Lawyers at home as well as abroad are suffering from Government failures to respect their work and its needs, to the detriment of the rule of law, and society as a whole

So ...the last article of 2020: Christmas is on its way, swiftly followed by our full break from the EU.

Hopefully, 2021 will bring vaccines and an opportunity to rebuild.

Last month was interspersed with attendances at the IBA conference, hearing from current and former leaders from across the world with many highlighting the importance of the rule of law, the benefit of respecting it and the potential damage to negotiating ability, reputation and credibility when criticising the behaviour of others. The circumstances in Hong Kong, and the treatment of lawyers in Iran, Turkey and elsewhere remain a concern.

Governments must show respect

The facts that UK politicians are being called out by the IBA President for “damaging rhetoric”, that the UK Government has produced little by way of planning information on Brexit (despite sending emails in late November highlighting “getting ready can take longer than you think”), and that both Westminster and Scottish Governments continue to fail society by failing to adequately fund legal aid to ensure access to justice, should be an embarrassment to all our politicians. Pandemic backsliding is posing a combined threat to our democracy, human rights, and the rule of law.

We live in a country with world-leading legal professions, well regarded and looked to throughout the world for guidance, standard-setting and high values. Sadly, the same regard does not appear to exist internally. The risk of loss of our hard-won and justified reputation will be significant. It will impact on the ability to negotiate trading agreements that follow our EU departure, and so impact the economy. It will impact our credibility in the world, and so may damage the influence that many of our legal experts are able to bring to ensure meaningful collaboration and improvement in the world and at home.

Our members are being hampered from advising business due to lack of a “deal” or clarity on whether there is to be a “deal”. What we know about the Brexit planning can be found on the dedicated section of our website. These members and businesses are already managing and coping with the threats of the global pandemic we are all facing this year, and to expect last-minute managing of Brexit brings a disrespectful expectation of further resilience from a profession which has already shown a high level of under-resourced goodwill to keep the justice system, property and business sectors running or protected since March. These highly trained, high-value contributors to society deserve more respect, involvement and resource.

Worthy winners

Congratulations again to all members who were deserving winners at the Scottish Legal Awards for their contributions to society, business and the profession.

The winners include Iain Smith for the Law Society-sponsored category of Lawyer of the Year. Iain’s work on being trauma informed has brought thought and opportunities for improvement to the lives of so many. Also, as Chair of the Year, Elaine Motion, an outstanding lawyer with recent high profile challenges to government behaviour. Both wonderful leaders and promoters of the benefit to our society of independent legal professionals upholding the rule of law.

Many of us will have a break over the upcoming Christmas period, and if you do get some time away from work I hope you find rest, safety and joy. If this period is a challenging one for you or people you know, and you can, please reach out, check in and take care (more on the Society's Wellbeing pages). Just because we can’t be together doesn’t mean we can’t be connected.

Stay safe, and here’s to 2021 bringing more positivity than 2020.

The Author

Amanda Millar is President of the Law Society of Scotland –; Twitter: @amanda_millar

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