In-house lawyers news archive
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?
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.
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 firstname.lastname@example.org 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