So… I am a year older, 25 years out of university, but apparently now only an activist. I thought being a lawyer, representing clients within the bounds of the law, giving advice without fear or favour was simply the joy and responsibility that came with being a member of this profession that is a fundamental pillar of civil society.
But apparently not. Applying the law, representing clients within it (often some of the most vulnerable and voiceless people in society), bringing challenge and testing the evidence had at least one Government department calling those taking such actions “activist lawyers”. So I am an activist, and I stand with all my professional colleagues who are not “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” (last month’s article). We will and must maintain our professional standards in the interest of our hard-earned reputations and in the greater interest of society.
SCTS issued a plan entitled COVID-19: Respond, Recover and Renew in mid-August. Both the Lord President and the CEO of SCTS have confirmed that this should form part of a consultation with the profession, and nothing within it has been decided. I am also aware that SCTS’s view of how the courts are operating from a national viewpoint is not mirrored in local experiences. From members’ social media activity alone, it is clear there are strong views on these and I encourage all with direct current experiences and anyone with a constructive view on the plan to share them with us via email@example.com. I will be writing about local issues we are told of directly to the relevant sheriffs principal, keeping the Lord President informed as requested. I am equally happy to copy in relevant faculty leaders and receive local faculty communication if that is thought helpful. My aim is for collective, effective and collaborative communication. You can read more on the Society’s website.
IT means engagement
I have been travelling the country via the magic of technology, meeting members and Faculty leaders to discuss the challenges of working in a slow-release from lockdown environment. I will meet more of you over the coming month and hope to meet every constituency before the end of October – if not a unique feat, then certainly something not done by a President in my Council lifetime. It has given me a wonderful opportunity to get on-the-ground engagement across the country early in my year as President, and so hopefully will aid my ability to add greater value to the profession and the public we serve. I look forward to seeing many more of you in the coming weeks – if not at a constituency visit, perhaps at our Law and Technology Conference or the New Partner Practice Management Course.
Notwithstanding all the current challenges, in order to maintain a viable, sustainable profession that reflects the society it serves we must continue to look to the future. Last month I told you about our (entirely online for the first time) summer school programme. This month our award-winning public legal education programme Street Law, which had to be paused in March due to the COVID-19 outbreak, was reawakened by the determined and talented Careers & Outreach team, who have trained 40 street lawyers from across Scotland’s universities virtually in recent weeks.
Street Law has a great impact on the school pupils we work with, but is also a real opportunity for law students to learn some teaching methods and give back to Scottish education. The Street Law year will commence next month with law students teaching pupils virtually. Massive thanks to all the volunteers who helped us deliver the training and to our sponsors, Pinsent Masons.
Before signing off, I want to congratulate the Society’s chief executive Lorna Jack who has been appointed to one of the Department for International Trade’s new trade advisory groups to represent the Scottish legal sector. I know Lorna will do a tremendous job in representing the profession.
Stay safe. Take care of yourselves, your colleagues, loved ones and of course keep doing what you do for your clients. Value yourselves, your work and your professionalism.
Until next month, if I don’t see you before.
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