This is set to be a year of change for the Society, but an all-female leadership is not necessarily the most significant innovation that is happening

All change?

As I write this, I am looking forward to accepting the presidential baton from Alistair Morris at the Society’s Council meeting on 29 May. The talented Eilidh Wiseman stands ready to accept the vice presidential baton from me. The good news is that your office bearer team is in peak condition and raring to go.

Governance improvements at the Society over the last few years mean that the President, Vice President and Past President work closely together with the executive team over a number of years, both on the board, at Council meetings and at weekly meetings discussing key issues. Relationships with key stakeholders and business-critical projects are carefully managed to ensure continuity, and at all times the leadership team is focused on achievement of the Society’s strategy and annual corporate objectives. So far, so fabulous! I am really looking forward to the year ahead, launching our new strategy and helping to lead the change improvements which our move to new open-plan offices will bring to the Society, its members, volunteers and staff.

I would like to record my personal thanks to Alistair and his lovely wife Sandra for being such an effective, hardworking and committed presidential team. My thanks too and a sad farewell to Bruce Beveridge, Janet Hood and all other members who have recently stood down from Council. Thank you for your excellent service and commitment. You will all be missed. On a happier note though, a warm welcome to all our new Council members. Thank you to you for giving your time and expertise to the Society. I have no doubt you will enjoy your time on Council.

A better legal aid system

I have no doubt legal aid will be a hot topic during my time as President. The Society’s recently published recommendations for reforming the legal aid system in Scotland have been much discussed. At our Legal Aid Conference last month, Richard Miller, head of legal aid at the Law Society of England & Wales, spoke poignantly about the enormous cost – financial, social and emotional – of failing to provide adequate access to justice in England & Wales. Paul Wheelhouse, Minister for Community Safety & Legal Affairs, emphasised the need for a collaborative approach in designing a better legal aid system in Scotland which is “better for those who need it, better for those who deliver it, and better for those who manage it”. Yes indeed. We stand ready to play our part in achieving that aim.

Bon anniversaire et bonne chance

Thinking more globally will also be on my agenda over the next year. And this month sees the 25th anniversary of the Society’s Brussels office. With the increasing internationalisation of legal practice and the current debate on EU membership, I anticipate lively interaction with our men and women in Brussels over the next year.

And finally…

Much has been made in some quarters about the advent of the first all-female leadership team at the Society. There is one area though where us ladies will struggle to compete. At international legal gatherings and formal events, our manly Presidents have for many years strutted their stuff, resplendent in full tartan regalia. I have watched in amused fascination as representatives from other jurisdictions seeking a photo opportunity have mobbed successive Presidents. But fear not, fellow members, I have a secret weapon. Step forward my Scottish solicitor husband, the CEO of Shepherd & Wedderburn. Not only can Stephen join me in shamelessly promoting the Scottish solicitor brand, he also looks damn fine in a kilt!

The Author
Christine McLintock is President of the Law Society of Scotland - president@lawscot.org.uk 
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