So… it’s July, it’s the summer holidays and colleagues with kids should be heading off somewhere or dealing with the challenges of having them at home. Those without would be covering for them and waiting for schools to return. But this is 2020, we are in the middle of a global pandemic and for the last three months we have all been juggling work/domestic life without regular schooling or office access, while concerned about colleagues, technology, pastoral support and uncertainty over the future shape of business.
The Society has become increasingly aware of the practical issues affecting many members during this time. A recent series of round table events with members focused on these areas, giving us insights into the challenges as well as allowing Society staff and participants to offer practical help and advice.
This month, and likely beyond, we are meeting with employers and firms to give feedback on the challenges, while offering some solutions where we can. We have also set up lunchtime drop-in (virtual of course!) sessions for parents/carers to share experiences and offer and receive support. The next session is planned for 30 July, with an employers’ session on 22 July. For more information or to book a place, contact Heather McKendrick by email. As the challenges around the pandemic, schooling and childcare develop, we are adapting our support. Our free-to-join mentoring platform may also be of interest. Sometimes it’s good to be able to confide in someone outside your immediate colleagues.
We are also aware of concerns from our newest members, trainees. Some have been furloughed, with associated concerns about qualification dates and career options. Firms with trainees are also concerned about effective remote supervision etc. There is a blog and FAQs on many of these issues from careers and outreach colleagues on the website.
In terms of delivery of the sustainable and viable profession I referred to last month, we mustn’t forget future generations. The inclusive and varied backgrounds of the Scottish solicitor profession have been highlighted by the recently published #OneProfessionManyJourneys Role Models campaign (read more), designed particularly to help young people see that a career in law could be for them. Due to lockdown this has initially been promoted via social media, with positive feedback. We look forward to engaging in person in schools, although we are open to virtual engagements too. We have become quite experienced at these, having delivered the final of the Donald Dewar Debating Tournament remotely. Congratulations again to Peebles High, this year’s winners.
Now that we are well into phase 2, and hopefully have reached phase 3 of moving out of lockdown, the Society has produced more guidance for members in relation to opening up. This can be found in the business support section of the website. I have seen first-hand the work of the Society and the adaptable, capable, civic minded Scottish solicitor profession as they pulled together to deliver support to members, clients, Government and stakeholders in these most challenging times. We continue to engage collaboratively and are delighted to see many stakeholders deliver flexible solutions to the urgent challenges – remote summary trials and legislation to allow for remote notarisations being but two of these. This has only been achieved through sharing of knowledge, flexibility, and open-minded collaboration in the interest of the public and civil society.
Collaboration has also continued in work not directly related to the pandemic. Recent weeks have seen us deliver trauma-informed training for practitioners in collaboration with Scottish Government, Scottish Women’s Aid and Scottish Women’s Rights Centre.
Unfortunately, while the Society continues to engage proactively and regularly with other organisations, the speed of change and pressure to make decisions can sometimes make communications from those organisations a casualty. Society staff and I continue to emphasise the importance of engaging at an early stage and with openness around changes to the processes and procedures on which our legal system is based. However, that is not always happening. Solicitors are a vital part of our justice system and Scottish civic society, and as your representative body we will make that case at every opportunity. If you do become aware of a change in process which is of concern as causing significant issues for your clients, please get in touch either via your regional Council member or directly to myself or other colleagues at the Society.
While I’m on the subject of clear and consistent communication, I’d like to congratulate trainee solicitor Emily Campbell, this year’s winner of the Innovation Cup with her idea for a template to agree how and when solicitors communicate with their clients. As the judges recognised, failures in communication are a common cause of complaints and claims against the Master Policy, and Emily’s idea to address that by setting clear expectations from the outset is very much to be welcomed.
I look forward to more clear communication and effective collaboration in the interests of us all.