Tell us about your career so far?
I am a scientist and chartered engineer who used to travel the world installing machinery. In parallel I worked voluntarily in the consumer field, chairing Consumers' Association/Which? for 13 years. In later life I have done regulatory fitness to practise work using my evidential based background.
What led you to become involved with the work of the Society?
My business interests in Edinburgh reminded me of the different legal system in Scotland. My solicitor thought I could bring an external and diverse view to Society committees.
Has anything surprised you about the committee work or the Society more widely?
The Society has a slight image of conservatism, but in practice I found it is dynamic and eager to engage with its members. I had expected that a greater proportion of conveners, and members on each committee, would be lay rather than lawyers. In reality and as with the Regulatory Committee itself, the regulatory subcommittees are comprised of 50% solicitors, 50% non-solicitor members.
What have you found most interesting about the committees' work?
The sheer variety of customer issues that arise in regulation.
What are the main issues that you think the Society has to address at the moment?
Access to advice, transparency, and competition need addressing.
Elsewhere in the UK, lawyers have been able to join up with other suitably qualified professionals to form alternative business structures which can provide legal services. While the Society has been approved by the Scottish Government as a regulator for licensed legal services providers in Scotland, it is awaiting full authorisation to regulate these new types of businesses.
Solicitors are selling to the public, so should be more open about pricing. I heard some solicitors being likened to intimidatory upmarket dress shops, with friendly knowledgeable staff but no prices on the clothes. The Society's price transparency guidance is now effective, so consumers should begin to see some improvements in this area.
A separate topic arising from the Appeals Committee is that too many potential lawyers have their hopes raised by going through years of academic study only to find that traineeships are scarce, which has unfortunately been exacerbated by the pandemic. While the Society does what it can to ensure students are informed, working alongside the universities and publishing traineeship statistics annually, ultimately it has no control over diploma or traineeship numbers.
Would you recommend being on a committee to someone else – and why?
You meet people with sharp minds, capable of rigorous investigation and argument. Intellectually refreshing.
What keeps you busy outside of work?
I am a keen runner and orienteer (Edinburgh Southern Club), which takes me travelling around the world going to veterans' events. I also manage a 750-member lawn tennis club.
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