The Society is supporting the #ChooseToChallenge theme of International Women’s Day – and challenging the SLCC's draft budget, prospective MSPs' policy priorities, and government over the legal sector

So… snowdrops on the out already and nearly at grass cutting time, rain permitting!

This month the Scottish Legal Complaints Commission’s budget will be laid before the Scottish Parliament. The Society has highlighted again its deep concern and disappointment at the approach it is taking. At the start of the pandemic last year, the SLCC (which like no other public organisation is funded entirely by private funds) ignored the challenges of the pandemic to those it serves and who fund it – our clients and members – and went ahead with an increase. A year later, despite a drop in complaints, it is not proposing a reduction in levy but a freeze. We hear and read so much of being expected to do more with less: what, apart from badly drafted legislation, justifies this public body suggesting with a straight face that it should be allowed to do less with more?

Last month I spoke at an EU event in Brussels (from Perthshire, before anyone shouts “How come she gets to travel”!) about the challenges to our profession following the Trade and Cooperation Agreement between the UK and the EU. We continue to engage with governments on the concerns of legal services and the users of legal services, about the importance of the sector and client protection. I also highlighted that the Scottish legal sector was a jurisdiction open to working with its European counterparts.

We are hosting a round table this month between Iain Stewart MP, Under Secretary of State for Scotland, and members from across the profession to discuss these issues and to highlight challenges and opportunities.

More highlights

I have also met with Scottish solicitors from around the globe as part of my all-constituency engagement ambition. The value of the Scottish solicitor profession and the standard of its training must never be underestimated or diminished. Scottish solicitors deliver skill and value wherever they go and I am thrilled that a benefit of this pandemic for me has been the ability to meet, hear and learn from so many of them. From the feedback received, the opportunity to help them feel included while miles away has been an additional bonus that must be built on.

On the subject of quality training and the Scottish solicitor skill, it was a privilege to introduce eight members of our profession to Lady Wise for admission as solicitor advocates with rights of audience in our highest civil courts. Congratulations again to Naomi, Jane, Erin, Alasdair, Nikki, Kirsten, Suzanne and Emma. You are a credit to yourselves, your supporters and your profession.

In the month that hosts international Women’s Day (#IWD), in a 12 months like no other, which across society has had a disproportionate impact on women – with cross-generational caring responsibilities, home schooling, household management, income concerns, and career development concerns where working from home is not their ideal – the Society has continued with the recent necessary theme of doing it differently.

This year’s theme is #ChooseToChallenge and I appreciate all the members, covering a range of career stages, who wrote articles on this topic. All the posts will be published on the Society’s website over the week of International Women’s Day (from Monday 8 March), so if you missed them on social media you can catch up by reading the News and Events pages online.

As the Scottish Parliament election approaches (pandemic permitting), the Society has published its Our Priorities document, setting out the 40+ priority areas on which we will be pressing for progress over the next parliamentary session. While the Society will be raising these with political parties and incoming MSPs, the power to make change comes from the voices of you, our members. I encourage you to speak to your candidates and encourage them to read this document, and if they believe in a modern, dynamic, inclusive society with global ambition as we do, then urge them to act on the priorities that we believe will aid delivery and sustainability of these ambitions.

The Author

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

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