Council reports 2013

Council Meeting, 26 April 2013

Fair access to the profession

Barriers to entering the solicitors’ profession will be examined by a new Society study.

The move was agreed as part of the Council’s response to recommendations made by the Campaign for Fair Access to the Legal Profession (CFALP).

The study will look at the current route to qualification and any barriers that exist for those hoping to qualify as solicitors.

A scoping exercise will be carried out and reported back to Council members. Members will then be asked for their views. The project should be completed before the end of the year.

During a debate, the principle of fair access was stressed, with funding issues also discussed. Members agreed that the Society should embed fair access considerations in all long-term planning and relevant decision-making.

The Society’s Vice President, Bruce Beveridge, paid tribute to the Education and Training Committee for preparing the paper, which he said raised a number of detailed issues.

CFALP, which campaigns against policies that prevent students from disadvantaged backgrounds entering the legal profession, presented a paper containing a number of proposals to last month’s Council meeting.

Future of conveyancing

The Society is to set up a new group to consider the modernisation of the conveyancing process in Scotland.

The working party will be established amid the ongoing debate about introducing separate representation of buyers and lenders in property transactions.

Ross MacKay, Convener of the Separate Representation Working Party, supported the proposal.

He argued that conveyancing solicitors were concerned about a number of current issues, including separate representation and the Council of Mortgage Lenders’ response to last month’s vote at the Society’s annual general meeting in favour of the move.

He said: “Now is the time to have a working party to look at these issues and try to come up with some recommendations.”

A number of Council members backed the new working party, stressing that the Society should be providing leadership and proactively developing new ideas.

The President, Austin Lafferty, said: “There is change going on elsewhere. As a Society, we should be at the centre of that rather than waiting to see what happens.”

However, it was also argued that the conveyancing sector was “nervous” about changes taking place and now was not the time to add to that uncertainty. Rather, a debate should first take place to better understand the views of members.

It was agreed to set up the working party and consider its remit and composition.

Commonwealth Law Conference

Lawyers around the world deserve strong support in their struggles for personal liberty and the rule of law and against violence and oppression, the Council heard.

Society President Austin Lafferty said the Commonwealth Law Conference in South Africa earlier this month had been the “most powerful” event he had attended.

He said he had a new respect for lawyers working in difficult circumstances after being “hugely moved” by their stories.

He stressed his enthusiasm to maintain strong support for colleagues around the Commonwealth.

He predicted that Glasgow would match Cape Town’s success when it hosts the next Commonwealth Lawyers’ Association conference.

He said the Society representatives had worked extremely hard to learn from the event, adding: “We finished the conference with a bang and very much set the scene for Glasgow 2015.”

Council members

Tribute was paid to three outgoing Council members with almost 25 combined years of service.

President Austin Lafferty said they had all made a valuable contribution to the Council and served their constituents well.

He said former president, Jamie Millar, who sat on the ruling body for nine years, provided “true leadership” during his presidential year, when the profession was wrestling with a number of controversial issues. “If ever there was a president who lived up to the motto of ‘keep calm and carry on’, it was Jamie.”

The President said Andrew Glencross was one of the longest serving members – having joined the Council in 1999 to represent solicitors in Kilmarnock – and was widely respected for his “clear grasp of even the most complex issues, his clarity of thought and his absolute integrity”.

Michael Nicholson, who represented Glasgow & Strathkelvin, retired after a year on Council.  He recently took up a new role as company secretary at Celtic Football Club, his “absolute passion”. Austin Lafferty added: “Over the last year, Michael has truly made his mark, raising a number of important issues on behalf of his constituents.”