Report of the "Emerging Thinking Conference", reviewing the position of the ILG within the Law Society of Scotland

On 7 September, the Society presented an event as the next stage of consulting with the in-house profession in the review of support for in-house lawyers. The “Emerging Thinking Conference” gave in-house lawyers the opportunity to debate the interim report produced by Tony Guise, and to speak to representatives from the In-house Lawyers Group (the ILG), and the Society.

Society President Cameron Ritchie opened the event along with Janet Hood, chair of the ILG committee. “The ILG is a hard-working group,” the President said, “delivering excellent support to its members. We want to keep this, while ensuring we have a model to take the ILG into the future”.

Tony Guise confirmed that the focus for the day was on the definition of the in-house lawyer, the preferred model for the ILG’s future, and its function. The three speakers then took questions from the floor, chaired by Austin Lafferty, the Vice President.

The definition of “in-house lawyer” provoked a wide range of views. Some questioned whether it was necessary to have a definition, preferring to allow anyone who wants to, to join the ILG. Others suggested it shouldn’t be necessary for a member to hold a practising certificate, so those working in-house in a legal role should be allowed to join. Others favoured a simple definition of a solicitor holding a practising certificate who is not in private practice.

Moving onto the various models of ILG support, the interim report sets out six possible models, including a full committee of the Council, a fully independent body, or a locally elected faculty.

Cameron Ritchie and Janet Hood emphasised that the Society and the ILG were keen to maintain their close link, for the benefit of the in-house members. Tony Guise referred to models in other jurisdictions, such as England & Wales where there were separate bodies representing the in-house sector, and Ireland, where there was a separate body as well as a Society committee. This provoked a great deal of debate, with the floor demonstrating a clear preference for the ILG to remain part of the Society, but with an element of independence within the Society’s governance structure.

In relation to how the ILG sits in the Society, the review is looking at in-house representation on the Society’s Council. Delegates agreed that in-house lawyers must be represented on Council. They were keen to continue the system of having co-opted Council seats reserved for in-house lawyers.

The meeting discussed the ILG’s desire to engage effectively with other in-house solicitors’ groups in Scotland, such as the Society for Local Authority Solicitors and Administrators (SOLAR). “SOLAR is a vibrant organisation”, said Hood. “The ILG committee welcomes the opportunity to strengthen its links with SOLAR, and other organisations serving the in-house profession.” Delegates considered that the ILG fulfilled a different function to these other groups, and that there was a need for the ILG to continue.

Guise concluded: “I am grateful to all the delegates and the panel for their contributions. These will help to focus my final report.”

This will be submitted to the Society and the ILG in the autumn.

The Author
Elaine MacGlone, Secretary to the In-house Lawyers Group committee
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