As we begin 2021, we should assess which of the changes enforced last year mean progress; we should prize acting together as a profession; and we must hope for progress on the major issues of the day

So… welcome to the new world that is 2021!

The first six months as your President had me contribute to our work on climate change by being involved in more than 80 events across the world without utilising any air miles, and I only travelled to Edinburgh once, for the opening of the legal year. The collaborative and often productive nature of much of this engagement with the profession, Government, public sector and wider stakeholders is a positive I hope we can continue to build on.

Many technological advances have been made through this experience. Some will stay, having brought efficiencies, savings and some processes closer to the 21st century. Some should not, as they brought nothing but additional work and frustration, and jeopardised many of the fundamental values of our justice system, while still others have room for improvement or can be redeveloped now that the ideas have come to the fore. LawscotTech will continue to work with motivated external partners and the profession, with the aim of partnership working towards meaningful and effective systems that work for all, without reinventing the wheel too often.

Lessons from 2020

In my home our mantra is that communication is key. Regularly we wonder why it seems people do not communicate with one another. If 2020 taught us anything, it is that this remains more true than ever. Those who communicated, were listened to and collaborated through the challenges to find effective solutions, achieved more than those who “barried on” with their own ideas and agendas, expecting others to follow.

The collegiality and engagement of the profession with the Law Society of Scotland is something else I hope will be maintained for the future. The support of Law Society colleagues and members was invaluable to me in leading the organisation internally and externally through some of the most challenging times in the Society’s and the profession’s history. These challenges have not passed yet, but they have been and will continue to be met head on. I believe progress has been and will go on being made if we continue to work together. Even when on different sides, as a profession like ours requires, the goals are the same – quality advice, representation, delivery of justice, promotion and protection of the rule of law, all in the interest of our civil society.

On the wish list

My hopes for the rest of my year are to see meaningful, delivered progress in achievable and sustainable ways, maintaining respect for the value of the profession to society, with improved and regularly reviewed levels of legal aid payments across the board, prompt business recovery from the economic shock suffered due to COVID, clarity in the new world out of the European Union, and the opportunity to breathe and recover some of the resilience and goodwill used up surviving much of the trauma of 2020.

Oh and I’d really love not to have to explain (again) the importance of the rule of law and legal aid to our lawmakers, but I will if needed.

The Author

Amanda Millar is President of the Law Society of Scotland – President@lawscot.org.uk; Twitter: @amanda_millar

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