50th president for Scotland's legal profession
Bruce Beveridge is set to steer the legal profession through some major changes during his year at the helm of the Law Society of Scotland.
Beveridge, who succeeds Austin Lafferty today, Friday 31 May, becomes the Society's 50th president since it was formed in 1949. With a legal career spanning private practice to in-house government lawyer and roles that have included Legal Secretary to the Lord President, Deputy Keeper at Registers of Scotland and Deputy Director, Rural Affairs, he is well placed to navigate issues which arise during his year as Law Society president. He will be joined by new vice president Alistair Morris, Chief Executive of Pagan Osborne, which has offices in Edinburgh and Fife.
Beveridge said: "Austin Lafferty has done a tremendous job as president during the past 12 months and will continue to be a great support as immediate past president. I'm also greatly looking forwards to working with Alistair Morris as vice president. Alistair has served on the Society's Council for 21 years and will bring his in depth knowledge and experience to bear this year and when he steps up as president in 2014.
"I am tremendously excited at the prospect of my year as president. I am absolutely sure that it won't be without its controversies but am determined to ensure that the Society is at the absolute heart of debate on challenges facing the legal profession. I am also committed to maintaining and further strengthening dialogue with our membership and engagement with government and political parties, civic Scotland and the wider public on a number of important issues.
"The prospect of independence is the biggest constitutional question to face Scotland for 300 years. The Law Society has a particular role to play as a non-partisan facilitator of the independence debate in the run up to next year's vote and we want to draw out the key questions and provide a platform for these to be fully explored. It is essential that everyone living in Scotland has access to as much information as possible before they make a decision on an issue that will affect all of us for many years to come."
Beveridge said that while financial constraints continued to place enormous pressure on public spending, access to justice remained of fundamental importance.
"This is an absolute essential as far as I am concerned. There are significant reforms planned for our courts and to legal aid and we will continue robustly to defend the principle of access to justice and the provision of legal advice for those who need it. However, we can't change the current economic situation and, without being complacent, we have to work within that."
New types of legal businesses, licensed legal services providers, are also due to appear during his year in office.
He said: "Licensed providers of legal services, or alternative business structures as they have been called, will allow solicitors to set up businesses with non-solicitor partners and represent further change on the horizon for the legal profession however I'm sure that many solicitors will see opportunities to develop their business and deliver legal services to their clients in innovative ways.
"Solicitors play an important role at often critical points in people's lives and many would benefit from a solicitor's advice long before things reach a crisis point. There is a great deal of unmet legal need in Scotland and I believe that more that can be done to meet that need. For example, not having a will can lead to great upheaval in families when loved ones die, but I'm well aware that many people are put off going to a solicitor because it seems so formal. I'm convinced that there are ways in which we can be more accessible to clients and if that means having mobile services or pop up shops to do so, then I'm all in favour."
31 May 2013