What is your own practice area?
Having spent 16 years in the Government Legal Service in Scotland I have covered a pretty wide area of practice: amongst other things I have run the Government Debt Recovery Unit; covered all the Child Support Agency work; a range of civil law matters (including advising on how best to deliver a more cost-effective operation of the Conveyancing and Executry Services Board – by transferring it to the Society!); advising the Accountant in Bankruptcy and the Registrar General for Births, Marriages & Deaths; a (very) wide engagement with civil and criminal justice including reform of the personal injury procedures in the Court of Session and Court of Criminal Appeal.
What motivates you to get up on a dreary Monday morning?
The variety – not knowing what is going to hit the desk – and the knowledge that I am doing all I can to help make Scotland a better place. Though I am due to leave the Scottish Government on 9 December, that will continue elsewhere.
How long have you been a member of Council and how did you become involved?
I joined Council in mid-2005. I had been working closely with the Society since 2000, particularly with Bruce Ritchie on professional practice rules, when I was the Lord President’s Legal Secretary. It was immediately clear when I became Deputy Keeper at Registers of Scotland that I would get to meet a great many members, so joining Council was an obvious step. I stood down in late 2009 due to the business pressures of a sudden change in role that would have made it unfeasible to continue to give regular service – rejoining in May this year in the Edinburgh constituency elections.
In what specific capacities have you served (office bearer, committee or other)?
So far I have served on the Guarantee Fund, Conveyancing, In-house Lawyers’ Group, and Audit Committees (I still sit on the Audit Committee, which I convened for a period), the Strategy and Governance Group, the IMiS board and I am currently convener of the constitution working party.
What have been the highlights for you personally?
How long have you got?! There have been several; seeing the implementation of the changes in governance and structure of Council and the Society has been great, because I believe that will ultimately lead to us being able to deliver better service to members, but there have been many more. Getting to meet so many members is a constant reward.
How do you keep in touch with members in your constituency?
This is an issue most Council members are wrestling with – it is pretty challenging. The Edinburgh Council members have been looking at how to get to a decent proportion of constituents; we see an opportunity to use the Edinburgh-based representatives of a number of interest groups and organisations as a potentially useful vehicle and are putting together a plan for that.
Of course we all know and bump into a wide range of local solicitors (sometimes in the strangest of places, as I recently discovered in Nairn), and so get the chance to exchange views – but it is getting to the folk we don’t know that is important.
What do you see as the main issues that your local members want Council to address at present?
What people have been expressing to me most recently is the need to get the constitution resolved and approved; and associated with that, making sure that there is a clear understanding of how the Society works now that the Regulatory Committee is in place.
One of the other issues mentioned to me is the importance of ensuring that as much useful professional information is made available – and easy to access – through the Society’s website.
What do you see as the other main issues that Council has to address at present?
There are a few really important issues – for example Council will soon be asked (at the January meeting) to approve a final version of the proposed new constitution to go out to the membership for consultation; and there is an absolute need next year to ensure that we work constructively to secure the best possible regulatory arrangements for alternative business structures/licensed service providers.
Council will be engaged over the next few months with making sure the new structural arrangements bed in as effectively as possible – and there are a raft of less significant but still important governance issues that are evolving, which is exciting.
What effect have the changes to Council and to the Society’s governance had in your view?
Significant. The introduction of lay members onto Council had an immediate impact; the range of perspectives they bring to bear is extremely valuable and will, I am convinced, prove to be most helpful.
The arrival of the Regulatory Committee will allow Council to have a much sharper focus on the policy and representational aspects of its work, whilst exercising crucial oversight on regulation and – especially through the board – organisational planning and performance.
Are there further changes you would like to see that might improve the way Council works?
As the governance arrangements – which are, I suspect, the most profound since the inception of the Council – bed in, I fully expect to see the way Council operates evolve; and of course the proposed new constitution provides for a slightly smaller Council, which will probably make it more effective.
If you could change only one thing for your members, what would it be?
Perhaps rather obviously, it would be the economic climate – its effects are pervasive throughout the profession, across all sectors and at all levels. The human consequences can be so catastrophic: worry about, or the reality of, job loss; the awfulness of implementing redundancy; the pressure of running a firm with rising overheads and stagnant fee income; the unworkability of a traditional exit/retirement strategy – all of these can so easily profoundly affect health, relationships, families.
In this issue
- Involving the named person
- Private investigators - mitigating the risks
- Human inventions
- Smoother passage
- Rough law of the street
- Council profile
- Book reviews
- President's column
- Mapping in the Land Register
- Alien concept
- Size does matter
- Case proved?
- Reading for pleasure
- Relocation revisited
- Where Parliament fears to tread...
- Cadder's growing family
- Landlord splits
- Five-year-old experts
- Common sense to the fore
- Beware: earn-outs
- Steering with one hand
- Scottish Solicitors' Discipline Tribunal
- Missives in motion
- Constitution on track
- From the Brussels office
- Law reform update
- Ask Ash
- Outside the box