Spotlight on new lawyers groups: Part 1 Scottish Young Lawyers' Association
Students and trainees will no doubt be hearing the magical buzzword ‘networking’ more frequently these days. They may also find themselves asking ‘where do I start?’
Thankfully support groups are on hand to offer advice, run events tailored to new lawyers and support those at the early stages of a career in law. In the first of a series looking at some of these groups, we caught up with Emma Boffey, President of the Scottish Young Lawyers' Association (SYLA). Emma qualified as a solicitor in Scotland in September 2014 and now works as a disputes lawyer for international law firm CMS Cameron McKenna LLP.
So, what is your role within your organisation and how did you initially join?
Emma: I first heard about SYLA when I was a student and looking out for ways to learn further about the profession. I studied for my LLB from 2006-2010 when the profession was going through huge change, which has continued since, so it was a useful way for me to keep on top of current issues and meet others looking to pursue a career in law. After coming along to my first SYLA event, I was hooked! Since then I have spent six happy years volunteering for SYLA, getting involved in a variety of committee roles and was elected President in 2014.
What has been the most beneficial aspect of being a part of your organisation?
Emma: The members. We now have approximately 2,000 members, spread throughout Scotland and with a broad range of experience. Members include students, trainees and qualified solicitors/advocates of up to 10 years’ experience, so there is always someone to talk to and learn from.
There is a real comradery in the SYLA and you get the sense that everyone is really proud of the Association. There is a culture of young lawyers “being in it together” during these early years, trying to forge a career in law.
What has been your favourite event so far and why?
Emma: I’ve had the opportunity to attend a lot of great SYLA events over the years. One of my favourite annual events is our Women in Law event, held in celebration of International Women’s Day for the benefit of Scottish Women’s Aid. Over the years, we have benefitted from discussion with a hugely inspiring panel of speakers and it has been lovely to see those efforts now supported with the launch of the Women in Law Scotland network.
Another highlight would be our Annual Conference: ‘Progression in the Profession’.
How do you support new lawyers in the early stages of their career?
Emma: Our support comes in three main ways, which mirror our original aims: education, entertainment and representation.
On education, we run approximately 40 events a year across Scotland on a variety of topics, including taster sessions of different specialisms in our ‘So you want to be’ series, as well as more detailed seminars. This is supplemented by our industry-focused ‘Spotlight On’ series and our collaborations with other professional bodies.
On representation, we’ve tackled a number of issues over the years, including trainee pay, funding for the Diploma and redundancy of young lawyers. We are currently surveying our members on which representation issues they wish us to tackle in 2016.
On entertainment, the SYLA socials are always lots of fun and a good way to meet other new lawyers, going through the same issues as you, in a relaxed environment. SYLA was set up in 1974, so I just hope the socials of today live up to those in the 70s, 80s, 90s and 00s!
What would be your advice for new lawyers looking to improve their network?
Emma: To get involved! There are so many events and opportunities to engage with the profession. More broadly, whether you want to work in-house or in private practice, I think it is always good to extend your network beyond the legal profession and organisations like Connections, the KPMG Networking Forums and EYP/GYP/AYP are great for that.
I also think the power of social media and building your own presence should not be underestimated.
What’s next for the organisation?
Emma: Because SYLA’s agenda is shaped by its members, that agenda flows through and transforms from generation to generation. We’ll likely continue with our three aims of education, entertainment and representation, but how we deliver these will change over time, as access to enabling technology becomes more sophisticated. We’ll also look to continue our international engagement.
In the more immediate future, we’ve got a great 12 months lined up, between our Criminal and Civil Day Conferences, the return of the SYLA Debate and our Annual conference for 2016.
How can new lawyers find out about your upcoming events?