This month's Law Society of Scotland Council member profile: Söla Paterson-Marke, currently the new lawyers’ representative

What is your own practice area?

I am an associate in DLA Piper’s Corporate Group in London. As someone at an early stage in their legal career I am trying to gain as much exposure to different types of transactional work as I can, but the type of work I do can be loosely grouped into mergers and acquisitions, private equity transactions, and capital markets work. DLA Piper has over 70 offices in around 30 countries all over the world, and so almost every deal has an international element to it, which keeps things interesting and usually adds a bit of spice.

What motivates you to get up on a Monday morning?

Variety! Although it does give rise to long hours, I really like the fact that no two weeks or even days are ever the same. I like going to work not knowing what opportunities and challenges I will face. That helps me to leap out of my bed.

What’s your top tip for new lawyers?

People reading this will have heard it so many times that it will sound clichéd, but the best piece of advice that I received was to look after your “internal clients” in the same way as you would an external client: i.e. try and go above and beyond for supervisors and partners.

The other thing is to follow your dreams and do what you love to do!

How long have you been a member of Council and how did you become involved?

Towards the end of my training contract last year, I found myself browsing on the Society's website (as you do) and I noticed that they were advertising for someone to be co-opted to fill the new lawyers’ post on Council. Whilst at Edinburgh University I served on the Law Students’ Council, and following university I was elected to the executive committee of the Scottish Young Lawyers’ Association, both of which I really enjoyed. So when I saw this post advertised I thought it was something to which I could bring some useful experience and insight.

I took the opportunity to speak with Heather McKendrick and current Council members to gain a better understanding of what is involved with Council, and then I managed to navigate the presentation and interview successfully and be co-opted!

In what specific capacities have you served (office bearer, committee or other)?

Council member for new lawyers – basically this means that I am responsible for representing the perspective of those who are 0-5 years qualified on issues discussed at Council. Needless to say that does not stop me giving my “tuppence” on other issues where I think that I can add value.

The role is very much what you make of it, but I think in order to be effective I need to make sure that I meet with or am at least in touch with new lawyers’ groups such as TANQ and SYLA, attend events and stay up to date with and raise awareness of the topical issues of the day – especially those outwith my area of practice.

What have been the highlights for you personally?

I spoke with current Council members before I was co-opted, and they all enthused about the diversity of topics which are discussed at Council, so that has been fascinating. Being on Council has also given me an opportunity to learn about other areas of the profession and the challenges and opportunities within them.

Aside from this, I have had an opportunity to meet a great many interesting people and I enjoy giving the new lawyers’ perspective on issues that come before Council.

How do you keep in touch with members in your constituency?

The new lawyers constituency is one of the largest, and keeping in touch with constituents is always going to be one of my big challenges. I’m quite into technology anyway but the staff at the Society were great at talking me through the various tools. As a result I have become a reluctant convert to Twitter (@cm_newlawyers) and I have also set up a discussion forum for new lawyers on LinkedIn. Members of my constituency are also more than welcome to email me:

What do you see as the main issues that your members want Council to address at present?

After lobbying by the Campaign for Fair Access to the Legal Profession, Council resolved to refer a review to the Education & Training Committee, which will seek to assess what financial barriers there are (if any) to entering the legal profession in Scotland. No matter what stage you are at in your legal career, I’m sure that people will agree that it is important for the law to attract the best people regardless of financial background.

Most recently, the Society has promoted the benefits of taking on trainees, introduced shared traineeships and encouraged different types of legal service providers such as Ashurst into the market. The level of the Society recommended salary for trainees was also a hot topic recently.

The Society is also committed to executing policies which, to the extent possible, allow members to be “economically active” in a “sustainable” profession. Given the recent economic climate, I think this is of particular importance to my constituents. The Society is also keen to promote the “Scottish solicitor” as a brand. I would say that Scottish Chartered Accountant is the benchmark in this regard and I am sure that this will help to cultivate the economic success and sustainability of the profession.

On a lighter but no less important note, many members approach me with brands/companies that they want to see added to our discount book, so I will have to try to push that further up the agenda as well.

What do you see as the other main issues that Council has to address at present?

Separate representation seems to be a bigger issue than many people had anticipated, with there being a narrow split between those that are for and those who are opposed to the change.

With the Scottish Legal Aid Board being asked to develop proposals for legal aid contracting, this will be another important area where the Council may have to guide its members in providing a constructive response to the proposals and presenting all of the key issues.

Looking into next year, I can imagine that the independence vote will give rise to some issues one way or another!

When ABS and their regulation come back on to the agenda, that will be another big topic. We will not be short of work, but it’s all really exciting, “game-changing” stuff.

If you could change only one thing for your members, what would it be?

It’s difficult to find one common theme of change that every member would be pleased with, but I think everyone is happiest in their professional life when they have opportunities and options and so I would want to create an environment where members felt they had that.

What keeps you busy outside of work?

I’m conscious of sounding like a stereotypical corporate lawyer, but I have begun to really enjoy golf over the past couple of years. More than anything, it’s a good way to hang out and catch up with friends, but when the winter kicks in, I’ll be looking to pick up snowboarding too.

I also really enjoy travelling, finding out about new cultures and trying local cuisines. I am one of these people that likes to go abroad and pick up a few words of the local lingo, and some of the subtle local customs are really fascinating.

I made two trips to Sierra Leone just before the civil war broke out, and I still have vivid memories of the lush green mountains, the bustling markets, the warm people, white beaches, the smoked fish being cooked fresh out of the sea etc. I appreciate that it will be very different now, but I’d like to go back and visit my extended family there.

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