President's message: with a new management board in place, made up of Council members, solicitors should see a higher profile in future for the work the Society does for them

Hello. I am Ian Smart and for the next 12 months I will be your President. I suspect that beyond the confines of the agents’ room at Airdrie Sheriff Court, not many people know that. And it’s also one of the things we hope to change. Almost everyone who reads this will be a member of the Law Society of Scotland. For most it will be one of the few points of direct contact with us, other than the always rather nervewracking three-year Guarantee Fund inspection and the hopefully very occasional letter from the Client Relations Department. And that is something else we hope to change.

Yes, the Society is our regulator, yours and mine. And let us be in no doubt, the legal profession in Scotland will always have a regulator of some sort; every advanced society throughout the world demands that of its lawyers. Those who think that this regulation might be done more cheaply, might pause to consider that conclusion when they look back on the cheque they have by now probably written for their annual impost from the Scottish Legal Complaints Commission, who are currently spending more in dealing with service complaints arising from 1 October 2008 alone, and an as yet undefined oversight role, than the Society used to spend in dealing with all complaints, service and conduct, arising at any time. Those who think that this regulation might be more “light touch” can always use their RBS shares to light a bonfire in protest.

But the Society does so much more than that: so that the public can be assured of independent and regulated advice, we promote the profession and warn against unregulated encroachment of others. We assert, daily, that the profession has a central role to play in the preservation of a civilised society; we protect the profession from unwarranted attack, from any source. But, equally, we also campaign for reform of the law, with the benefit of our experience, for the benefit of our clients; we protect civil liberties not only from those who would attack them but also those who would simply neglect them; we strive to ensure as best we can that all in our community, be they ever so high or ever so small, have the chance to enjoy equal access to justice. These will never be the obligations of a mere employment but they are surely the constant obligations of a profession.

But, who, rather than what is the Law Society of Scotland? As you will see on p 34, where we list the members of the Society’s new management board, no one could describe me as fitting in with the John Grisham image of a fat cat corporate lawyer, but, bluntly, neither do any of my colleagues. Even the ones who actually are corporate lawyers! All of us have however three things in common: we are all working lawyers; we are all committed to a modern and efficient professional body and, yes, and I say this with no apology for drawing it to your attention, we are all prepared to make the sacrifices involved in taking time out of our own businesses to benefit the profession as a whole.

The executive board is chosen from the Council and is now responsible for the direction of the Society’s day-to-day affairs. I am certain that few, if any, of you will know all of its members, but I hope that, even in a profession of 10,500, each of you will have had some dealing with at least one of them. We are a pretty diverse crew: big firms, traditional high street firms, sole practitioners and in-house lawyers. City practitioners, small town practitioners and country practitioners. Adversarial lawyers and transactional lawyers. Perhaps not as many women as the modern demographic of the profession would expect but, trust me, an area in which we are moving in the right direction.

As I say, on p 34 you will see the list of the board members and, I am afraid, a rather cheesy conclusion from me. It may be cheesy but it is sincere. Please take it at its word.

See you next month.


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