Opinion that the holistic approach to advice giving likely to become the norm with ABS, reflects the experience already gained by in-house lawyers

I have always worked in-house, apart from a brief period consulting in licensing law for a small Edinburgh practice. I have however chaired the Kincardine and Deeside District Faculty for 10 years and have strong links with private practitioners across Scotland.

The current consultation on alternative business structures is of great interest to the In-house Lawyers Group in Scotland, and in-house lawyers have a great deal to offer the policy debate. Many solicitors working in-house in business and organisations have a wide perspective of business issues and play an important role in driving the business forward. They are much more than dedicated in-house counsel giving quality legal advice to their employing organisation.

By working in businesses, organisations and government bodies large and small, across Scotland and further afield, in-house lawyers have a unique perspective. They often work in ways that are adaptable and akin to multi-disciplinary practices or other alternative business structures such as global organisations with external investment. They already have experience of the risks and benefits of working in different business models, and do so whilst preserving the core values of the profession – integrity, honesty and independence.

We often consider all aspects of the job – asking searching or even the “daft” questions, and working effectively with other members of the team for the purpose of driving the business forward. An in-house lawyer will also advise when external, specialist legal advice is required and will manage that provision.

Most professions are regulated in a different manner to the regulatory scheme for solicitors, but all are regulated to one degree or another. Most professions are oncerned with the duty of those professionals to the public, and also with the integrity of their professional status, so I believe that any hurdles which exist can be overcome if there is a will.

If alternative business structures are permitted, it is likely that private practice will resemble more closely the in-house role, and firms will provide a more holistic service for their clients.

Many clients would no doubt welcome a one-stop shop where their business needs can be met in much the same way as in-house clients expect their legal, financial, planning, technical, business, architectural and other needs to be met.

In-house teams do have to have a sound understanding of the law, but they can also be an important part of the business team. The in-house lawyer requires to understand the business, political and financial aspirations of their employing entity. They are involved with other professionals right from the start of projects generated in-house.

In-house lawyers have a lot to offer the Society’s consultation and I would urge every in-house lawyer to consider and respond to the Society’s consultation on alternative business structures.

I am delighted to be a Council member at this time. Our Society is listening to the profession about what it needs in order to continue to thrive as a sector in the modern Scottish economy. The Society is exploring ways in which new business structures can be regulated whilst preserving existing business structures. I am encouraging the Council to look at in-house models to inform the debate – the Society already successfully regulates in-house lawyers working in all shapes and sizes of organisation.

In turn, I am asking my in-house colleagues, private practitioner friends and others who have knowledge and experience which can contribute to the debate to make their views known. Some have ideas in mind – share them with the Society.

After all, every lawyer counts.

Share this article
Add To Favorites