In-house lawyers news archive

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  • Professionalism and public service are simply never out of date;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