time-record. Standard Life offers one of the only private sector in-house traineeships in Edinburgh, taking two or three trainees a year. In the past few years they have had a 100% retention rate of trainees (something I hope will encourage other companies to take a trainee). Trainees do six months in Burness, Paul & Williamson as part of a reciprocal arrangement. They are also part of the wider Standard Life graduate network which she says is very enjoyable and great for building that all-important internal network in a large organisation. She is now qualified and works in the legal pensions team where auto enrolment is keeping her very busy. To be a good in-house lawyer she says you must know your client and keep informed, stay smart. She then took us through her love/hate lists about working in house. She loves watching the share price move, tendering for new business, leaving work at 5pm, working with different business areas, the brand, the training (a nice mix of legal and business) and having just one client! On Laura's hate list is pressure from shareholders, constant regulatory change and internal restructuring.

Finally David Johnston of the Government Legal Service Scotland (GLSS) gave us the lowdown on "So you wanna be a Government lawyer". There are two main areas of work in GLSS: (1) advising and legislative work and (2) litigation services. David only applied for one traineeship (not a strategy he would recommend!) but he liked the sound of the GLSS traineeship and luckily he got the job. GLSS puts lots of emphasis on its staff and provides lots of responsibility from day one. He has enjoyed a unique and varied workload, intellectually challenging work, involvement in politically sensitive work, regular career moves to develop skills and a positive working environment (he's only worked three Saturdays in six years). Career opportunities can include Whitehall, the EU, the Scottish Law Commission, public inquiries and taking a policy post. David finished by telling us that GLSS is currently recruiting!

Then it was time for a glass or two of wine, nibbles and networking. The feedback was that it was a thoroughly inspiring evening with lots of great insights into working in different in-house jobs, even for people like myself who already work in-house! I hope that events like this can help more young lawyers better understand that there is legal life beyond private practice. The ILG is hoping to collaborate with SYLA on other things to help achieve that goal and to support young in-house lawyers. If you have any ideas about how we might do that then please get in touch!

By Sara Scott, Vice Chair ILG Committee

ILG at the Society AGM

22 April 2013

Report from ILG on LSS AGM

In-house at the Society's AGM 2013 and panel discussion

For the first time ILG had a slot at the Law Society of Scotland's annual general meeting (AGM). This took place on 22 March in Edinburgh and was attended by over 100 people.

ILG Chair, Lynda Towers, presented the ILG report. She spoke of the successful free CPD programme which by the powers of video conference has reached in-house lawyers from the Western Isles to Gibraltar. She said that our 2012 annual conference was one of the ILG's most successful conferences in years. She also thanked Janet Hood and Colin Anderson for their many great years of service.

Looking ahead, she said that this year ILG hopes to get out and about and speak to people and focus on particular groups of in-house lawyers to better meet their needs.

A full report of the AGM and a link to access a video of the proceeding can be accessed here: AGM 2013.

The item at the AGM which caused most debate was the proposal for separate representation of the borrower and lender in conveyancing transactions (sep rep). If you work for a lender this will directly impact your organisation. If not you may still have a view on it.

What are the pros and cons?

At the AGM those in favour of sep rep said that it is needed to avoid conflicts of interest. Those against raised concerns about increased fees and time for lenders and ultimately borrowers.

What was decided?

The vote was overall in favour of the proposal to move to mandatory sep rep, which means the practice rules will now be drafted for a final vote at the Society's SGM in September. However some in-house lawyers who were present voted against sep rep and the Council of Mortgage Lenders (CML), the body which represents Scottish lenders' interests, has publicly stated that it does not support it.

If you have views about sep rep, please feed them into us ahead of the final vote which is due to happen at the September AGM so we can represent your interests. For more information on the AGM, see the report and articles on this topic in the Journal.

Panel discussion

A lively panel discussion about the future of the legal profession followed the AGM. On the panel from the in-house arm of the profession was the inspirational Anne Mackenzie, of GHA Law LLP. Anne spoke about how her legal team demonstrates its value-add. This included using technology to generate visual reports for clients to show what they are doing for them, interacting with clients and managing risk via training, engaging with senior management by attending their meetings and constantly reviewing what they do and trying to create synergies and build trust. They are increasingly being drawn into the decision-making process.

