Council reports 2014

Council Meeting, 27 June 2014

Society strategy

The skills and qualifications needed in a 21st century legal services workforce were explored in the latest Council strategy session

Society President Alistair Morris explained that the Society’s current strategy, Towards 2020, had worked well over the past four years but must also take account of the pace of change in the legal profession and justice system.

He added that it was important to be innovative and brave in further evolving the Society’s strategy.

The Director of Representation and Professional Support, Neil Stevenson, said lessons about how to move forward could be learned from other professions and jurisdictions.

The challenges and needs of different sectors of the profession were raised during a debate among Council members.

With increasing numbers of non-solicitors delivering legal services, one option may be to build on the successful Registered Paralegal Scheme, which provides a defined professional status and a career path for paralegals, it was pointed out.

Opportunities for expanding the Scottish solicitor brand overseas and the impact of alternative business structures were among other issues discussed.

The debate followed a Council away day in February and subsequently an overview of trends in legal services provision, with a particular focus on the regulatory and workforce needs of the profession.

The Society will now form a working party to develop outline proposals to bring back to the Council.


Regulatory Committee membership

A solicitor member of the Council should sit on the Society’s Regulatory Committee, it was agreed today.

During a debate, it was highlighted that having a Council member on the committee would provide a “bridge” or link between the two bodies.

A paper before the meeting proposed that the role of sitting on both bodies should be carried out by the Past President.

However, a vote among members agreed that it would be less restrictive if any Council solicitor member could sit on the committee.

The Regulatory Committee is made up of five non-solicitor members and five solicitor members, with a lay convener. Four of the five current solicitor members are on the Council. None of the non-solicitors sit on the ruling body.

The committee was created by the 2010 Legal Services (Scotland) Act and began work in 2011.


Conveyancing panel management

The Society has raised a number of concerns about a new conveyancing panel management system

The response to Decision First, the company facilitating the Lender Exchange system, was outlined during a discussion on the Society’s Hot Topics briefing paper.

Council members heard that a productive meeting had been held with Decision First, which will provide the Society with a final set of the terms and conditions that solicitors would be expected to agree to and comply with. The Society will keep members informed of developments.

The new panel management system is intended to provide a single "gateway" between solicitors and lenders, with panel firms charged an annual fee.


Council and committees

The Council welcomed several new members, while also agreeing a number of committee appointments.

New solicitor member Vikki Melville, representing Edinburgh, along with lay members Sue Carter, Christine Walsh and Graham Watson, joined the Council.

Meanwhile, three “outstanding” candidates – Ken MacKinnon, Head of the Law School at Robert Gordon University; Charles Welsh, Apprenticeship Manager at the RBS Group; and, Bernadette Campbell, who works in an advisory capacity for NHS Greater Glasgow and Clyde – were appointed as education and training lay committee members.

The Council agreed the appointments to the Education and Training (Standard Setting) Sub-Committee as well as the Education and Training Policy Committee, which shares the same membership.