Tribute to a former President of the Law Society of Scotland, noted for initiatives in legal education

Iain Macmillan was a man of unbounded energy, foresight and vision. Admitted solicitor in 1950, he practised with J & J Sturrock, Kilmarnock as a court practitioner and became a member of the Council of the Law Society of Scotland in 1964. He quickly made his mark and at an early stage became much involved with legal education. 

As a court practitioner, he saw newly qualified solicitors appearing in court without any court craft. In 1966, he persuaded the Council to let him set up and run a course in advocacy for young solicitors. He gathered together the best of Scotland’s court solicitors to teach and demonstrate how it should be done. It was a huge success and the course ran virtually unchanged for 14 years.

The success of this course led him to believe that continuing education was the next step. It was met with considerable opposition, as there was an attitude that “we are qualified, know the law and need no further education and anyway it will cost money”. Iain was, if nothing else, persistent, particularly when he knew he was correct. This persistence led to the introduction of PQLE (post-qualifying legal education, the forerunner of today’s CPD), which – apart from being essential – made money.

At much about the same time he was, along with J P H Mackay QC – now Lord Mackay of Clashfern – joint chairman of a committee considering the future of legal education. The recommendations led among other things to the introduction of the Diploma in Legal Practice. 

He became the President of the Law Society of Scotland in 1976, just at the time of the Royal Commission on the legal profession in Scotland, known as the Hughes Commission. Iain, along with his predecessor J D Wheelans, did much to set the course for the Society’s proposals.

In 1977, when he retired as President, he received a CBE for his services to the profession. Around the same time, the University of Aberdeen recognised his services to legal education by awarding him an honorary Doctorate of Laws. Without any disrespect to Her Majesty, he considered his LLD as a much more fitting recognition of his contributions to legal education.

He served as a sheriff in Hamilton Sheriff Court for 12 years, and on his retiral from the bench, having seen the damage and distress caused to victims of crime, became much involved with Victim Support.

The two most important pillars of his life were the unqualified love and support of Edith, his wife of 65 years, and his for her, coupled with a deep Christian faith. He had three children – two sons who are practising solicitors and a daughter who was a property manager with a large legal firm.

Iain Macmillan was a quite simply an exceptional man.

The Author
Kenneth Pritchard
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