I wish you a very warm welcome to my President’s column. The first thing I want to say is short, sweet and very easy. To be the President of the Law Society of Scotland is an extraordinary honour and privilege and I will work as hard as I possibly can on your behalf.
Finding the next thing to say has not been so easy. Despite having been a court practitioner for 30 years, I have found it very difficult to find an appropriate, inspirational message for today. In the end I came to the conclusion it’s really the other way round and it is you, as members of the Society who are the inspiration.
Scottish solicitors make a multi-billion pound contribution to the corporate, commercial and financial life of our country. They help families on the journey from their first homes to their last and with all the ups and downs in between. Scottish solicitors prosecute difficult, complicated and often shocking cases in the public interest. They provide the highest quality advice, guidance and representation to the most disadvantaged, challenged and marginalised of our community. The significant and vital contribution to the rule of law, human rights and justice made by Scottish solicitors cannot be measured. I will take all of that as my inspiration for the year ahead.
On the subject of inspiration, I would like to pay tribute to Past President, Alison Atack. It was fitting that Alison, as our longest-serving Council member, was President for the start of the Society’s 70th year anniversary and for the 100th anniversary of fellow Glaswegian, Madge Anderson, becoming the first woman to be admitted as a solicitor anywhere in the UK. I know Alison’s final highlight was presenting Dame Elish Angiolini QC with her richly deserved honorary membership of the Society at the AGM on 30 May, the final day of her presidency.
Alison was dedicated and passionate about representing the interests of our members and the Society. It was a pleasure to observe her carry out her presidential duties with genuine warmth, grace and good humour. I am sure that you would like to thank Alison for her long and dedicated service to our Society and the profession, and wish her the very best for the future.
I am looking forward to the year ahead with the help of Vice President Amanda Millar. Amanda is a most able court practitioner and has gained excellent knowledge and skills from membership of various organisations and board positions. The office of Vice President will benefit enormously from her expertise and experience. I am lucky to have her support.
I do want to say a special thank-you to all the conveners and members of the Society’s Legal Aid Committees and excellent Society staff who have worked tirelessly for years on such a vital issue. This has been a long, challenging and in the past, thankless task. Your hard work paid off. The Government listened and agreed that a fee increase was necessary. The increase was not at the level we had hoped for, but it is a start. Please support your colleagues who are taking your excellent work forward so we can continue to make progress towards a properly funded legal aid system.
Looking forward, the Government is likely to publish its response to the Review of Legal Services Regulation Report later this year and to consult on it. The main proposal for a single regulator would be the most significant change for the profession in 40 years. Please let us know your views if you have not already done so. We want to have a constructive dialogue about our vision of the appropriate regulatory model for an excellent, 21st century legal profession.
The groundbreaking research started by the Society into bullying and harassment will continue. We are ahead of many other organisations on this issue. While the statistics revealed in our Profile of the Profession were disappointing, it is right that they have been brought out into the open. The first step to doing anything is always finding out there is a problem. We know it’s there now, so we can all take steps to do something about it. The legal work we do can be difficult and stressful enough without the added problem of a damaging or hostile work environment.
I also look forward to seeing as many of you as possible around the country as I continue my practice. Please come and say hello and let me know what you think the Society is doing well, or just as importantly, pass on your ideas about any improvements which could be made.
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