Innovative use of IT underpins many of the 30 projects set out in the Law Society of Scotland’s annual plan for the 2017-18 practice year

Among ambitious targets for the year ahead, the Law Society of Scotland intends to provide innovative, world-class services to solicitors, take further steps in using digital technology to further transform working practices, and increase income from non-core sources by hundreds of thousands of pounds.

Alongside those major strategic goals, the Society’s annual plan for 2017-18 also sets out proposals to launch a body to promote the Scottish legal profession around the world, research the introduction of an apprenticeship route to qualification, and develop an online course on Scots law for students and members of the public. And despite the hefty anticipated workload, time has even been set aside to plan the arrangements for a birthday celebration – the Society’s 70th, or platinum, anniversary in 2019.

Chief executive Lorna Jack explains the thinking behind the plan. “We are about to move into the third year of our five-year strategy, Leading Legal Excellence, so it is a really important and exciting stage in the development of the Society and the services we provide. The annual plan helps to explain how we will assure the public, serve our members, excel as an organisation, influence society around us and grow our membership and income. We have a lot to do and a challenging year ahead, but I have absolutely no doubt that we can deliver it.”

IT transformation

Although the annual plan lays out a broad programme of work for 2017-18 – relating to all the key areas of the Society’s functions – a number of the 30 projects outlined focus on improved use of technology. The digital transformation project, for instance – which falls under the heading of serving members by understanding their needs, and providing them with the tools and services they can use every day – will continue with the migration of existing manual forms to online “smart” forms or apps. All new forms introduced from the beginning of the financial year will use these formats in an effort to improve online member services, complaints handling, anti-money laundering and financial compliance.

Among the projects intended to ensure the Society excels as a world-class professional body, is the use of technology in committees, exploring the introduction of tablets and improved software for meetings. A further, crucial goal in the year ahead – for the Society and the profession – is to ensure compliance with the General Data Protection Regulation, which will strengthen the data protection rights of individuals when it comes into force in May next year. 

And one plan under consideration to grow membership next year is the development of a massive open online course, or MOOC, on an introduction to Scots law for students intending to study law and members of the public interested in learning more about the law. The aim, alongside introducing new membership categories and growing the existing student associate and paralegal groups, is to attract 100 students to the course in the first year.

Standard setting

Jack continues: “Our members are at the heart of our organisation and we are determined to continue to improve the way we work to provide them with innovative services that support them in their businesses and their careers – and often that involves making better use of technology. Equally, we take our duty to the public extremely seriously and our annual plan promises to assure members’ clients and employers by setting and upholding standards that ensure they receive excellent legal and customer service.

“And as well as meeting our strategic goals, we will strive to provide an excellent day-to-day service for our members, the public and the organisations we work closely with, supported by our dedicated staff teams. Our people are critical to our success – our staff will deliver the annual plan projects with input, support and guidance from our 500 volunteer Council and committee members from across the legal profession and beyond. We need to harness their expertise and skills in the most effective way possible.

“Given the focus on technology in the annual plan, along with our determination to be a modern and innovative professional body, it is fitting that the 2017-18 plan is the first to be produced as a digital-only publication – to be launched on our superb new website at the beginning of November. I would urge our members, and anyone else with an interest in the legal profession, to access the plan and read more about our ambitions for the year ahead.”

The Author
Craig Watson is a freelance writer with a special interest in legal matters
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