These are difficult times to leave office, but I am heartened by the way the Society and the profession have faced the COVID-19 crisis and I am confident that as a profession we will pull through

I wish you the warmest welcome to my last column as President. I would have said that I am writing with a tinge of sadness, but I don’t think now is the time for a lot of personal reflections on the last year. As we approach the presidential handover, I would like to look ahead with as much optimism as the situation allows.

We are confident that the financial package announced at the end of April will help to alleviate some of the financial pressure paying your professional fees might bring at this time. We thought very hard about the best solution. We know our members face a sharp and significant downturn across many areas of practice and this has a direct and immediate effect on the financial viability of businesses. We took the decision at the very start of lockdown that, as a membership organisation, to do nothing was simply not an option. We have taken a series of tough financial decisions to attempt to provide a measure of support for our members across the profession. The package was measured and proportionate, and as a whole sought to provide support to different sections of our profession.

The decisions were not easy. They have implications for the Society and all of us. A number of different opinions were voiced at all stages of the discussion. The views were expressed with an understanding of the seriousness of the situation but with the best interests of the Society and profession at their heart. The package was approved by an overwhelming majority of Council, who represent the many and diverse interests of the profession. We encouraged comment from and dialogue with our members and we have answered the questions which have been posed about the thinking behind our proposals.

The decision to provide a holiday from the client protection fund contribution was challenging. However, we are in no doubt that given the extremely healthy reserves held by the fund, we are easily in a position to provide the same level of protection that our clients have always enjoyed.

Taking solutions forward

I am certain that during May, measures will be announced which will signal the easing of lockdown and a return to work. We should take forward the new ways of working that we have had to adopt in the past months. As always the profession has embraced these new ways of working and has been proactive in seeking solutions to the problems we have encountered. Our willingness to work collaboratively with the Government and our partners in the legal system has in no small measure helped find an interim solution to the conveyancing crisis and to restart court business. We must continue to work in this positive way.

We recognise that worrying about our family and businesses and the isolation that lockdown has brought will have an impact on our mental health. We hope the work the Society started in partnership with See Me, the national programme to end mental health stigma and discrimination, will help with that. We will continue to invest in and develop our Lawscot Wellbeing offering in response in the coming months. We have been looking out for each other during this difficult time, and I hope that will continue.

We will survive

Finally, on a personal level I wish I was handing over the reins to Amanda Millar in happier times. However the leadership of our Society and profession is in the safest hands. I know Amanda will adeptly navigate our exit from lockdown and beyond.

I do wish to say a very special thank you to our chief executive Lorna Jack, the Senior Leadership team, Council and committee members and all the staff at the Society for keeping me right and making my term as President such an honour and a privilege. I have been humbled by the amount of work that is done for us that we rarely get to see.

The final thank you of course must be to you, the members of the profession, who have provided invaluable support and encouragement to me throughout the year. It is impossible to express adequately how important that has been, especially in the most recent weeks. I have no doubt that we will continue to be a thriving, varied and independent profession whatever challenges we are faced with. I hope that you stay safe and well and wish you every continued success.

The Author

John Mulholland is President of the Law Society of Scotland – President@lawscot.org.uk; Twitter: @JohnMMulholland

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