Technology has enabled much to happen that would not otherwise have – but is not a panacea when it comes to upholding justice and the rights of the citizen, which globally are under increased threat

So… August and the staycation is in front of me as I write, and behind as you read. I hope you are all as safe and well as possible in these ongoing challenging times. I speak regularly to people looking for a career in law and always say one of its great joys is that nothing stays the same and every day is different. Now the whole of society is getting a chance to see that in action, and not necessarily in a good way!

As a profession, we continue to show our resilience, flexibility, and desire to deliver for our clients and make meaningful contributions to civil society.

Technology has continued to be my constant companion in my work as your President. I had the opportunity to attend a world leaders’ round table of lawyers recently, and inputs from colleagues in Asia and Latin America brought into sharp focus the fact that there is much legal turmoil across the world at present, impacting on the human and civil rights many of us here take for granted. The changes we have experienced through global pandemic necessity, and the resurgence of extreme views, show us that we must not be complacent about our human rights and the need to preserve the pillars of our profession that contribute to the democratic and civil rights that we hold dear:

The independence of the rule of law, our responsibility as solicitors to provide advice without fear or favour, the right to be tried by a jury of your peers for the most serious offences, the right to express a strong opinion that may disagree with that of others.

We should oppose hatred, discrimination and marginalisation, but not debate. We must maintain our professional standards in the interest of our hard-won reputations but in the greater interest of society. As citizens, we have rights and responsibilities. As solicitors, we have rights and responsibilities to ensure these are upheld for all through ethical, professional advice and appropriate challenge. We contribute to supporting business, relationships and individuals in good times and bad. We prosecute, defend, challenge, protect, develop, regulate, secure and sustain.

Technology, while incredibly helpful and positive in so many fields, is not the panacea for everything that is currently challenging. In many areas there is work still to do – as the results of our survey on the virtual custody courts pilot showed..

Society needs our profession to remain viable to continue this work.

Virtual activity

It was with great joy and hope that I launched our first virtual summer school to people from a diverse range of backgrounds with an interest in the law, which allowed us to open up the opportunity to many more participants and had more than 70 attendees – more than three times as many, and from a wider range of locations, than we can normally accommodate at the in-person events.

I also participated in a panel session with my #oneprofessionmanyjourneys fellow role models, hearing their inspiring stories and running out of time to answer the myriad questions from the very engaged students first thing on a Monday!

Our High Street and Sole Practitioners Conference took place towards the end of July, again entirely remotely, and with the highest-ever attendance of close to 200 participants. Wonderful to be able to engage with so many members and share knowledge from a wide variety of speakers in the interests of continuing to support members in a range of ways
in these most unusual of times.

For our in-house colleagues, we launched the nominations for the now annual Rising Star award. I am fascinated to see this year’s nominations and I know our in-house sector will have risen to their own challenges of client service and development. More information can be found on p 40 and on our website.

On a sad note, I was shocked by the sudden death in late July of Sheriff Richard Davidson, who I had the opportunity to appear before in Dundee, Fort William and in hospital. He was always forthright, and my abiding memory of him was that he took a person-centred approach to cases involving those with mental illness, before it was established as “the right thing to do”. An attitude which should inspire.

Stay safe.

 

The Author

Amanda Millar is President of the Law Society of Scotland – President@lawscot.org.uk; Twitter: @amanda_millar

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