Anne said that in-house functions should:

  • drive efficiencies in external legal spend
  • maintain profile and add value - training is key here
  • reach out to their clients, engaging, building relationships and trust to help become more proactive than reactive
  • measure their performance against the strategic objectives of the organisation, making sure performance matches the organisation's needs
  • always strive to perform excellent legal service

She said that "a strong legal team is an indispensable contributor to the success of any organisation". Clearly we just need to make sure we're demonstrating that value to our internal clients.

Society members can also view a video of the panel discussion, using the link from AGM 2013, or by logging in to the website.

By Sara Scott, Vice Chair, and Sheekha Saha, member of the ILG Committee

In-house teams of the year

22 April 2013

Scott + Co Legal Awards

This year's In-House Legal Team of the Year award at the Scott+Co Scottish Legal Awards 2013 was sponsored by the Law Society of Scotland.

In December 2012, this year's judging panel, chaired by Margo Macdonald MSP, met in the Missoni Hotel Edinburgh to shortlist the many entries received. Entries were assessed according to several criteria including content, relevance, and presentation. The judges, experts from business, law and politics, included Lorna Jack, Chief Executive of the Society, and Janet Hood, who is a member of the Council of the Society and former Chair of the In-House Lawyers' Group.

Joy McLaughlin, Partner of Scott + Co, the headline sponsor of the Scottish Legal Awards, commented: "We probably found judging a bit tougher this year and some firms narrowly missed out on a position in the finals. However, the standard has been set very high with some excellent, full and persuasive submissions which detailed some exemplary work."

The finalists for the Law Society of Scotland In-House Legal Team of the Year were Scottish Water and Standard Life, and the awards ceremony was held at the Edinburgh International Conference Centre on 28 March. At the ceremony, Dougie Vipond, one of the presenters, explained that the judges had found it difficult to decide between the two finalists for the In-House Legal Team of the Year, so Scottish Water was awarded the public sector award, and Standard Life was awarded the private sector award.

Tom Axford, Corporate Secretary and Head of Legal, commenting on behalf of Scottish Water's Legal Team, said: "Our submission was a real team effort with the whole team contributing. I was delighted we were shortlisted and everyone thoroughly enjoyed the awards ceremony. Winning the award has raised the profile of the team across the business and provided recognition for a dedicated team working to deliver Scottish Water's objectives across Scotland."

Malcolm Wood, Group Company Secretary and General Counsel, commenting on behalf of the Standard Life Group Legal Team said, "Our Group Legal Team thoroughly enjoyed the challenge of meeting the awards submission criteria. So when we were selected as finalists, we were delighted. To then go on to win was a great achievement and we certainly enjoyed celebrating on the night. Our in-house legal team is a great resource to Standard Life, so it's good to see their excellence recognised by the judges and our peers in this way."

By Graeme McWilliams, ILG Committee member

Gossip in 140 characters

22 April 2013

ILG gossip

We'd love you to join our 400-plus followers on Twitter or our 100-plus group members on LinkedIn if you haven't already. Here's a snippet of what you've been missing on Twitter since our last newsletter in January - it's amazing what you can fit into 140 characters!

Incredible in-house facts

We started regularly providing some ILG facts to give a bit more insight into ILG and our members in a short 'n' snappy way. Here are the facts we've published so far: In-house facts.

Live reports from our events

We often tweet live from our ILG events and other events we're attending to give our followers all the gossip if they didn't make it along (though obviously we'd prefer it if you did!). Some of our members and speakers also tweet from or about our events.

Hot topics

A hot topic for in-house lawyers on social media recently has been the billable hour. Here are a couple of interesting articles/blogs on the topic that we shared on social media:

News as it happens

We shared interesting developments as they happened, such as:

Your importance

  • We shared a great quote from @LexFuturus, Head of Global Legal Services Transformation at PwC, in March: "In-house counsel now conduct the orchestra. Law firms have to decide, now they can't be the whole orchestra, what instrument they will play." We thought it was the in-house quote of the month.

Helping your career

We gave some careers advice, asking: have you considered writing an in-house legal blog to build your personal profile as an expert or to promote your organisation? Legal social media trainers will tell you blogging, then posting a link to your blog on social media sites is key to building that profile. For inspiration check out two great UK in-house blogs by Tim Bratton and Tom Kilroy.

Here's a round up of some of the best careers articles and blogs from around the world for in-house lawyers which we found on Twitter recently:

Networking

Most of all, if you haven't been on Twitter or LinkedIn you've missed a great way to network and 'meet' new people who could help your career, become a sponsor, mentor or friend. One young law graduate recently got a traineeship because of her tweets. People get jobs and opportunities because of LinkedIn everyday. What are you waiting for?

