Council reports 2016

Council Meeting 16 December 2016

Presidential elections

Glasgow solicitor Alison Atack will be the next vice president of the Society, the Council heard.

The partner at Lindsays, who represents Glasgow and Strathkelvin on the Council, was confirmed in the position after Falkirk-based criminal law consultant John Mulholland decided to step back earlier in the month to support Alison. He will remain the Society’s Treasurer.

Alison, who takes up the post in May 2017, will succeed the current office holder, Graham Matthews.

Graham, the Council member representing Aberdeenshire, was formally elected to become the 2017/18 president at the Council meeting.

Graham, who is a partner at Peterkins, has served as a Council member for more than ten years and sat on a number of committees, including the Professional Practice Committee and the Regulatory Committee. He said he was looking forward to taking up the presidency

Alison said it would be an honour to become vice president and work alongside Graham during his presidency. The Council congratulated both on their election.

Commercial income

Work carried out to meet the Society’s ambitious commercial income targets were discussed by Council members.

The Council heard that a target of raising £3 million from all commercial income streams by 2020 had been set. The figure was described as achievable, but very ambitious.

In 2015/16, a total of £1.45 million commercial income was delivered against a target of £1.6 million.

Council members were told that sources of commercial income include: sponsorship and member benefits; the Journal; events sponsorships; publications; Update events; registered foreign lawyers; other non-practising certificate fee categories; and, investment income.

The Council heard that that the income from event sponsorships, publications and other non-practising certificate fee categories had all exceeded their target income figures.

Issues raised during a discussion among Council members included advertising income from the Journal, staff turnover in the Update team, an ongoing review of the provision of online learning and efforts made to increase sponsorship of Society events.

Legal action against SLCC

Council members had a further discussion on the Law Society’s legal action to challenge the steps taken by the Scottish Legal Complaints Commission (SLCC). The legal action is to protect the public interest and trust in the legal profession and has been taken in order to seek clarity on how certain types of legal complaints should be handled and where the SLCC wishes to use a recent court decision to restrict the Law Society’s ability to investigate matters already referred to it for investigation.

In August 2016, the Court of Session ruled that single issues within a legal complaint must be categorised as either service or conduct.  The SLCC’s practice of classifying an issue as both, a so called ‘hybrid’ issue, was ruled unlawful.

New complaints made following the judgment on 31 August 2016 will now be categorised as either service or conduct issues by the SLCC.  However, the Law Society has raised concerns over the decision of the SLCC to recategorise around 200 complaints already in the system, with many now being classed as “service only”.  This was despite an earlier analysis which identified conduct issues for investigation by the Law Society as the professional body.

The SLCC’s decisions remove the Society’s power to investigate and, if required, pursue disciplinary action against individual solicitors in these cases.

The Society has also questioned the legal power of the SLCC to recategorise complaints.  There is also concern that revisiting decisions already taken risks calling into question historical cases where disciplinary action has been taken.

As a result, the Society has lodged appeals to the Court of Session, questioning the SLCC’s decisions over a number of cases as well as the principle of recategorisation itself.

Council Meeting 25 November 2016

Presidential nominations

The current Vice President of the Society, Graham Matthews, was nominated to become next year’s president.

Graham, one of the two Council members representing Aberdeenshire solicitors, was the only nomination and will take over the presidency from Eilidh Wiseman in May 2017.

Graham Matthews, who is a partner at Peterkins, has served as a Council member for more than ten years and sat on a number of committees, including the Professional Practice Committee and the Regulatory Committee.

There were two nominations for vice president in 2017/18:

  • Alison Atack is a partner at Lindsays and represents Glasgow and Strathkelvin.  She is a former member of the Regulatory Committee and currently convener of the Client Protection Fund sub-committee
  • John Mulholland is Falkirk-based criminal law consultant, who represents solicitors in Alloa, Falkirk, Linlithgow and Stirling.  He is the current Treasurer of the Society and the Convener of the Finance Committee.

Eilidh Wiseman congratulated the nominees and said Graham Matthews would prove to be a “powerful voice” for Scottish solicitors.

The new vice president-elect will be confirmed at the Society’s December Council meeting following a vote of Council members.

European Union

The Council approved a set of priorities for the UK Government’s negotiation on leaving the European Union.

Council members considered a draft paper to contribute to the negotiations. They heard that the Society had conducted an update to its survey of members on leaving the EU, with a number of concerns identified.

Some of the identified priorities include:

Public interest issues

  • Ensuring stability in the law
  • Maintaining freedom, security and justice.

Membership issues

  • Promoting continued professional recognition and continued rights of audience in the EU
  • Protecting legal professional privilege for the clients of Scottish Lawyers working in the EU or advising on EU Law.

Read our full proposals for Negotiation Priorities on leaving the EU.

