Emma Dixon is senior in-house lawyer with the Oil & Gas Authority, interim convener of the Society's COP26 & Climate Change working group, and a member of the Public Policy Committee
Tell us about your career so far?

Most of my career has been in-house, initially by chance and later by design. I was a junior projects lawyer with a large firm when I first had the opportunity to be seconded to a client, and that experience really resonated with me. Since then I've pretty much always been in-house, as a secondee or staff. I moved into oil and gas law over 10 years ago, which brought me to my current role with the Oil & Gas Authority (OGA) four and a half years ago, when the OGA was created to regulate, influence and promote the oil and gas industry. Since then my job has gained another dimension, as the OGA continues to work with government and industry on the role of oil and gas in the UK energy transition.

What motivated you to become involved with the work of the Society?

An interest in gaining a fresh perspective. Lawyers tend to specialise early on in their careers, and focus on that, so it can be hard to get a sense of what “other” lawyers do. Working for the OGA, particularly as the energy transition accelerates, has given me a broader outlook on the role of, and contributions that can made by, all lawyers in relation to the continuing evolution of the law, access to justice and other legal issues that impact on wider society. Particularly now, as a parent, it's important for me to find meaningful ways to contribute that are in the public interest for the benefit of generations to come.

Have your perceptions of the Society changed since you started?

Absolutely! I have been really impressed by the depth and breadth of outstanding work undertaken by the Society. This wouldn't be possible without the contributions made by volunteer members who collectively devote thousands of hours each year across all aspects of the law and legal issues, but also the excellent support provided by the Society's staff which underpins it. I've been a very fortunate beneficiary of such support myself, during the establishment of the COP26 & Climate Change working group, thanks to our two secretaries, Alison McNab and Gillian Mawdsley who work diligently to turn our thoughts into actions.

What can you tell us about the role lawyers have to play in the work to address climate change?

On a personal level, I think we're all now more aware of the need to make more sustainable lifestyle choices. As professionals, we need to support the global effort to create practical legal solutions to tackle climate change and shouldn't shy away from playing a role in making hard decisions. The COP26 & Climate Change working group will continue to raise the profile of climate change within the profession and identify opportunities to engage with members on these issues. Focused and collaborative efforts by lawyers will contribute to the empowerment of business and communities to transition to net zero emissions.

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

In the short term, supporting its staff and members during the COVID-19 pandemic is, of course, the priority of the Society. Longer term, the past months have stripped away at least some previously held conventions about the way in which lawyers can, and should, work. We need to use this opportunity to continue to promote and achieve ever more sustainable, efficient and flexible working practices, whilst safeguarding both the mental health of members and support for equality of access to legal advice and justice. 

If you could change only one thing for members and/or the public, what would it be?

I think there is a lingering perception that, in the professional sense, climate change considerations are primarily for those lawyers who work in environmental and energy law, whereas it's a cross-cutting issue. With COP26 in Glasgow only a year away, let's use this time to engage with all members, and potential future members, in the meaningful discussion and implementation of strategies that are aligned with tackling climate change while ensuring that the transition towards a climate-neutral economy happens in a fair way.

What keeps you busy outside of work?

I have two young children, so family life can be fairly hectic! We live in Aberdeenshire and like to get out exploring our beautiful surroundings whenever we can, whatever the weather. I recently took up stand-up paddle boarding, so I'm trying to make time to get out on the water (sea, river or loch). This winter I'm hoping to make a return to the Scottish ski slopes – it's been a while!

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