For more information

The Society issues advice about using social media - Social Media - Advice and Information for the Legal Profession

By Sara Scott, Vice Chair of the ILG Committee

ILG on social media

11 January 2013

Are you making the best use of social media?

A recent Society survey showed that 45% of in-house solicitors in the private sector and only 14% in the public sector regularly use LinkedIn. In both sectors regular Twitter use is low at less than 10%. This is behind some of our private practice colleagues and non-legal colleagues. Could you make better use of social media in 2013? It's not going away so we need to embrace it. What's more it can help our own careers - this is particularly true for building your professional network on LinkedIn. ILG has already had some events on social media for in-house solicitors. If you're interested in some more practical training or tips, just let us know!

Why not join the debate in our LinkedIn group or follow us on Twitter. You can expect to hear news from us, special offers for our events plus useful articles about in-house issues from around the world. You may make some new contacts. Plus you can share your own content, pose questions and start discussions as much or as little as you want!

By Sara Scott, ILG Vice Chair

SYLA annual lecture

11 January 2013

Report from SYLA annual lecture 2012

Law as a vocation

On behalf of the ILG Committee I was delighted to attend the SYLA's Annual Lecture: "Law as a Vocation" on 9 October at The George Hotel in Edinburgh. This was a free event.

The lecture was given by past president of the American Bar Association (ABA), William (Bill) Robinson III. Austin Lafferty introduced him as "warrior" for the rule of law and access to justice. Bill gave an inspiring speech about how he feels that being a lawyer is a vocation - if you want to get rich you should do something else (and don't expect lots of gratitude or gifts from your clients either!). He said:

  • He loves his job, even now;
  • Representing others is the essence of professionalism;
  • Pro bono work and volunteering are key components of a successful and fulfilling legal career;
  • Professionalism and public service are simply never out of date;
  • He asks himself this every day and thinks we should do the same: "How do we make a difference in the lives of those we have the privilege to serve?";
  • Being a lawyer is a privilege which comes with responsibilities;
  • There is a tremendous bond among lawyers around the world and an incredible amount of consistency - we all need to stand up for the rule of law, independence from Government etc;
  • "The American Lawyer" magazine ranks firms on their pro bon work. This is not enough but it's a good first step.

Catriona Headley, SYLA Past President, closed the event by encouraging young lawyers to do pro bono work and volunteer for the SYLA Committee, the Law Society, their local faculty etc. For me this was the key message from the event and it's one which I think is relevant to in-house lawyers young and old - we should do more volunteering and pro bono work to give something back to our community and help develop our own skills and networks at the same time.  I personally would like to see legal magazines in this country ranking firms and in-house employers on their pro bono work, to showcase the good things which are being done and encourage more of them.

I was impressed that such a small committee of young lawyers, volunteering outside of their day jobs, were able to organise such a good event. It was also great to see how technology was used to bring the event to a wider audience: the event was being videoed with a view to posting the video on the SYLA website for those who missed it - a first for an SYLA event. Videoing of events is something which could be considered for some future ILG events too.

By Sara Scott, ILG Vice-chair

Independence debate at Westminster

11 January 2013

Report by Lynda Towers for ILG on independence debate event in London

In November, the Law Society of Scotland staged a debate on Scottish independence at Westminster. Led by Law Society President Austin Lafferty and sponsored by Eleanor Laing MP and Lord Fraser of Carmyllie, a good number of representatives from Scotland as well as Scottish lawyers based in London enjoyed a stimulating debate at the House of Commons on whether Scotland should become independent from the rest of the UK.

We were addressed by a panel of speakers consisting of Pete Wishart MP, Tasmina Ahmed Sheikh, Scottish solicitor and member of the 'Yes for Scotland' Board, Lord Foulkes of Cumnock, Iain MacWhirter, columnist for the Herald, and Lord Wallace of Tankerness, all briefly setting out their respective positions before Austin Lafferty, who chaired the event, opened it up to the floor for questions. It was an entertaining occasion covering all sorts of relevant topics.

Being lawyers, the Q&A session had to be extended to allow additional questions and there was no sign of anyone being overawed by the grand surroundings. It was then across to the Peers Dining Room for refreshments and some serious networking in equally grand surroundings. It was a rewarding evening catching up with far travelled friends now based in London and meeting new friends with whom we had so much in common. This was a very successful evening which had the additional advantage of bringing in-house and private sector lawyers together to participate in a debate which is of such importance to us all.

By Lynda Towers, Chair of ILG