The Society was also represented at the EU Justice Summit hosted by Scottish ministers, which covered law enforcement, civil law, EU law and engagement with the UK Government.

A discussion among Council members heard that the Society was well prepared to contribute to the process of exiting the EU.

More information on the Society’s Brexit work is available at

Regulatory Committee

The Regulatory Committee is developing its own communications plan, Council members heard.

The Convener of the Regulatory Committee, Carole Ford, gave a presentation to the Council.

It outlined the development of the committee, oversight of the regulatory process, issues dealt with in recent months and issues for the future.

On the issue of communications, Council members were told that the new plan included the committee publishing an annual report to raise awareness of its work to the public and the profession.

As part of its oversight role, the committee also comments on and contributes to the Society’s annual plan.

The presentation was followed by a question and answer session, which raised issues such as regulatory models used in other jurisdictions.

Legal Aid

The Council also received an update on the Law Society’s Legal Aid Profitability Research, which legal aid firms and individuals took part in recently. The final results which look at viability and affordability of legal aid firms in Scotland will be published in early 2017.

We hope to use this research to make recommendations to the Scottish Government and the Scottish Legal Aid Board on potential ways to improve the legal aid system to enhance access to justice and to support our members.

Council Meeting 28 October 2016


The solicitors’ profession has a leading role to play in tackling cybercrime, the Council heard.

Mandy Haeburn-Little, Chief Executive of the Scottish Business Resilience Centre, and Detective Inspector Eamonn Keane, of Police Scotland, gave a presentation on how business and organisations can protect themselves against cybercrime.

The presentation followed the Society’s technology conference earlier in the week and also the publication of research by the Society that identified cyber security as one of the biggest issues facing solicitors.

However, the Council heard that, as advisers to many of the 360,000 small and medium sized enterprises in Scotland, solicitors could help to raise awareness of the risks.

Around 80% of the threats from cybercrime could be mitigated by some simple settings to businesses’ information technology systems, Council members were told.

More training for businesses and their staff would also help prevent cybercrime, it was added.

Issues raised by Council members in a wide-ranging discussion that followed the presentation included protecting customer data from attacks, the reluctance of some businesses to report cybercrime incidents to the police and the security settings needed for mobile devices.


The Society’s registered paralegal status is to be renamed, the Council decided.

The new name, accredited paralegal, was considered more appropriate for the high-level qualification, which is based on an extensive competency framework and has strict entrance criteria. Also, the Society is accrediting those who hold the status rather than simply registering them.

The Council heard that a major part of the Society’s new strategy is to grow its membership. The registered paralegal status is a category of quasi-membership that predates the Society’s new strategy. 

The Society discussed the name change with existing registered paralegals, who supported the move.

Council Meeting, 26 August 2016

Annual plan and budget

Ten major projects and 32 actions are included in the Society’s draft annual plan for next year.

The 2016/17 plan is the second since publication of the ambitious five-year strategy, Leading Legal Excellence.

Council members heard that the number of actions was an increase of five on the current year. The major projects will be monitored by the Board on a monthly basis.

Key actions highlighted to the Council included:

  • improving performance as the designated anti-money laundering regulator for the Scottish legal sector
  • improving induction training for Council and committee members
  • improving CPD offered to members
  • establishing a secure, online committee portal system to allow more paperless working
  • the launch and future work of the Public Policy Committee

The Council approved the proposed plan, which will take effect from 1 November.

The Society’s draft budget for 2016/17 was considered by Council members. It shows an operating surplus of £3,000.

Marketing strategy and engagement plan

Providing better services and value for money were among the issues included in a draft marketing strategy and engagement plan considered by the Council.

Council members were given a presentation by the Society’s Executive Director of Member Services and Engagement, Aileen Caskie.

Issues highlighted included:

  • better serving members and their organisations
  • offering tailored services to provide better value for the Society’s members and their businesses
  • growing non-core revenue and the Society’s membership

A discussion among Council members raised issues such as improving CPD and e-learning, listings on the Find a Solicitor facility on the website and developing new membership categories for the Society.

Council members

The new Convener of the In-house Lawyers Committee (ILC) was welcomed to the Council.

Intellectual property and IT solicitor Graeme McWilliams was co-opted on to the Council due to winning the ILC convenership election last month.

Graeme, who previously worked in private practice, currently manages Standard Life’s intellectual property portfolio.

Former president

Sympathies were expressed to the family, friends and former colleagues of former Society President, John Smith, who was known as Jock.

Jock held the presidency in 1987/88, steering the Society through a “period of immense change”, which included the first advertising rules for the profession and the establishment of the Legal Aid Board in Scotland.

The Council heard that, following his death last month, a number of former presidents attended his funeral, which highlighted Jock’s long and close association with the Society.

Council Meeting, 24 June 2016

EU referendum

The Society will keep members informed about the implications of the referendum vote to leave the European Union, the Council heard.

