Why did you become a solicitor?
I was either going to study Medicine or Law. My dad was a doctor and he invented the epidural, which I felt was a tough act to follow, so I opted for law!
How has your career gone so far?
I did my traineeship in Cranhill and Blackhill in Glasgow, which had some interesting moments! I then went to work in Possilpark for a number of years before joining a bigger firm which did other areas of work as well as criminal. I set up my own firm about 10 years ago, and last year we changed the name to Moir & Sweeney Litigation. This was to recognise the huge contribution made to the growth of the firm by my partner Paul Sweeney. I have mainly focused on criminal defence work, but have also done FAIs, regulatory work, children’s panels etc.
Why did you join the Criminal Legal Aid Committee?
I joined the committee after the cut to the stipendiary magistrate fee and other cuts such as half travel. I felt that rather than moan from the sidelines I should get involved and try to improve the situation. I have been involved for almost a decade, and that has really helped during the recent negotiations when the COVID-19 pandemic hit, as the people I was dealing with at SLAB and Scottish Government knew me well.
How have your perceptions of the Society changed since you joined the committee?
I see how hard people work for the benefit of the profession, often for little or no recognition. Much of that work is done on a voluntary basis by solicitors and that is to be commended.
Can you tell us about any personal highlights?
Making sure we avoided the issues in other jurisdictions around contracting; the creation of a very user-friendly system for claiming for police station work; and the recent concessions for COVID-19 which have hopefully really helped legal aid firms to survive this pandemic. Concessions have included being able to fee all criminal cases early to assist cash flow, payment of ABWOR in full for written pleas in summary cases and the ability to use any agent other than the duty solicitor for appointed solicitor ABWOR claims. Soon we expect legislation to allow the duty solicitor to be used in the same way. In terms of my own work, I would say winning Criminal Law Firm of the Year 2017 and being given a judges' commendation for Solicitor of the Year in 2018 are right up there.
What are the main issues you think the Society has to address at the moment?
It is essential that we get the courts back up and running as soon as possible. I have been involved in the work around getting solemn trials restarted without losing trial by jury. I have also been working on written plea protocols for summary cases and the options for using technology to run summary trials and children's hearings.
If you could change only one thing for your members, what would it be?
We are long overdue a substantial increase in legal aid fees across the board to make this area of work sustainable. I am working with a Scottish Government fee review panel and have consistently made that point to them.
What’s your top tip for new lawyers?
My mantra when I am speaking to new lawyers is “Work hard and give a damn”. I always believe that if you work hard and treat every case as if it was for someone you care most about, you cannot go too far wrong.
What keeps you busy outside of work?
In my spare time I go to the gym, play golf, coach my son’s football team and I am a trustee of a charity.