Scotland’s solicitors will come together at a major Society conference to steer a way forward during a period of rapid and far-reaching change.
The conference, “Law in Scotland – The changing face of the law”, will consider key issues facing the legal profession.
Tim Harford, the “Undercover Economist”, and Roger Flynn, a director and chief executive at five global companies during periods of rapid change, will deliver the keynote sessions. Other speakers at the conference, which takes place at the Hilton Glasgow on 18 September, include the President of the Malawi Law Society, John-Gift Mwakhwawa, and Chrissie Lightfoot, author of The Naked Lawyer.
The Society’s President, Austin Lafferty, said one of the main themes was the challenges and opportunities that exist for solicitors.
He added: “The legal profession is going through a period of considerable change, and the pace is unlikely to slow in the near future. Solicitors from all sectors of the profession are also facing significant challenges, not least the prolonged economic downturn, but opportunities exist too. The time is right to come together to discuss these matters, share experiences and develop the best way forward.”
One conference stream will explore high-profile issues – the Scotland Act and independence, human rights and building the rule of law – while a second will have a commercial focus, examining marketing and branding, how to increase market share, and the future of referral networks, which allow some areas of work to be passed on to trusted colleagues.
Lafferty, who is presenting a session on opportunities in a changing legal marketplace, said: “Working as a solicitor is a great platform to expand into other business skills, simply by focusing on management, marketing, efficiency of delivery, customer service, research and development, financial planning and control.
“The introduction of alternative business structures, known as licensed legal services providers, will also present opportunities for those keen to develop new business models. Although the Government’s timetable for implementation has slipped, the first ABS could arrive by the end of this year or into 2013. No doubt, bigger companies will take a lead but there are potential advantages for others too.
“Those with a hard-earned reputation for excellence – supported by the brand of Scottish solicitor – can not only survive, but prevail and thrive.”
Mapping out the future
The Society’s Director of Law Reform, Michael Clancy, will chair a session on the legal issues around the Scotland Act and independence, with contributions from four prominent legal figures.
He said: “This is a period of extraordinary constitutional interest for Scotland. And no matter what happens in terms of the referendum, these discussions throw up a number of questions about the nature of the parliament we want at a Scottish and UK level.
“At the moment, the debate is focused on a variety of issues, including membership of NATO and defence arrangements in an independent Scotland, membership of the EU, which currency Scotland would use, the relationship between Scotland and the monarchy, and so on. But there are many other legal issues that stem from Scotland’s constitutional arrangements.
“These are not just matters for constitutional lawyers. If the referendum results in an independent Scotland, all those powers that currently reside with the UK Parliament will be placed in the hands of the Scottish Parliament, which will mean every aspect of the law applying in Scotland will be made here, subject to EU directives and other international obligations. That could mean a change in direction for areas such as tax law, company law, intellectual property, social security and equality, as well as immigration and asylum.
“If independence is rejected at the referendum, the Prime Minister has indicated that more powers could be given to the Scottish Parliament. So whatever the outcome of the referendum, constitutional change will be on the agenda. The ‘Law in Scotland’ conference is an opportune time to discuss these matters. We will be focusing on the legal questions and trying to find some of the legal answers.”
Sarah Prior, the Society’s Events Manager, explained that the best speakers had been chosen to engage and motivate delegates.
She said: “Each year the conference is built around the exhibition hub, which has a range of companies specifically invited to assist with member firms in their day-to-day working lives – reducing costs and streamlining business practices. Registered delegates will also have the opportunity to win a brand new iPad at the exhibition.
“The ‘Law in Scotland’ conference won the Best Association Conference 2011 at the UK Conference Awards. We are very proud to have such a successful flagship conference for our members.”
The Society’s special general meeting will also be held during the day. A networking drinks reception at the Glasgow Science Centre, with guest speaker the legal correspondent Clive Coleman, is open to delegates, speakers and exhibitors the evening before the conference.
For more information and to book a place, visit the Society’s website at www.lawscot.org.uk/events/law-in-scotland-the-changing-face-of-law; and see p31 of the current issue.