The Society's staff deserve credit for their achievements in an extraordinary year of pressure and change, building a platform for moving forward

December (as I write) has provided an opportunity to pause and draw breath before 2012, and another programme of travel and visiting faculties and members. But despite a slightly more relaxed schedule, we still carried out important business.

Our Director of Law Reform, Michael Clancy, looked after a group of eminent human rights practitioners as we hosted a Bill of Rights round table event. Michael is now on leave following a recent operation – I wish him well and a speedy recovery. The Society also hosted a productive and absorbing breakfast event with John Swinney, Cabinet Secretary for Finance, Employment and Sustainable Growth, discussing his portfolio and how it cuts across all aspects of the Scottish Government. Encouragingly, representatives of firms employing more than 6,000 staff in the Scottish legal market were in attendance. Then I met Sir Muir Russell, chair of the Judicial Appointments Board for Scotland, for a discussion about how to encourage more solicitors to seek judicial office. More on this subject next month.

At your service

Meanwhile, the staff of the Society have been busy doing what they do best – supporting the profession. The professional practice team is always in demand, providing confidential advice and assistance on a huge scale. The registrar is completing the process of dealing with over 10,000 applications for practising certificates, as well as the election of a new Vice President. Education and training staff are putting in place the new CPD scheme and preparing to look forward to an examination of post-qualifying career milestones. The Regulatory Committee is up and running, and starting to look at the many and varied regulatory functions that sit alongside our support and promotion work.

The representation and support team is hard at work, developing ways of promoting the solicitor brand and providing support to the many branches of our hugely diverse profession. Law reform is never a quiet place, with both the Scottish and the UK Parliaments to keep under scrutiny. Not to forget the back office team, working in finance, IT, human resources and other areas, without whom the operation would not function. Our award-winning Update department continues its stellar work, and our communications team makes sure that we are always presenting an informative and optimistic outlook to the profession and the public.

Under Lorna’s direction, the profession gets tremendous service from its executive staff. On behalf of us all, I would like to express our thanks for their many achievements in an extraordinary year of pressure and change. Some of that pressure has been external; some was due to internal change; at other times, the pressure has been particular and personal. Our Past President, Jamie Millar, had a conduct complaint made against him during his final months as President, a complaint that was subsequently rejected by the Scottish Legal Complaints Commission as being totally without merit.

The process of dealing with a complaint of absolutely no substance should not have taken as long as it did. Having acted as Vice President during his presidency, I was able to see first hand the honesty and integrity with which Jamie consistently worked. He is a credit to the profession and we are lucky to still benefit from his valuable work on our board and Council.

Taking a fresh look

We live in a climate of belt-tightening and change. As a result, the time has never been better to examine what business we do, how we do it and whether different models would be more appropriate. More than ever, the focus should be on the fact that private practice is as much about running a business as being a legal adviser. We also need to foster a culture of support for the profession, both in terms of the businesses solicitors run and their individual needs.

Internally, the Society has to become a resilient and flexible organisation that can deal with emerging issues quickly and accurately. That is why we have spent the past three months working on getting our constitution right. The new draft will shortly be put to members for consultation. The intention is to make the Society work efficiently and effectively and, crucially, give more members more say in the organisation. We have a strategy for the decade ahead and we will progress that against an annual corporate plan. We have new structures and new Council members as we enter the new year. We need the support of you, the members, to take your professional body forward.

Finally, may I state publicly my immense gratitude for the work done by our Council and committees, the members of which give so much of their time and expertise on behalf of the profession.

All good wishes for a prosperous new year.

The Author
  Cameron Ritchie is President of the Law Society of Scotland e: cameronritchie@lawscot.org.uk
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