Just another month... involving strategy, diversity, mental wellbeing, public sector IT developments – and not least, defending the profession and the rule of law from Government

So... November is here; hopefully firework season has passed without increased animal anxiety levels and you all remain safe and well. The days are darker, literally and sometimes metaphorically too. This was recognised by some of the members participating in the SeeMe Pass the Badge campaign, although their willingness to share and the support they received from friends and colleagues was uplifting to see. Those tips, hints and personal stories are out there for you all to read and hopefully benefit from, if you feel overwhelmed or see someone else who might be: visit the Pass the Badge section on the Society's website or search #PasstheBadge on Twitter.

Our strategy work, which moved from a five-year plan at the start of the year to a two-year one in the spring to take account of COVID challenges, has been completed and the two-year strategy has been published, described in this feature. It remains ambitious in terms of engagement, regulation and maintaining our responsibilities to the public. The crosscutting themes of technology, equality and resilience have never been more relevant.

Keep us in the loop

I wrote at the start of my year as President of my desire and motivation to have at the end of it supported the profession to remain well regulated, sustainable and viable. In these most challenging of times, technology, diversity and resilience have never been more tested or needed. Our members invested in technology to keep their businesses running and be able to serve their clients, while following Government guidance.

Some of our publicly funded stakeholders were slow to do the same, and many current technological solutions continue to need work. Members advising business in relation to immediate challenges and the fast approaching end of transition date for Brexit face daily challenges and often, particularly with regard to the latter, a lack of clear information with which to advise. The common theme is that progress is being made most effectively when the profession is included in the conversation – a point we continue to make at every opportunity.

Still seeking diversity

Our work in improving diversity in the profession has continued to lead the way. This year we are collecting pseudonymised data during the practising certificate renewal process to allow us to be better informed. We are setting up a working group looking at BAME challenges in the profession, while continuing to work with The Glass Network, SEMLA, Women in Law, Scottish Young Lawyers’ Association and others to challenge ourselves and others to improve the diversity of the profession and so its sustainability.

It will not be progress if the Law Society of Scotland waits another 70 years for a President from the LGBTQI+ community, if in the next 70 years we have had only five more female Presidents, or in the next generation we have not had a President from a BAME background. Our society is intersectional and becoming increasingly so; our profession is made up of that intersectionality at least to a degree, but we must and will do better.

Rule of law: lip service?

Our resilience has been tested not just financially in the closure of courts and challenges in achieving meaningful restart, with resulting backlogs building, business damage and income generation, but also through “criticism” by Government leaders who say they value the rule of law but treat those tasked with the independent and professional responsibility of upholding it with populist disrespect and disregard.

As a fundamental pillar of a first-world democratic society, the legal profession must prevail in the interests of all. Our professional responsibilities and desire to serve our communities have seen many of us put ourselves at risk to keep the justice sector running (as far as it was permitted), representing clients, often the most vulnerable of us, upholding their rights and those of society.

Without adequate acknowledgment, respect and resource for what has been done it may not be possible for the current service level to be sustained. But I know, and will continue to tell everyone I have the opportunity to meet as President, that what can never be in doubt is the absolute professionalism demonstrated by Scottish solicitors every day, and the absolute commitment from your Law Society, its staff, its volunteers and its leaders to continue to influence, engage and offer solutions.

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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