Alison McNab, a policy executive with the Society, supports the work of a number of its policy committees and is joint secretary to the COP26 working group
Tell us about your career so far?

I started off as a trainee and subsequently a qualified solicitor in a high street firm, focusing on criminal defence and family work. The mix of court and office-based work gave a great variety, and I enjoyed working with a range of clients at what was often a very difficult time in their lives.

I moved to the Society three years ago to work in policy and law reform. The nature of policy work is such that there is always more work to be done, someone to speak to or a topic to learn more about. There has been plenty going on to keep our staff team and committee members busy over the last few years including in relation to the legal aspects of Brexit and the implications of COVID-19.

I have thoroughly enjoyed engaging with a vast range of stakeholders in my current role and the ever-changing nature of policy work, but I do miss the buzz of appearing in court!

Have your perceptions of the Society changed since you started?

Yes, absolutely. When I was in private practice, I had no idea about the vast range of work that the Society undertakes, particularly through its many committees. With over 25 policy committees and subcommittees covering different areas of the law, there truly is something for everyone. The Society’s committee members, solicitors and non-solicitors, contribute their expertise to our policy work for the benefit of both the public and the profession – their dedication is remarkable and it is with their commitment that we can help shape good law.

Like many of our members, I had a fairly good understanding of the Society’s regulatory role, but I was unaware of the important work being done to bring the law to life for school pupils, create a level playing field in terms of access to the profession and invest in the future of the profession by addressing equality and diversity issues.

What role can lawyers play in the work to address climate change?

It is becoming increasingly clear that climate change considerations – both in a professional and personal sense – are relevant across all sectors of the profession. At a recent address to the American Bar Association, John Kerry told members “You are all climate lawyers now.” Law, social policy and economics will play a significant role in tackling the global climate crisis and lawyers are well placed to play a central role in developing and implementing solutions to tackle the crisis. There is an opportunity for each of us, as professionals, to contribute to this, whether in private practice advising clients, as an in-house lawyer, or contributing to policy development. Not only is there a role for lawyers in advising clients or their own organisations on strategic matters relevant to climate change, there is also an opportunity to review their own day-to-day business operations with a view to reducing carbon – the COVID-19 pandemic has brought some aspects of business operations into sharp focus and provides a springboard to reconsider the way in which we work and live.

What are the main issues you think the Society has to address at the moment?

There will continue to be a key role for the Society in supporting members as we all continue to adjust to the changes which have come about as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic. Changes to working practices both within firms and in the wider justice sector have brought issues such as access to justice, flexible working, equality and diversity, and mental health to the fore. As we look to the future, it is important that we carefully consider the changes that have come about and develop viable and sustainable solutions for future working.

What keeps you busy outside of work?

I am a volunteer with Girlguiding, running a local Guide unit as well as being involved in governance work both in Scotland and at UK level which keeps me busy. When I’m not volunteering, I enjoy getting about outdoors, spending time with family and friends, and trying my hand at cooking something from one of our many recipe books!

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