Head of Dispute Resolution at Davidson Chalmers Stewart, Sheila Webster has been a Society Council member since 2017 and has just been appointed to the board
Sheila WebsterWhat made you pursue a career as a solicitor?

Even in primary school, I liked to be the narrator in school presentations – and some would say I still like talking. I always enjoyed debate, and was encouraged at home to speak up, so law was a natural choice when I came to find a subject to study at university. It was that or medicine and I never could stand the sight of blood. Having studied law, there was never any question I’d make my career in this profession.

What do you enjoy most about being a Council member?

Meeting Council members from all types of practice, and from across Scotland and further afield has been a highlight – I’ve learned so much about different concerns in different practice areas. I’ve practised in Edinburgh all my career and being on Council has really opened my eyes. I’ve also learnt so much more than I ever knew about the immense amount of work done by the Law Society of Scotland team – I’m in awe of all that they cover.

Have your perceptions of the Society changed since you joined Council?

Definitely and for the good. The breadth of work is astounding, and the effort which goes into every aspect of their work is incredible. I know it’s easy to say that, but it really is true. The work by both Society staff, and our volunteers on committees, in recent months on the challenges COVID-19 has brought has been exceptional, both for the profession, and its clients of whatever size. 

What are you most looking forward to in your role as a member of the board?

Having been on Council for three years, being more involved in operational decisions will be really interesting and challenging – and never more so than in the current climate.

What are the main issues that you think the Society has to address at the moment?

Future regulation of our profession will continue to be an issue for some time to come, and the Society has much to contribute on that. I anticipate that past underinvestment in our justice system (both civil and criminal) will also be at the fore of issues. COVID-19 has exposed some of the difficulties for our court system of years of cuts, and I hope that this is an opportunity for some rebalance in the value we place on that system. I am alarmed about what I hear of the crisis in recruitment for those working in criminal legal aid – the right to quality representation is critical to our system and the issues can really only be addressed by improvements in the legal aid system. Finally, I’m impressed by the work being done to ensure our profession is diverse and that equality is at the centre of what we do – I think that will be a big issue in the next few years.

What’s your top tip for new lawyers?

Listen, and take every opportunity offered to you – you never know where it will lead.

If you could change only one thing for your members, what would it be?

I’d love to dispel the idea of us all as fat cat lawyers which sections of the media push. Few Scottish solicitors fit that description! It would be fantastic if the huge amount of good work done by the vast majority of solicitors for their clients was better recognised and valued by society.

What keeps you busy outside of work?

I wish I could say some exciting and unusual hobby, but the truth is my family – twin teenage daughters take up a lot of time, and I love spending time with them. Family, reading and travel occupy whatever spare time I have – I’m missing a trip to South Carolina right now, a casualty of COVID – and already planning for when I can start travelling again.

Share this article
Add To Favorites