In welcoming members to the Council meeting, the President, Eilidh Wiseman, said she would write to all members about the vote. She added that the Chief Executive, Lorna Jack, had contacted Society staff, including those working in the Brussels office.

Eilidh said that consideration may be given to establishing a Society working party to look into the issue in more detail.

She later described the vote as the start of “monumental change for the UK and our relationship with the rest of Europe”, adding that full effects were not yet known.

She added that the Society would continue to monitor the issue as negotiations took place with the EU, keeping members informed throughout to ensure they can properly advise their clients.

The Society has published a referendum discussion paper, which highlights a number of areas where the law would have to change following withdrawal from the EU, and also a series of Q&As.

Governance Working Party

The final report of the Society’s Governance Working Party was considered by Council members.

The working party, which was set up in autumn 2015, considered:

  • the Society’s governance arrangements, including the establishment of a new Public Policy Committee
  • the remit of the Council
  • the roles of Council members, the Board and Board members, the president and vice president
  • induction training for Council members

The arrangements were described as principally a “tidying up” exercise. A proposal that all Council members should serve on at least two committees or working parties during their three-year term was debated and will now be considered in more detail.

Subject to some minor changes, the Council approved the governance structure, the role of the Board and Board members, the role of the president and vice president and induction training for Council members.

Council members

Tribute was paid to retiring Council member Lynda Towers, whose contributions over the past four years were described as “vast”.

The meeting heard that Lynda had joined the Council in 2012 as a co-opted member in her role as Chair of the In-House Lawyers’ Group (ILG). She led the work to bring ILG into the full governance arrangements of the Council and is stepping down as convener.

The President, Eilidh Wiseman, said she had carried out this work for the Society’s in-house members with her usual mix of diplomacy, tact and diligent attention to detail. She thanked Lynda for her exemplary service to the in-house community and the Council.

Council Meeting, 27 May 2016

President and Vice President

A new presidential team for 2016/17 took up office today – Eilidh Wiseman as President and Graham Matthews as Vice President.

Eilidh was formerly Partner and Head of Employment at Dundas & Wilson. She was first elected to represent Edinburgh on the Council seven years ago and is currently Convener of the Education and Training Committee.

She said it was a tremendous honour to become the Society’s 53rd president. She also thanked outgoing president Christine McLintock, paying tribute to her graceful diplomacy, effortless charm and a genuine willingness to listen to others.

She said Christine’s year in office had involved key developments such as the launch of the Society’s new five-year strategy, Leading Legal Excellence, the move to new premises and the creation of the Lawscot Foundation, a charity that will provide financial support and mentoring for talented students from disadvantaged backgrounds who want to become solicitors. Eilidh promised to take that work forward in the year ahead.

Graham is a partner at law firm Peterkins and has served as the Council member representing Aberdeenshire solicitors since 2005. He is

Convener of the Society’s Professional Practice Committee. He said he had an interest in access to justice, or rather the lack of justice for many people in communities in Scotland.

On taking up the position of Past President, Christine paid tribute to the new office bearers and thanked her colleagues and the Society staff for their support.

Council members

A number of new members were welcomed to the Council.

The newly elected members were:Gwen Haggerty in Cupar, Dunfermline and Kirkcaldy; and, Anne MacDonald, David Mair and Ross Yuill, all representing Glasgow and Strathkelvin.

Tributes were paid to outgoing Council members Nick Taylor, who was not re-elected in Glasgow and Strathkelvin, and 2014/15 president Alistair Morris.

Alistair was the longest ever serving Council member, having joined in 1992. He also sat on the Board and a number of key committees, including as convener of the Guarantee Fund Sub-Committee and Insurance Committee.

Council members heard that Alistair had provided leadership to the Society, promoted the work of Scottish solicitors wherever they were based and provided unstinting support to colleagues.

In response, he said the Society had been a major part of his life for the past 24 years and it had been an honour to become president.

Council Meeting, 29 April 2016

EU referendum

Issues around the European Union referendum were considered by Council members during a debate on a draft Society discussion document.

The Council heard that the Society had committed in this year’s annual plan to produce a report to help inform solicitors and their clients before the EU vote.

It was stressed that the Society was not taking a policy position in relation to the arguments for and against leaving the European Union.

Feedback was taken from members and it was agreed that a revised document would be considered at next month’s Board meeting.

The Society has already consulted widely with solicitors on the implications of the referendum. Council members were told that hustings events were also organised for Aberdeen, Edinburgh and Glasgow.

Society fees

Council members agreed a proposal to maintain a freeze on the practising certificate fee, which has remained unchanged since 2010/11.

The £550 fee for 2016/17 will now be put to members at next month’s annual general meeting.

