Recent highlights from the Scottish Young Lawyers' Association's programme, particularly “Women in Law”

Readers may remember the occasion in spring 2014 when Scotland had the privilege of welcoming young lawyers from across the world to Edinburgh for the European Young Bar Association Spring Conference.

This year, it was the turn of our French colleagues to host, and SYLA member Sean Dorian headed off to Aix-en-Provence to participate in their Spring Conference programme. You can read about Sean’s experiences by clicking here.

Back closer to home, SYLA has continued its efforts to educate, represent and entertain young lawyers, the future and lifeblood of the profession. Reflecting on our activities since we last wrote in the Journal, we have hosted 25 events in that period, at which 1,300 individual young lawyers have attended.

The highlights include a successful first Civil Day Conference which was held in Dundee in March 2015, kindly sponsored and supported by Digby Brown LLP. Mirroring the format of our annual Criminal Day Conference, an enjoyable and fruitful day was had by all, and we hope to repeat this again for 2016. The annual festivity of the Spring Ball 2015 returned this year to Glasgow, and much merriment was had as usual, despite the chilly Glasgow weather challenging our interpretation of a spring evening.

On 30 April 2015, 120 young female lawyers (and one brave young male lawyer) attended the annual SYLA Women in Law event to hear from a panel featuring Christine McLintock, Dorothy Bain QC and Sara Jalicy. The event was held in aid of Scottish Women’s Aid, with Louise Johnson, national legal issues coordinator of SWA, offering some conclusions at the end of the event.


In keeping with previous years, the event was highly thought provoking, with all speakers offering candid insights into their paths through the profession and their reflections on the progression of women within the Scottish legal community.

Christine McLintock reflected on a legal profession which has made leaps and bounds in terms of gender equality, recently achieving a near 50:50 split, but noting that it took decades to reach that and future progress cannot yet be assured. The fight to attract women to the profession is over, but with many women failing to return to the profession after family career breaks, the next fight may be to retain them and ensure that equal proportions reach upper leadership roles.

The hall was filled with a poignant and reflective silence as Dorothy Bain QC reminded us all of the struggles women outside the profession still face, recounting some of her experiences in prosecuting complex crime as principal advocate depute. One of her themes was that education is truly the advancement of society, and to ensure that as young lawyers, male or female, we all keep striving to learn. Dorothy’s message was that it doesn’t matter where you come from – if you work hard and keep learning, all that matters is where you are going.

Sara Jalicy recounted the importance of mentors to her development, and urged the audience to find their own role models around the profession and use them as a source of example and inspiration. One of Sara’s key themes was to soak up the knowledge all around you and use it to create your own unique niche in the market.

Overall, the message was to have hope for the future and to leave self-doubt at the door. While there is still much work ahead in ensuring that the profession reflects society overall, the future is a bright one for young Scottish lawyers, whether male or female.

Hugely inspiring and motivational, the event was positive in outlook and raised over £600 for Scottish Women’s Aid.

Finally, as we build up to the summer, keep an eye out for our Annual Conference: “Progression in the Profession”, to be held in Glasgow on 18 June 2015. Details of the programme will be announced shortly.

Phew! Another hectic, but enjoyable, SYLA year for 2014-15 – we hope all our members have enjoyed it as much as we have.


The Author
Emma Boffey is a lawyer within the Disputes team at CMS Edinburgh and is the current serving President of the Scottish Young Lawyers’ Association; Lucy Thornton is a trainee solicitor at Digby Brown LLP and a committee member of the Scottish Young Lawyers’ Association. Further information on the activity and work of the SYLA is available at and you can follow the SYLA on Twitter at @oSYLAo
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