Rachel Wood joined the Law Society of Scotland in May as Executive Director of Regulation

Can you tell us about your career before joining the Society? 

I am a bit of poacher turned gamekeeper in that I have worked in private practice in big firms for over 25 years. My career has been varied but there have been consistent strands in relation to risk management, quality assurance and change management. I started out as a corporate solicitor and then moved into knowledge management as a corporate professional support lawyer at McGrigors. I first became involved with risk management and quality assurance when McGrigors set up its risk management function around 2004 and continued to work in those areas, as well as knowledge management, after that. For a few years I was director of Risk and Knowledge at HBJ Gateley before returning to Pinsent Masons, where I was working when I joined the Society.

What motivated you to become a solicitor?

Accident! My first degree was in history and my options on graduating seemed to be academia, teaching or law. I thought that law would be the most challenging, so applied for the accelerated LLB, and here I still am.

What attracted you to the role at the Society? 

Again, the challenges, and the opportunity to lead the regulation of the profession especially against the backdrop of the ongoing legal services review. Knowing that my work makes a difference to the profession and to users of legal services is also a driver.

Have your perceptions of the Society changed since you joined? 

Not really. I hoped to work with friendly, motivated and highly skilled individuals and that has been my experience. 

How have you found the experience of joining the Society in the midst of a global pandemic?

I don’t think I would recommend joining any organisation during a global pandemic and full lockdown! It has made it more challenging to connect with people and learn the Society’s ways of working, but everyone has bent over backwards to be helpful and, with the easing of lockdown, I have recently enjoyed some walking meetings with colleagues. Thank goodness we have video, phone and email communication, but there’s no substitute for face-to-face connection. And I do miss being able to print and read documents in hard copy!

What do you see as the key regulatory issues for the profession going forward?

At the moment, the challenge for the profession is maintaining high quality client service and continuing regulatory compliance in the face of remote working, furlough and court closures – a challenge to which the profession is rising admirably.

In the longer term, the legal services review is essential to allow us to modernise the regulation of the profession. We need things like a better complaints system, restrictions around the use of the title “lawyer” and a system of entity regulation. I believe the Society is best placed to continue to deliver strong regulation and to take the lead in implementing any changes brought forward by Scottish Government to our governing legislation.

If you could offer one piece of advice to members of the Scottish legal profession at the moment, what would it be? 

To look after your mental health and wellbeing – and to tell someone if you need help. Not only is that the right thing for each of us individually, it’s the best thing for clients too. Stressed and worn out solicitors are more likely to cut corners, make mistakes or deliver poor client service.

What keeps you busy outside of work? 

A silver lining of the current situation has been the return of my 18 and 20 year olds to the empty nest. Spending time on long walks together, them teaching me new recipes and joining forces on Zoom quizzes has been joyful.

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