A number of other fees were unchanged by the Council. Next year’s statutory retention fee was set at £100, the non-practising certificate member fee at £200 and the Client Protection Fund accounts fee at £400

The Council agreed with a recommendation from the Client Protection Fund Sub-Committee to set the Client Protection Fund contribution for 2016/17 at £180, which is also the same as last year.

The agenda for next month’s AGM, which will take place at the Society’s new premises at Atria One in Edinburgh, was also approved.

Council members

The Council paid tribute to a number of retiring Council members.

The President, Christine McLintock, said they had all been hard working members who conscientiously represented their constituents

Those retiring were Dominic Sellar and Ian Sievwright, both members for Glasgow and Strathkelvin, and Eileen Sumpter, who joined the Council in 2007 and stands down from the constituency of Cupar, Dunfermline and Kirkcaldy.

Former president

Deepest sympathies were expressed to the family of former Society President Norman Biggart CBE, who died last month.

Current President Christine McLintock said Norman, who held the presidency in 1982/83, had been greatly involved with the work of the Society, in particular with the introduction of the Diploma in Legal Practice in 1980. 

He was one of the pioneers behind producing a new encyclopaedia of Scots law – the Stair Memorial Encyclopaedia – and was awarded a CBE for his services to the legal profession.

Council Meeting, 26 February 2016

Survey of members

Solicitors believe the Society’s regulatory role is its most important function, according to a survey of members.

A presentation on the results was given to Council members by researchers Ipsos MORI. The annual survey was carried out among more than 500 solicitors from different sectors of the profession and gathered views on a range of issues.

It found that the Society’s highest priorities were thought to include intervening in firms where a critical failure has been identified (81%) and setting standards for solicitors and updating practice rules (72%).

Over two-thirds (69%) thought investigating conduct complaints against solicitors and prosecuting cases to the discipline tribunal was a high priority and 60% said inspecting firms to ensure compliance with accounting rules was an important function.

Among other findings, the survey recorded a slight increase in optimism in the solicitors’ profession during the past year, up to 62% from 60%, with the latter figure a jump from 53% in 2013.

Other key findings included:

  • 95% of respondents agreed that the Society should continue to be responsible for representation, support and regulation of solicitors
  • 85% agreed that the Society was an effective regulator of the profession
  • 80% considered the Society helpful and approachable
  • 74% thought the Society was effective at leading and supporting the profession
  • 69% agreed that the Society’s education and training standards were flexible and promoted equal access
  • 66% said the Society focused on the issues that affect individual solicitors
  • 60% disagreed with the UK Government’s plan to repeal the Human Rights Act and replace it with a British Bill of Rights
  • 78% believed the Scottish Government’s policy on legal aid risks undermining access to justice for the poorest in society, while 77% backed increasing legal aid rates

The Council heard that the survey was generally regarded as positive, with members broadly satisfied with the Society’s work and services.

During a discussion among Council members, it was acknowledged that the work carried out in the annual survey needed to be linked in to the various strands of the Society’s new strategy. 

Trainee remuneration

Both the recommended and the mandatory minimum pay rates for trainees should increase, the Council agreed.

Council members decided that, from April this year, only training contracts above the living wage, as set by the Living Wage Foundation, would be accepted.

It was also agreed that the recommended pay rates should be £17,545 for first-year trainees and £21,012 for second-year trainees. The new rates will apply from June. The recommended rate is not compulsory but it is often used as a benchmark by employers.

The decisions follow over a year of research into trainee remuneration, including a survey of 650 solicitors, student and trainees. More than 70% of respondents supported adopting the living wage as the lowest salary accepted by the Society.

Annual accounts

Council members heard details of the finances of the Society and the Client Protection Fund.

The Executive Director of Finance and Operations, Ken Tudhope, outlined the Society’s financial report and accounts for 2014/15.

The Convener of the Client Protection Sub-Committee, Alison Atack, presented last year’s annual report and accounts for the Client Protection Fund, which was previously called the Guarantee Fund.

The accounts were approved and will now be put to the Society’s annual general meeting in May.

Council Meeting, 29 January 2016

Lord President

Lord Carloway became the first Lord President to address a session of the Council at today’s meeting.

The Lord President set out his vision for courtrooms “fit for the 21st century”.

He said: “Over the next five years, plans will be developed which will see the courtroom, and its ancillary offices, redesigned in light of modern ideas and technology. It will be changed from its current Victorian form into something fit for the 21st century.”

In the speech, which was part of the Council’s annual away day event, the Lord President concluded: “Ultimately, it is much better that we have a legal profession that enjoys working in a civil or criminal justice system which works fairly and efficiently; not one which may be seen by some as failing in certain areas.”

Society constitution

A consultation with members will be carried out on a number of proposed amendments to the Society’s constitution.

The amendments were put to the Council by the Constitution Working Party.

The matter may be further considered at the Society’s annual general meeting in May.