What made you pursue a career as a solicitor?
My favourite subjects at school were English literature and creative writing. I interviewed for a job as a trainee journalist while I was still at school. They told me to get a degree first then come back. So I opted for law – and immediately became fascinated with the role of law in society and the challenge of the academic study of the law. The law school at Aberdeen University was fantastic. They had me at Hello!
Why did you decide to join a committee?
I joined Council in 2005 at a time when I could see significant change in the regulation of solicitors was imminent. I wanted to understand and influence that change. From the outset I was impressed by the quality and scale of the voluntary work carried out by solicitors and lay people on committees for the benefit of the public and the Scottish legal profession. I have served on the Education & Training Committee, the Insurance Committee and latterly the Public Policy Committee.
Have your perceptions of the Society changed?
No, apologies. I’m an LSS fan. I believe the people of Scotland are very well served by the profession, and both by its professional body.
What have been the highlights for you personally?
As regards the Public Policy Committee, it has been exciting to set up a brand new committee to influence the creation of a fairer and more just society through law reform and the development of policy. The committee members are wonderfully enthusiastic and hardworking, as are the members of our many specialist law reform subcommittees. We have recently identified three new priority projects for proactive law reform in the areas of equalities law, health and medical law, and property law. We are currently working up project plans, so watch out for more information on these projects as they develop.
It is also a joy to work with Kevin Lang, the executive director of external relations, Michael Clancy, the director of law reform, Mark Smith, the committee secretary and the public policy team at the Society. As anyone who works with them knows, they share a remarkable work ethic and genuine enthusiasm for the law and its continuous improvement.
What are the main issues that you think the committee has to address at the moment?
The main aims of the committee are to promote improvements to the law, policy and areas of the justice system. We have also established a Brexit Working Group to provide oversight and guidance on the Society’s policy work and responses relating to the UK’s exit from the EU, and we have oversight of the Society’s responses to consultations and reviews, including the current reviews of legal aid and regulation of the legal system. We are developing a public policy and law reform portal to maximise knowledge sharing among committees and create communities of interest across the profession. We would also like to strengthen links with the professional support lawyer community.
What has been the most surprising aspect of your work as a committee member?
No real surprises, but a genuine pleasure to continue making a contribution to the work of the Society having stepped down as an office bearer at the end of May.
What most excites you about being part of the Society’s strategy?
I was on the working group that developed the strategy so I’m a Believer! It is great to see progress as we move into year 2 of the strategy.
What’s your top tip for new lawyers?
Never forget the importance of what you do and the role of law in society. Support and promote the rule of law, speak out when the law fails to work as well as it should and be an active member of your legal profession.
If you could change only one thing for your members, what would it be?
A fairer deal for our hardworking legal aid lawyers. Access to justice is critically important for Scotland, for the Scottish legal profession and for the people of Scotland.
What keeps you busy outside of work?
I’m the chair of two fabulous charities. Cruse Bereavement Care Scotland, Scotland’s only open-to-all bereavement charity regardless of the cause of death or when the death occurred, helps over 15,000 people every year (with demand rising year on year) with a staff of nine and over 300 trained volunteer counsellors. And the wonderful Lawscot Foundation supports and mentors students from disadvantaged backgrounds who seek to qualify as Scottish solicitors. I am also a member of the Regulation of Legal Services Review Group and a director of the Scottish Council of Law Reporting. At home I love to cook and spend time with family and friends over lovely food and wine. As those who know me would agree, I follow the wise words of Noddy to Big Ears in my entertaining: “Better too much than too little”.
In this issue
- Family law: still scope for reform
- People's court
- The importance of lawyers in a democratic society
- Thy will be done
- Children's rights and physical punishment
- Pension sharing and professional negligence
- Reading for pleasure
- Opinion: Bruce Adamson
- Book reviews
- President's column
- People on the move
- 400 years – still innovating
- Litigation: a bill to settle
- Access to justice: the small print
- Benefits of devolution
- The changing role of the courts in our democracy
- Core values
- The will bank opportunity
- Deep and meaningful
- The fall and rise of interrogatories
- To act or not to act?
- Immigration issues: more red tape
- Taxman scores winner in Rangers contest
- EIA: the regimes change
- Scottish Solicitors' Discipline Tribunal
- Practitioners or salesmen?
- Where the buck stops
- Law reform roundup
- Cyber basics for lawyers
- Practice points from missives review
- Money laundering update: new regulations in force
- Courts raise the stakes
- May: the force be not with you
- Conference success
- SYLA: 2016-17 in focus
- Ask Ash