Jim McKay is head of CPD & Training at the Law Society of Scotland

Tell us about your career so far

Jim McKayFirst job was at Keele University, researching corporate manslaughter combined with teaching undergrad classes on criminal law. I then joined a local business who were in political publishing. I found that exciting and fast paced, and was lucky to be involved in a growing business trying lots of new things, so I moved back to Scotland to open their Edinburgh office in my early 30s. After a stint at Holyrood Communications, I joined the Law Society of Scotland in June 2016 just before hitting 40. And very glad I did too. 

Why did you decide to join the Society?

Mostly, I was ready for a change after the best part of 15 years in what is a niche industry. I had a law degree, had run conference businesses and when I saw the job advertised one day it was one of those klaxon moments; it just looked right for me. So I applied and was interviewed. From the moment I walked into the foyer, I knew I wanted to work at the Society. Lorna Jack was part of the interview panel, and I remember being really struck that the chief exec was involved, and by the atmosphere. I didn’t have any preconceived ideas about the Society, or know anyone there; it just seemed obvious that it was genuinely going to be a great place to work, in all sorts of ways. 

Have your perceptions of the Society changed since you started?

It took me a while to understand the range of activity that we are involved in, and to what extent. Working in a membership body of any sort, much less the Society, was a new experience and a world away from the types of business I had been in. There was a lot of structure and clarity in our planning, enthusiasm for training and development: things like flexible working make a difference to me and others here. It was a different approach to managing people too. So first, it’s a really good environment to be part of. It pushes you to keep reflecting and improving. And we are good at looking forward, I think, and grasping difficult issues. Our wellbeing work for example: lots of bar associations across the world see us as pioneering. There are lots of other examples where we have been well ahead of things. I could give you half a dozen off the top of my head. 

What have been the highlights for you personally?

The best bit about my job has been being able to hire some great people. I know that sounds cheesy, but that’s it. I have enjoyed pretty much all of it so far, despite the inevitable bumps, and work with some very focused and smart people and teams. It’s honestly been a pleasure 95% of the time. 

What are the main issues for the Society/your department?

There is no doubt we all face a challenging year. But obviously we don’t have a monopoly on that, and our position is a much more fortunate one than others working in different industries. Supporting the profession is number one for everyone at the Society. In CPD we play our part by getting all the regulatory courses, like the new partner practice management course, working well online. Not just online, but also working as an engaging training session. Trainee CPD is also available entirely online now. Ditto all our training programme, including the annual conference in April 2021. We have put CPD packages together to help ease the financial burden of CPD, as well as making CPD available freely to any member who has had had the misfortune to become unemployed. 

What has been the most surprising aspect of your work at the Society?

I have never once been bored. Well, the odd meeting maybe. I’m lucky that the variety of things that cross my desk keeps things fresh. In my photo I look catatonic, granted. 

What’s your top tip for new lawyers?

Keep an eye and half a mind on how the whole business and people side works too, and work on developing the skills needed for that as well. 

What keeps you busy outside of work?

At the moment, not a lot. At the start of the pandemic, I disappeared down a Spotify wormhole about country music. Guy Clark and Townes Van Zandt really caught me, so I have been reading a few books about them both. It has been a whole new world to explore. Hopefully soon enough it’ll also involve a mixture of Murrayfield, Easter Road, odd pub and golf. At the time of writing, Hibs are actually playing well… so hoping we can get back in and actually witness it before inevitably we plummet back to mediocrity. 


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