A very warm welcome to February’s column, which I am writing as the UK has formally left the European Union.
I attended the Society’s Brussels office annual reception a few days after 31 January. There was, perhaps understandably, a sense of sadness there that close professional and personal bonds, built over many years, have been affected. At this early stage it is impossible to predict how our country’s links with Europe will develop. We can only hope that our individual connections with our European colleagues and friends will be as warm as ever as the new, national relationship evolves.
Solicitor advocates’ success
On the theme of new relationships and how successful they can become, we were delighted to welcome many of our members who have rights of audience in the Supreme Courts to a reception at the Society. It was a real pleasure to see Maurice Smyth, the very first to appear in the High Court, and some of those most recently granted extended rights, in the same room together. The idea of solicitors appearing in our higher courts was not universally popular when it was first suggested. Doubts were expressed in some quarters about whether our members would be up to the task.
In May 1993, the first solicitor advocates were warmly welcomed by Lord Prosser, who told them: “All of us have one common aim and one common function, in pursuit of which we work – and can only work – together. The common end, in our joint venture, is justice. It can only be attained by the quite intricately combined efforts of all. Your admission to rights of audience is a change, an innovation in the division of work, a variation in the roles. It will prove significant by its usefulness in the attainment of better justice. If it does not achieve that, it is of no significance, and of no use. If you and we fail to find how to use the new system, justice may suffer actual harm. But if the change does produce improvements in the achievement of justice, I believe that much of the credit will be yours and yours personally.”
We are certain, from any objective viewpoint: better justice has been attained by our members exercising their rights of audience. Solicitors have appeared in the highest-profile cases not only in Scotland but in the UK Supreme Court. Some have become Queen’s Counsel and more have gone on to judicial appointments in courts and tribunals across the country. Most recently, Sheriff Peter Braid has been appointed as the first Senator of the College of Justice who has not previously been a member of Faculty.
Of course it is entirely appropriate that the Society recognises and celebrates these fantastic achievements. However, what is more important is that the liberty and lives of those involved in the most complex and important civil disputes and facing the most serious criminal charges have been and continue to be protected by solicitors providing advice and representation at the very highest level.
Just before I leave you this month I want to give you a quick update on LexFactor. Plans for our battle of the legal profession/law firm bands to raise money for the Lawscot Foundation are finalised. The Foundation is, as you know, our social mobility charity, founded a few years ago to ensure that coming from a less advantageous economic background is not a barrier to talented young people joining the Scottish legal profession.
This event is scheduled to take place at the Corn Exchange in Edinburgh on Thursday 12 March 2020, from 7pm until midnight. Six to eight bands, made up of solicitors, advocates, paralegals and other colleagues working in the legal profession will rock four or five cover versions. Thanks to our generous sponsors Lockton and Titlesolv, we will supply a PA, mics and a drum kit. An illustrious panel of judges will give feedback after each performance and declare the overall winner at the end of the night. The prize will be a trophy and of course the prestige of winning the inaugural LexFactor!
We look forward to hearing from you or from anyone who may have an interest in forming a band. Please email LexFactor@lawscot.org.uk. There’s not much time left to get involved. Spaces are filling up fast!
Tickets are just £20 a head to the profession and friends via EventBrite. We are sure it will be a fantastic event, so buy a ticket, come along and help our students make their dream of joining us become a reality.